I've written this to streamline how to obtain a NYC Hack License. Otherwise, information on how to get your NYC Hack License isn't perfectly clear; there is a little written here, a little there, a little somewhere else - all an unnecessary hassle that leaves one befuddled. It's going to seem long, but I'm tellin ya....I've listed the ABC's, from A to C right here.
In order to drive a yellow medallion taxi cab in New York City, one must become ‘licensed’ to do so. This is called a hack license. The process for this is not as easy as one may think, but it is also not difficult. Many people are quick to judge the profession, when it is a very normal experience to hop in a taxi in New York, and find a driver who may not speak English very well, or be geographically challenged in terms of where it is you may want to go. In any event, as of this year, in the history of NYC ‘licensing’ – I became the first Vermont resident (that is I live in Vermont and have an Operator’s License in Vermont) to obtain my NY license to operate a yellow cab in New York City. The laws recently changed to allow persons from any state to apply for and receive a license from the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission. It used to be only persons licensed from NY, NJ, PA and CT could obtain that privilege. Here is the process for anyone ever interested in obtaining their NYC Hack License – and I am going to be as crystal clear as I can for those who may otherwise become confused by the bureaucratic tomfoolery that often inflicts persons when reading through rules and regulations. It isn’t hard to do….but it isn’t EASY either. If you follow this list, and the checklist provided online from the NYC TLC, you'll be fine.
There are a number of things you need to do in order to simply Apply, and then a host of things that need to be done, AFTER you apply. Ready?
1.) Fill out the New Driver Application, found on the NYC TLC website.
Don’t do the online version….do the live and in person route. It’s just going to make life easier. It’s two pages….name, your state and license number blah blah. EASY. Remember, you want to check off ‘medallion driver’ for the type of license. A FHV (For Hire Vehicle) is for black livery cars and other stuff we don’t care about. Your blood runs yellow.
Also - while there is no way to check that you actually do this, signing the application attests that you have watched
the TLC Sex Trafficking video. Be honest, and watch it. It's only 9 minutes. Find it here:
What the TLC wants to make sure of, is that no drivers get involved in assisting nefarious individuals in knowingly transporting victims of sexual exploitation, for extra money. Common Sense.
2.) Complete the 6 hour defensive driving class – which is online, and the TLC site has a list of places in which to do it, just pick one – it doesn’t matter which. I did mine through the NewYorkDefensiveDriving.com school – it was 30 bucks. It was also mind numbingly boring. It is timed, so you can’t fast forward. You are quizzed (and timed) after each lesson. HINT: Copy and paste the whole lesson into a word document so you can have it for open book purposes, because without it, the 4 questions after each quiz would be nearly impossible to answer correctly. You only have two tries to get the right answers. When done, you’ll get an ORIGINAL certificate mailed to you. YOU MUST HAVE THE ORIGINAL THAT IS MAILED TO YOU, to give the TLC with your application (and make a photocopy too to give them as well). It cannot be more than 6 months old when you go to the TLC.
Here is a link to TLC approved courses:
3.) Part of the application process is a medical form. Print it out – and make an appointment with a PHYSICIAN. Not a Physician’s Assistant. A regular Doctor – this is a MUST. Give him/her the form – let them give you a physical, and sign and stamp the form that you’re healthy enough to drive a taxi. Make a photocopy for the TLC as well. They will need that ORIGINAL form that is signed and stamped. It is good for 30 days.
The form is included in your application.
4.) Go to your local DMV office and obtain (with their small fee), a CERTIFIED Driver’s Abstract. This shows your driving record and that no money is outstanding anywhere for tickets etc. It is good for 30 days. They will stamp it and certify it. The ORIGINAL and a photocopy must be given to the TLC. Also – the TLC will not accept a Class “D” NY license….gotta be a class “E”, which means you can transport less than 14 people. Well, Vermont doesn’t go higher than a class “D” – there is no Class E. As long as your state’s license is equivalent to a NY Class E – you’ll be fine. If you want to be super prepared, like me, print a copy of your state license classes – or, get a letter from DMV (which might not be that easy). I think a printout of your state’s license classes will suffice. I had a letter….but they didn’t even look at it and gave it back to me. It is good for only 30 days prior to your application submission.
