Five years ago, nobody had heard of Uber, and the company has come from nowhere to being one of the fastest growing taxi companies in the UK. Tapping into the “gig economy”, Uber says that it matches drivers with customers, and gives its drivers the opportunity to drive when they like without the commitment of set shifts. There’s been a lot of controversy over whether Uber drivers are self-employed or employed, but this doesn’t seem to have deterred people from applying for a job as an Uber driver.
Private Hire Licence
Although Uber is at pains to say that their drivers are not “taxi drivers” in the traditional sense, they still have to go through some of the same checks and licencing as other types of taxi drivers. The first hurdle to overcome is applying for a private hire licence. These licences are administered by the local Council area where you are going to be working. Fees vary from Council to Council, but can run into several hundreds of pounds. Once granted, a renewal of the licence costs less and you should be able to find up to date lists of fees on the Council’s website. There are different aspects to the Private hire Licence (PHL), and drivers might be asked to take an English language exam and undergo a medical. An important part of the application process for a PHL is going through a DBS check which costs extra above and beyond the cost of applying for the licence. DBS checks have to be carried out to make sure that people who have previous convictions for violent or sexual offences are barred from obtaining a licence and working as a driver.
As well as vetting the driver, the car you are considering using in your Uber career has to be inspected for roadworthiness too. This also costs, and although Uber will make a contribution towards the cost once you have started working for them, by the time you are licenced, the car has been checked and licenced and you are ready to pick up your first passenger, you could be several hundreds of pounds out of pocket.
Uber connects cars and passengers using smartphone apps. Drivers have to download a separate app to the one used by passengers, and once the app is switched on, it’s just a case of waiting for the first passenger to request a pick-up. No cash changes hands; the customer pays Uber directly using a credit card linked to their smartphone, Uber takes its cut, and then pays the driver directly into their bank account – a much safer way of working than having drivers carrying large sums of cash in their car. Uber says that its drivers earn an average of £16 per hour, but this does not take into account money spent on fuel and other expenses involved in running a car such as insurance and depreciation. Uber’s flexibility appeals to many drivers wanting to make some extra cash, but costs of registering should be weighed up against any potential earnings.