California Taxicab Licensing Requirements

In the state of California, some vehicles will require a special license or certificate in order to operate them. Examples include:

  • Commerical Drivers License (CDL) (i.e. Tractor trailers; Construction vehicles; City buses; Shuttles, etc.)
  • CDL with Specified Endorsement (e.g. School buses- (S) endorsement; Passenger buses – (P) endorsement; Tankers – (N) endorsement; Vehicles transporting hazardous materials – (H) endorsement; Double or triple trailers – (T) endorsement; etc.)
  • Special Certificate (e.g. Ambulance; Farm Labor; Tow Truck Driver Clearance; Charter-Party Carrier [i.e. Party Busses, Limos, etc.; with the California Public Utilities Commission]; Moving Companies; etc.)

No Special License for Taxicabs

However, vehicles that carry less than ten (10) passengers at one time do not require a special license. And taxicabs fall under this category.
Beautiful Woman In A Taxi
So, there is no state of California license or permitting process for taxi cab drivers–other than your normal, personal drivers license process through the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Nevertheless, a number of municipalities and cities in California DO regulate the operation of taxicabs and other chauffeur companies, as well as requirements of its drivers. For example, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) regulates all taxicab companies in Los Angeles to ensure they are safe and professional. This includes training and testing of all taxicab drivers within the city. Thus, there is a company registration process as well as a driver permit application process, that includes a complete examination of the driver’s driving record with the California DMV and criminal background search with the California Department of Justice (DOJ).
So, the actual licensing or permitting process will depend on the city you live in and the company you work for. As an example, please find the process you must engage in for obtaining a taxicab permit in San Diego:

Ex. San Diego Taxicab Requirements

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) resumed accepting taxicab permit applications on July 1, 2016. The MTS reviews applications, regulates, and oversees licenses for “for-hire” vehicles in the cities of El Cajon, Imperial Beach, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Poway, San Diego, and Santee.
To be eligible to apply for an application as a driver, an applicant must meet the following requirements:
Provide evidence of at least six months experience of: driving a taxicab, transportation network vehicle, charter party carrier service, or similar service oriented transportation business, or managing a demand responsive transportation service, or similar service oriented business

  1. Complete the Driver Qualification Testing and Driver Safety Training Program, provided for by the Sheriff’s Department for the County of San Diego
  2. Complete the California Department of Transportation Drug Testing
  3. Apply for a Taxicab Driver’s Identification Card
  4. Complete and present a Taxicab Hire Slip from an approved taxicab company

In addition, to start one’s own taxicab company, one would have to complete the following additional steps:

  1. Pay all the required non-refundable fees per the MTS Fee Schedule
  2. Pass a fingerprint-based criminal background check from CA DOJ, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and local agencies
  3. Submit and receive approval for a fictitious business name permit (DBA)
  4. Provide evidence of ability to meet MTS insurance requirements (i.e. $1 million liability, etc.)
  5. Provide evidence of financial ability to meet screening criteria and regulatory requirements
  6. Register fare meter with San Diego County Department of Agricultural Weights and Measures
  7. Obtain a Business Tax License from the City of San Diego, which will be required to be submitted to the Sheriff’s Licensing Division at the completion of the permit issuance process with MTS
  8. Vehicle fleet must:
    1. Meet all regulatory and ordinance requirements.
    2. Meet California Air Resources Board criteria for zero emission or low-emission vehicle – to be verified by a certificate affixed to the vehicle that indicates the vehicle conforms to California regulations as a low emissions vehicle or cleaner (i.e. LEV, ULEV, SULEV, TZEV, PZEV, ZEV etc.).
    3. Be equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS).
    4. Be newer than ten (10) model years old.
    5. Not have a salvage title.
    6. California registration must match the applicant(s) name. The DBA is not required to be listed on the registration card, but is encouraged.
    7. Pass an initial permit issuance inspection and pass additional follow-up inspections.
  9. Establish proof of:
    1. Adequate facilities for administrative functions, including: a business office with public access, vehicle maintenance facility with address, and address of off-street vehicle storage when not in service
    2. A method of accepting credit cards, a customer complaint system and records of all calls for service, calls dispatched, trips and complaints
    3. A radio service that has computerized dispatch and is equipped with GPS
    4. Credit card device linked to the taxicab fare meter
    5. Must be able to provide passengers with receipts showing the date, amount, driver name and ID number, taxicab number, company (DBA) name and radio service name and phone number

Simple, right? Makes you wonder how Uber and Lyft could compete in the first place!