5.) Whatever, or however your name is listed on your Social Security Card, then your operator’s license must be IDENTICAL. My name on my Social Security Card says Michael James Ruse. But my license said Michael J. Ruse. So….I went to DMV, paid the small fee to correct/add my middle name. Just make sure the name on your license is the same as what is on your Social Security Card. When TLC says ‘No Exceptions’ – they mean it, so just do it. It’s easy.
When you have all of the above, go to the NYC’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), located at 32-02 Queens Boulevard in Queens. It’s not to far from the Queensboro Bridge. New applicants are accepted from 8:00 AM to 2:45 PM. So….go early to avoid long lines, because trust me, they get really long.
Here is the entrance - through those open double doors:
Inside, you will go through metal detectors, much like an airport. Wait in line….put your watch/wallet/pocket stuff in a plastic bin, and walk through.
Follow the directions to the elevators and go to the 2nd Floor. Follow the lines and signs, of which are clearly marked. Security officers there will direct you if you’re confused. They were nice enough. Wait in line, with hundreds of others, and feel confident that you have read this blog and are prepared, as you watch 80% of everyone else in line get turned away after arguing with the customer service reps because they don't have everything in order. Do not argue with them if you're turned away. If you do everything listed here, you will be fine. Your first line to stand in will be a person who is making sure you have everything to save time. If you do, you’ll get a ticket number and then be directed to wait for it to be called – there is plenty of seating. You will notice the applicants make up a whole variety of cultures and ethnic diversity. European ethnicity is by and large the minority.
When your number is called, go to the booth so told, and give your paperwork to the customer service representative. The one I had was very nice and helpful. In fact, she and two other workers had some fun with me noting I was the only white person in the building (just having some fun with me - I took no offense, naturally). Once she makes copies of everything and enters data into her computer, she will tell you the cost ($159 total) - $84 for the license, and $75 for Dept. of Justice Fingerprinting. Pay via postal money order or credit/bank card. Once that is done, the service representative will hand you a small TLC receipt with your name and fees paid, with your future TLC license number on it. This will be your HACK LICENSE NUMBER. Do not lose it. Ever. And....remember it, you will need to know it. Then, you sit back down and wait for your number to be called again, where you will be photographed and fingerprinted (electronically). It is only about a 5 minute wait. Once your pic is taken and prints submitted, you are done at the TLC. My total time there, on a Friday, was approximately 40 minutes – from the time I walked through the door, to when I left. That’s pretty good. I was very prepared. They were all great.
Once you are done at the TLC, you are going to walk a block or two down the street to a place called LabCorp, where you will need to pee for drug testing. So, drink lots of water/coffee. It is located in a very nice building, with a coffee and donut shop right at the entrance, so have a cup of joe and relax for a few, and have fun watching all the other applicants walk in and get their bearings, just as you had just done when you walked through the doors. Just down the hall from the coffee shop is LabCorp. Go in to the front window….no need for an appointment if you’re a ‘new applicant’. The whole place is pretty much new applicants. Hand the woman your paperwork (your hack license receipt) and credit card (It’s $26). She will tell you to have a seat and she will then call you when she has entered your paperwork into the system. Once called, she will give you the paperwork back, and direct you to stand in line for the ‘cup’. Once you’re called to pee, you will take your cup into one of three bathrooms, then return it to the lab tech and wait with her. She will test it for temperature (in case you decide to use someone else’s urine to thwart your drug ways), and then seal it, with you initialing as a witness. Then….you’re done for the day. LabCorp will send the results to TLC – you don’t have to worry about it (unless you do drugs). If you do drugs and use someone else's urine - they are going to find out, which I am happy about.
Taxi School. There is a three day school, or an 8 day school. If you have absolutely no experience with NYC, then I suppose the 8 day school would be great. I did the three day school. There are four taxi schools in which to choose from; I have no idea if one is better than the other. If you are of average intelligence and have a decent working knowledge of the five boro's of NYC....that is, you can get around without freaking out, I think the 3 day school is sufficient. Remember, your knowledge of streets is going to come with practice and experience, not from the school. It is going to be up to you to know where up is up and down is down.
