If you have a driving ambition, here’s a look at three opportunities that await you on the road.
The Limo Life
If you are looking to switch gears in your career or need a second job to supplement your income, you might consider driving a limousine.
“I am always looking for qualified drivers and the requirements are few,” reports Cameron Rad, owner of Cameron Limousine in San Francisco. “We provide at least three days of training if applicants have no prior experience.”
Most limousine companies require chauffeurs to be at least 25 years of age, with a clean driving record (no tickets in the past five years).
Rad also trains employees to communicate with passengers on a professional level. Limousine trips include anniversaries, bachelor and bachelorette parties, Bay Area sightseeing, wine tours, proms and other special occasions, and each group presents a new set of challenges.
“Being successful in this business comes down to how an employee views the job,” he notes. “If they want a job with no hassle and no boss looking over their shoulder, it is ideal.”
The amount of the tips is commensurate with the level of service. Drivers supply their own uniform – white shirt and black suit, but if they can’t handle that expense up front, it can be deducted from their paycheck.
“Patience and courtesy are keys to being a good driver,” he contends. “Many times we take handicapped customers with luggage to the airport and they require more time and special treatment. Our drivers go inside a home if necessary.”
“Above all, our drivers must have a good character,” he concludes. “And just as important is to behave and react to the statement that the customer is always right.”
Drivers earn 30 percent of the revenue generated by their fares and tips. A trip from San Francisco International Airport to Napa, for example, would net the driver $69.
Sometimes driving a cab can be a life-and-death proposition. Just ask Delal Hawarneh, manager of National Taxi in Sacramento.
On a warm summer night five years ago, Hawarneh picked up a well-dressed man who suddenly started sweating profusely. “He gave me an address and several minutes later I looked into the rear-view mirror and he was grabbing his chest. He was obviously in pain.”
Hawarneh pulled the cab over to the curb and called 911. His passenger was having a heart attack. While he waited, Hawarneh applied some sound bedside manner, successfully getting his passenger to calm down by using a few soothing words.
After his shift, Hawarneh stopped by the hospital to learn his passenger was doing well.
“When you drive a cab . . . you need to know a lot about a lot of things,” he observes. “Every day and night is different.”
Sometimes that can mean encountering danger. Yet an alert cabbie knows how to avoid hazards. “Cab driving is safe if you know what you are doing. We try to develop a second sense in our drivers,” Hawarneh says. “That means how to spot signs of trouble before they put themselves in danger. Cab drivers have a right to refuse to pick up anyone.”
To work as a cabbie you must be over 21, have a California driver’s license, and pass drug and alcohol screening. Knowledge of major highways in the area is an advantage, but can be learned on the job.
National Taxi leases their vehicles to drivers for $75 a day. All fairs and tips after the $75 is covered go directly into the cabbie’s pocket. Full-time pay averages more than $30,000 a year (salary.com).
Gray Line is the largest bus company in the nation and its fleet of vehicles carries a diverse load of passengers ranging from school children to senior citizens.
“The requirements for drivers are as tough as maneuvering an 18-wheeler up a San Francisco hill,” remarks Gary Jones, Gray Line’s safety manager in San Francisco. Applicants must have a Class-B driver’s license with passenger endorsement, school-children passenger endorsement and air-brake endorsement.
Bus drivers must be over 21, have two years driving experience, no felonies on their record and no more than three moving violations in the past five years. Once a driver is hired they go through five weeks of intense training: one week of classroom instruction followed by a California Highway Patrol examination. Drivers are tested in a myriad of grueling driving conditions – darkness, mountains, city streets, freeways, and then there are questions about locations of San Francisco’s 400 hotels and knowledge of its city landmarks.
“Next to safety behind the wheel, nothing is more important than personality,” Jones attests. “Promptness to an interview, the ability to speak distinctly, and a neat appearance will get you noticed and could put you behind the wheel.” Starting salary for a bus driver is $35,000 a year.
A driver is trained to handle and possibly diffuse situations that might arise on the bus. “We don’t play games with passenger safety,” Jones emphasizes. “We have very few incidents that require outside assistance because most of our passengers are members of organizations who don’t behave inappropriately.
He does admit occasionally there are bus passengers who attend sporting events where there has been excessive drinking. If a passenger gets unruly, the driver will ask the tour guide if he or she can handle the circumstance. If not, the driver stops the bus at the first safe, legal place and attempts to tactfully manage the situation. If both avenues of peacemaking fail, the driver asks law enforcement to respond to the scene.
“Our drivers are savvy and realize they’re in the people business,” Jones concludes. “After all it’s all about personalities and how to handle the different types that board the bus.”