A chauffeur is technically any person who drives people around for a living. It is more specifically used to refer to people who do this in an upscale way, usually leaving out taxi drivers or other low-end chauffeurs, although technically they may also qualify. Therefore, a chauffeur would tend to be a limousine driver, or the driver of a private luxury sedan, or even a carriage. Getting a chauffeur license in the United States is relatively easy, although it does take more work than a standard driver’s license.
The actual requirements for a chauffeur license depend on a number of factors, including the region one wishes to operate in, the type of vehicle one wishes to drive, and the amount of passengers one wishes to carry. Additionally, many limousine companies may require training far above and beyond what is technically required for the chauffeur license itself. This is to ensure a particularly high level of service, which tends to be expected from a chauffeur.
In the state of California, for example, the type of chauffeur license needed depends on how many people can be transported in a vehicle. For those who are planning on driving less than ten people at a given time, all a person needs is a Class C license, the normal automobile license, which functions as a chauffeur license. For anything more than ten people, a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is required, which has its own test, and its own restrictions. For example, to be able to chauffeur people across state lines, you’ll have to be at least 21, and you’ll have to pass a Passenger endorsement as well.
In the state of New York, on the other hand, a chauffeur license is a Class E license, which is a taxi and livery license. In the city of New York additional restrictions apply, including a requirement of a defensive driving course, fingerprinting, a drug test, and no more than seven points on your license in the prior year and a half. The basic Class E license is good for any vehicle carrying less than 14 people, making it suitable for virtually all chauffeurs.
In addition to state restrictions, and some local municipalities like New York City, most companies desire an additional level of training. Although not technically part of the chauffeur license, which usually falls under some other commercial class, these courses are so required to be employed that they may as well be part of the license. Most reputable limousine services demand a high level of skill and knowledge from their employees, and there are schools set up specifically to train chauffeurs.
Classes include things like defensive driving and specialized avoidance courses, teaching drivers how to handle the often unwieldy vehicles driven as a chauffeur in dangerous situations like skids or oncoming traffic. These classes may also include things like proper etiquette and attire, as a chauffeur is generally expected to have a high level of formal dress, and to be able to interact properly with their clientele. Although becoming proficient enough to get a job at a good company as a chauffeur can be difficult, the payoff can be great, with the average salary for a senior chauffeur around $50,000 US Dollars (USD).