Here is a list of approved taxi schools for you to choose from:
H.A.N.A.C./NYC Taxi Academy 33-24 Northern Boulevard - 4th Floor Long Island City, NY 11101 Contact Person: Hasain Shakil Tel: (718) 433-0493 /(718) 709-1990 E-Mail: email@example.com Website: www.hanactaxi.com/
LaGuardia Community College NYC Taxi and FHV Driver Institute 31-10 Thomson Avenue – M-Building, Room M-143 Long Island City, NY 11101 Contact Person: Andrew Vollo Tel: (718) 482-5335 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.lagcc.cuny.edu/taxi
MASTER CABBIE TAXI ACADEMY 24-29 Jackson Avenue Long Island City, NY 11101 Contact Person: Terry Gelber Tel: (718) 472-1699 / (800) 955-8294 Website: www.mastercabbie.com
Kingsborough Community College Taxi Institute 2001 Oriental Boulevard Brooklyn, NY 11235 - Room T4122 Contact Person: Efim Vitomsky Tel: (718) 368-5189 / (718) 368-5052 Email: email@example.com
Just pick one. Call them up or apply online. It's that easy.
I chose Master Cabbie school. You MUST have done all these steps above before signing up online (you have 90 days to get this school done once you submit your application, so don't put it off). You will need that TLC receipt with your future hack license number. Once you pay for the school (mastercabbie was $135), you do the school and prepare yourself for the test. The test is ANOTHER fee ($25.00), and then, as of 2015, there is a $75 fee for additional wheelchair training, that the school will administer. And, of course, you will need to buy the NYC geography cross street map for an additional $22 (you'll want this for your studies, school, and to have in your cab). Also, you must take your TLC test at the school in which you select. Once you pass your test, the TLC will mail you your laminated hack license and then - you will officially be - a licensed NYC Hack.
But first....lets talk about 'taxi school':
Don't bother reading online reviews. Master Cabbie School has terrible 'reviews', but having been there, I can tell the ones leaving crappy reviews are just people who either failed the test, or don't have things in order. I heard many many many arguments between staff and applicants when I was there. What it all came down to, is people didn't have their stuff in order, and were given the boot, and they're mad. $135 for 24 hours is roughly 5 bucks an hour of training. Not that bad. Also, - and this is just an observation, but some of the applicants and Uber Drivers there to take a class were SO incredibly stupid, that the staff just are exhausted by mid day explaining the most basic of things to people who don't want to listen.
This is what the three day taxi school is:
Day one: Geography. You need your map. Absolute must. Without it, you're screwed. Not only that, it is a TLC REQUIREMENT to have in your possession while driving a cab. So buy it. You will learn how to read a map if you don't know how, and where relevant landmarks and streets are (in Manhattan anyways). It is illegal in NYC for a taxi driver to use your phone's GPS (even though many cabbies use them), so you really should learn these basics. Things like which streets go east (even numbers), and streets that go west (odd numbers). Certain Avenues go north, certain one's go south, and some are both ways. Exceptions exist however, all over the place.
Day Two: TLC Rules and Regulations. Your final test will be comprised mostly of these. It's really common sense, but you got to know them. Things like not refusing a fare to any place in the five boro's, Westchester or Nassau County or Newark Airport. What I basically learned is, the TLC's business model is that the customer is #1, while you the driver, are about #1,000,000.
Day Three: Sensitivity Training and Customer Relations. Want a good tip? Be courteous at all times. It's also required. Again....common sense being the theme of the day.
On another day to be scheduled, you will have to take a course on transporting individuals in a wheelchair. How to be sensitive to passengers with special needs, and how to properly secure a wheelchair in a wheelchair accessible taxi cab, which the city is hoping will be all cabs in the near future.
