For People Who Drive for a Living

0333 015 6886 Contact Us

Free Knowledge sees PHV drivers moving to black cabs

Across the UK, PHV drivers outnumber public hire taxi drivers by an average of five to one. But cabbie numbers are increasing, especially in London, where there is a drive to get PHV drivers to make the switch.

Free Knowledge

One of the biggest draws has been initiatives by operators such as Freenow, Gett and Addison Lee, who have been supporting PHV drivers to pass The Knowledge – an encyclopedic knowledge of the 15,000 streets and 10,000 landmarks within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross – the starting point to driving a black cab in London.

But it isn’t just a case of finding the quickest route of getting passengers from A to B – cabbies are also the unofficial tour guides for the capital.

As reported by Taxi Point, as well as increased demand, there are many reasons drivers want to make the switch.


“The pandemic’s aftermath has seen a consistent demand for black cab services, against a dwindling number of taxi drivers and available vehicles. This demand, coupled with the flexibility black cabs offer —allowing drivers to work independent of operators, pick up street hails and jobs from taxi ranks, and select apps charging significantly lower commissions—paints a lucrative picture for current PHV drivers and other new applicants.

“The shift of PHV drivers towards acquiring The Knowledge and operating black cabs represents a significant trend in London’s transportation landscape. It highlights a collective pursuit for better earnings, autonomy, and the esteemed privilege of navigating the city’s streets as a black cab driver.”

Recruitment drive

Following initiatives such as this, The Standard reports that hundreds of people applied for the course and 181 have enrolled with training schools.

Freenow UK general manager Mariusz Zabrocki said the initiative helped drivers overcome the cost of The Knowledge exam, as well as the time commitment.

He added: “This is the biggest recruitment push since preparations for the Olympics. We have 181 people within one month enrolling into the schools, with hundreds of other pending. Nothing like that has happened since 2012.”

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said: “London’s licensed taxi drivers are experiencing high demand for their services and the trade is thriving, so it’s no surprise that numbers on The Knowledge are up.”

Across the country, authorities are coming up with new initiatives to encourage more people into the taxi trade.


In Barnsley, where driver safety has become a major concern, the council is planning to install free CCTV for cabs to encourage drivers to work evenings and weekends. As reported by The Star, Barnsley’s night time economy is suffering because people can’t get home after enjoying a night out.

Council leader Sir Steve Houghton told the council: “We are seeing a loss of income into the town because people fear they can’t get a taxi home on a night.

“One of the reasons is safety and security, particularly for drivers. And particularly for those drivers who are not private hire but can pick up off the streets. We have seen taxi drivers operate during the day, but not on an evening or at the weekend.

“We’ve got to try and combat that because one of the things clearly for any taxi driver these days, is being able to go to work knowing you will be safe.”


The shortage of public hire drivers has also put passengers at risk, with PHV operators being able to travel between towns and cities looking for work, and rogue drivers illegally plying for trade. While PHVs’ private hire insurance allows them to operate anywhere, it is only valid when booked in advance. Taxis have public hire insurance meaning they can be hailed in the street or at a taxi rank, but they can only ply for trade in the area they are licenced.

Steve Wright, chairman of the Licensed Private Hire Car Association, told the BBC the industry faces a “perfect storm”.

“People already can’t get home, they’re stranded and at serious risk. If policies don’t change, people are going to be sexually assaulted, drivers attacked, fist fights outside of pubs and special needs children who can’t get to school.”

All information is correct at time of publication. Information provided within this article may have changed over time. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by John Patons Insurance Services or any of its employees.