Taxi Drivers

The City of Seattle passed an ordinance in 2014 regulating taxicab drivers. Key provisions of the ordinance that apply to drivers of taxis are:

  • Drivers must have a valid for-hire driver license.
  • Drivers must allow vehicle inspections by the City.
  • Requirements for reporting data.

In order to operate a taxicab, you must have a valid Washington driver's license and a valid for-hire driver's license. The City of Seattle contracts with King County to perform the licensing of taxi and for-hire drivers working in Seattle. Renew or apply for a new driver license through the King County licensing service.

Drivers must follow these standards of conduct:

  • You must have a valid for-hire driver's permit and valid driver's license while operating the vehicle. You must display an enlargement of the for-hire permit in a frame inside the vehicle.
  • You must carry proof of commercial insurance in your vehicle while operating it.
  • You must not operate a taxicab, for-hire vehicle or TNC vehicle when its license has been suspended or revoked.
  • You must not be in control of a taxicab, TNC vehicle or for-hire vehicle for more than 14 hours in any 24-hour period. After that, you must not drive any for-hire vehicle until 10 consecutive hours have passed. Hours driven in for-hire vehicles in other platforms (taxicabs, for-hire vehicles) are aggregated.
  • You must check after each trip for items left behind by passengers and report and return such items to the company or association's lost-and-found.
  • You must operate your vehicles with due regard for the safety, comfort and convenience of passengers.
  • You must report records of trips and other required information each week.
  • No alcohol. You must not drink any alcoholic beverage while on duty or less than eight hours prior to going on duty; you may not possess an open or unsealed container of alcoholic beverages while on duty.
  • You must not use your vehicle for solicitation of prostitution or for the solicitation, transportation, sale or any activity related to illegal drugs.
  • No littering.
  • You must not smoke in the vehicle.
  • You must not use offensive language, expressions or gestures to any person while driving, operating, picking up customers or in control of a taxicab, transportation network company vehicle or for-hire vehicle.
  • Carry a map of Seattle and the region, published within the past two years, and display the map to passengers when requested.
  • You must not use a mobile phone unless it is in hands-free mode.
  • You must report accidents that occur while operating a taxicab, for-hire vehicle or transportation network vehicle within three days to both the state of Washington, as required, and to the director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services.

Drivers must follow these customer relations standards:

  • You must provide customers with professional and courteous service at all times.
  • Taxicab drivers must not refuse a request for service because of your position in line at a taxicab zone; a passenger may select any taxicab in line.
  • You must not refuse to transport any passenger's wheelchair if it can be folded and placed in the passenger, driver or trunk compartment of the vehicle.
  • You must not refuse to transport a service animal or guide dog that is assisting a customer with a disability.
  • You must not refuse to transport groceries, packages or luggage when accompanied by a passenger.
  • You must help passengers by placing luggage or packages that weigh less than 50 pounds in and out of the vehicle.
  • You must provide each passenger with an electronic or paper receipt upon payment of the fare.
  • You must use the most direct available route on all trips unless the passenger specifically requests to change the route.
  • You must not refuse to transport any person except when:
    • You have already been dispatched on another call.
    • The passenger is acting in a disorderly or threatening manner.
    • The passenger is otherwise acting in a way that would cause a reasonable person to be concerned for the health and safety of the driver or others.
    • The passenger cannot, upon request, show ability to pay the fare.
    • The passenger refuses to state a specific destination upon entering the vehicle.
  • You must be able to provide a reasonable amount of change, and if correct change is not available, you must not make an additional charge in attempting to secure the change.
  • You must not make any discriminatory charges or rebates to any person.
  • You must not operate a wheelchair accessible taxicab unless you have successfully completed special training requirements.
  • You must be clean and neat in dress and person and present a professional appearance to the public.

Taxicab drivers must follow these cruising standards:

  • You may solicit passengers only from the driver's seat or standing within 12 feet of the taxicab, and only when the vehicle is safely and legally parked.
  • You must not use any other person to solicit passengers.
  • You must not hold the taxicab for designated destinations.
  • You must not park a taxicab or wait for walk-up passengers in a marked passenger load zone, truck load zone or charter bus zone.
  • You may drop off passengers or pick up hailed trips in a passenger load zone.

Drivers must complete driver's education and be tested in order to be licensed. The training must include completion of the National Safety Council's Defensive Driving Course and at least one additional driving training program approved by the director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services.

Taxicab associations, for-hire vehicle companies or transportation network companies may provide driver training programs. Such programs must include:

  • Information about defensive driving.
  • Instruction on use of emergency equipment and procedures for driver safety.
  • Information about risk factors for crimes against drivers.
  • Training in passenger relations.
  • Information about standards of professional conduct.

Curriculum for driver training programs must be submitted by the association or company to the director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services for approval each year.

Drivers must pass an examination in order to be licensed. The test may be administered by the City of Seattle, by the City jointly with King County, or by an approved taxicab association, for-hire vehicle company, transportation network company or third-party vendor. Examinations must test the driver's:

  • Knowledge of requirements and laws for operating taxicabs, for-hire vehicles or transportation network company vehicles.
  • Ability to speak and read English well enough to fulfill the duties of a driver.
  • Knowledge of vehicle safety requirements.
  • Knowledge of the geography of Seattle, King County and the surrounding region.
  • Knowledge of local public and tourist destinations and attractions.
  • Knowledge of risk factors for crimes against drivers, of emergency procedures and of personal safety equipment.

Exam procedures and content must be approved by the director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services.

All drivers and vehicle owners must consent to criminal background checks. Transportation network companies, for-hire vehicle companies and taxicab associations must review the background checks and maintain records of them.

The background checks may be conducted by fingerprinting the driver, with prints forwarded to the FBI or Washington State Patrol for investigation. They may also be conducted by a third-party vendor approved by the director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services.

Companies also must report criminal offenses by drivers that have bearing on the driver's fitness to operate a taxicab, transportation network company vehicle or for-hire vehicle. These criminal offenses include but are not limited to:

  • Fraud
  • Theft
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Assault
  • Sex crimes
  • Alcohol or drug offenses
  • Prostitution

Taxi and for-hire regulations and operating standards are enforced by City inspectors. Inspectors ride unannounced in taxis and for-hire vehicles to ensure that operating standards are met. If you have questions about driver or vehicle operating standards, please contact us.

You have 10 days to request a hearing if you receive a violation, suspension or revocation. Instructions for requesting a hearing will be on the reverse side of the notice of violation or license action form, or you may contact us.

If you receive a notice of infraction, you must respond within 15 days. Instructions for responding will be on the reverse side of the notice of infraction. Payments or requests for hearings are processed by Seattle Municipal Court.

You must pay any fines within 30 days of the issue date. Failure to pay could result in the loss of your license. This table lists Seattle fines for taxi and for-hire violations:

1st A $35 2
2nd A $70 3
3rd A $120 4
1st B $70 4
2nd B $175 7
3rd B $300 10
All C $1,000 20