FREENOW UK is announcing today that the 20,000+ London Private Hire Vehicle drivers on their app will have the chance to expand their careers by accessing a unique financial subsidy that will support them in completing the Knowledge of London and becoming black cab drivers.
In industry-first, FREENOW will be funding 100% of the application cost, tuition fee, exams and licensing required to the value of over two thousand pounds per driver over a minimum period of two years. The company will be working in partnership with two leading schools, Knowledge Point School and WizAnn, which are also hosting information sessions for PHV drivers interested in pursuing this career.
The announcement comes as an internal FREENOW survey of all PHV drivers in London revealed that:
- Over half (52%) have considered becoming a black cab driver
- Nearly half (49%) think the Knowledge should be made simpler
- 40% think passing the Knowledge should take less time
- 34% stated they would consider doing the Knowledge if financial support was available
This FREENOW initiative aims at helping to tackle the continuous drop in the number of black cab licence applications – licence applications dropped by almost 95% in the last decade** – and while demand has bounced back, the number of licensed black cab drivers continues to fall (27% decrease in the number of licensed black cab drivers in London, from over 21K in 2013/2014 down to 15K+ in October 2023)***putting this iconic and safe mode of transport and the industry at risk.
Introduced in 1865, the Knowledge requires taxi drivers to memorise thousands of roads and routes within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross, including a range of popular destinations, including hospitals, nightclubs, and theatres. The Knowledge takes an average of three to four years to complete, requiring a significant financial investment over this period of time, which, including all costs associated with it, can reach up to 10,000 pounds.
Following the announcement, Mariusz Zabrocki, General Manager at FREENOW UK, said: “At FREENOW, our goal is to support our drivers to thrive within the industry. The applications for black cab licences have dropped from over 3K in 2011/12 to just 221 in 2022. We want to help reignite the industry by supporting experienced and knowledgeable private hire vehicle drivers to progress in their careers and help them complete their studies through financial aid and learning support.
“Increasing the number of black cab drivers in the city will benefit local businesses, including shops, restaurants, bars, theatres and the tourism industry, ultimately bolstering London’s economy.”
Rafael C, who has been working as a private hire vehicle driver for over seven years, said: “I’ve always dreamed of joining the iconic London black cabs, but I’ve been put off by the time and money required to complete it. This FREENOW subsidy makes a big difference financially and gives me that much needed confidence boost to go for it.”
Steve McNamara, General Secretary, The Licensed Taxi Drivers ‘ Association, said: “Any initiative which helps encourage more people to study the Knowledge and work towards joining our ranks as professional, highly trained, London licensed taxi drivers is very welcome. The Knowledge requires dedication and hard work, but the skills it develops remain as relevant today as they ever were, allowing drivers to take the quickest, most direct route, avoid road closures and traffic, and ensuring they can provide customers with a reliable, efficient service.
“It’s great to see FREENOW investing in safeguarding the future of London’s world-renowned licensed taxis. With an increasingly zero-emission capable fleet, a growing customer base and record demand, with the right support and initiatives like this, our trade has a bright future ahead of it. I would encourage anyone looking for a rewarding, flexible and dynamic job, who is willing to commit the time and energy required, to do the Knowledge and become a London cabbie.”
Gert Kratov, Principal at Knowledge Point School, said: “We are delighted to see FREENOW taking this step to encourage dedicated PHV drivers to study for the Knowledge of London and join the iconic London black cabs. The industry has been highly impacted by the pandemic but initiatives like this make a big difference and will certainly support the industry to thrive.”
Dean Warrington, Founder at WizAnn Knowledge School, added: “We are delighted to be teaming up with FREENOW to encourage PHV drivers to study the Knowledge. This is an opportunity to develop their career further and take advantage of the many benefits of being a black cab driver in London. Black cabs are a special historical institution that must be preserved, and we are glad to see a company like FREENOW investing their time and money in doing just that”.
This funding support marks the latest benefit added for Private Hire Vehicle drivers on the platform. Recently FREENOW announced all PHV drivers could choose to become a worker and be granted National Living Wage, holiday pay and pension.
In the meantime, black cab drivers using the FREENOW app can take advantage of accident and sickness insurance, compassionate and parental leave, as well as other unique benefits such as EV subsidy and other exclusive advantages provided to drivers collaborating with FREENOW partners such as Revolut or Spotify.