FINALLY, YOUR TEST:
The Test. It is unnecessarily tedious, but mostly because many of the takers, having come from other countries, do not understand our American standardized test sheets (or English very well). The TLC still use those fill in the bubble with pencil thingies that I haven't used since the 80's, called a Scantron. Learn how to use these. Many people failed the test because they couldn't figure out that when answering a multiple choice question on the test booklet, that you must color in the answer on the answer sheet, even though it was explained to some people a zillion times. Just filling out names and dates of birth before the test took literally an HOUR. Here is an example of what a Scantron test sheet looks like for anyone who doesn't know:
I realize this is all long, but seriously, everything I've written in here is what you either need, or need to do.
Things to know about the test. First, bring your OWN #2 pencils. If you don't, they'll kick you out. No hats, jackets, or phones allowed. No maps or scraps of paper. If you talk while your sitting, even if someone next to you asks you a question, the TLC will take your test, and you will be asked to leave. And I can't stress this enough, MAKE SURE YOUR PHONE IS EITHER OFF OR STOWED AWAY SOMEPLACE ELSE. That is a fast track ticket to FAIL. Also, arrive EARLY. If you're late by even a second - the TLC will not allow you in.
Basically, bring a pencil, show up early, sit down, and shut up. They will provide you with their own maps for the purpose of the test so don't worry. Any geography questions, you will be allowed to look at a map.
This is what the test is:
English Proficiency: 40 Questions and must get 21 points out of 40 to pass. If you fail English, you fail the entire test. It's not difficult, even if you don't speak English well. A tape will be played with a person saying 20 different addresses. You simply pick what they said out of a multiple choice answer. For example: The tape will say 880 Fifth Avenue. The answers to choose from will be something that sounds similar, so A.) 818 Fifth Avenue B.) 880 Fiftieth Avenue C.) 80 Fifth Avenue D.) 880 Fifth Avenue. After those questions, you will listen to a story. There will be five questions about the story you heard. Finally, there are five questions from a story you will read. 45 minutes is allotted for the entire English proficiency.
Geography: 50 Questions as well as 15 map questions. A few were tricky, but manageable. If you can read your map, you'll do fine. I would suggest learning and studying landmarks in Manhattan.
Rules and Regulations: There are 35 of them . Most are common sense. Can you refuse someone a ride from Manhattan to Brooklyn at 3 AM? No. Things like that. But...you need to study because there are questions about suspensions and things that will require you to study the rules (your school will provide you with this booklet).
Then, by the Grace of God, after all this running around, using vacation days, commuting to Queens, studying, worrying.....you will have become a genuine, NYC Yellow Taxi Driver. Where do you find a cab to drive? I'll leave that up to you - there are several garages to choose from. You pay the garage to use (lease) their car and medallion - and presto magico, you're your own boss. Work as little or as hard as you want. The cab owner doesn't care if you make nothing or a fortune. You paid for the use of the car, that is all that matters to him/her.
Okay. So you've made it this far, but here is ONE final thing you'll need to know. After you've passed your test and gone home, don't expect that license to just magically appear overnight in your mailbox. It can take 1 to 90 days. For me, it took five weeks. Even though you've passed everything you're supposed to do, the TLC then takes all that stuff you've done, and go through it all for approval.
How will you know it is approved?
For me, I would check their link everyday for 'active licensees'. It is updated everyday, and there is no rhyme or reason in terms of your hack license number. On the day I wrote my name in the search bar, and it appeared....was the day they mailed it out. That is how you know. It's frustrating having to wait, especially if you really need the job to work, but hang in there, it will get done. You can always call too....I did once, and the woman was extremely pleasant and helpful. Here is the link to check for active licensees:
But once you get it, you are good to go. So the pay isn't always going to be great, and people can be challenging - like any profession. But have pride in being a part of something very iconic, and for the love of all things, treat your customers with respect, have a little smile - and just do your best. Or, get tickets. Up to you.
I know it was perhaps unnecessarily tedious and long, but how I've written this, is how I would have liked to know. Hope it helps!
This section of the site is not specific to my taxi travels. They are not really rants either. It is more of a space for me to simply raise awareness to topics that either inspire or frustrate me as an individual.