Just 53% of New York City’s would-be yellow cab drivers passed the strenuous 50-question hack license test, Taxi and Limousine Commission records for fiscal year 2013 show.
That’s down from the 80% who generally passed the test in the 1990s.
Industry insiders say the drop is due to tougher questions on the location of random city roads and a growing list of regulations.
“The test is always getting harder,” said one instructor who asked to remain anonymous.
And many of the city’s foreign born taxi test-takers have struggled with the English language proficiency part of the test, the instructor added.
“It’s hard to learn a new language,” the instructor said.
In 1995, the city added such questions after rider complaints of drivers who were not fluent in English.
The test also includes questions about major city intersections, rules of the road and driver-passenger etiquette.
The TLC said the higher flunk rate shows the exam is doing its job.
“We want to ensure that all drivers are ready to provide first-rate service to passengers,” said Taxi Commissioner David Yassky. “The test’s level of difficulty strikes the right balance.”
Previously, the city would give new drivers only a perfunctory screening and then ship them off to one of the several privately operated tax-driver schools for a few extra hours of training.
“It was kind of no brainer,” said David Pollack, editor and publisher of the Taxi Insider trade paper. “The TLC has come a long way.”
Now, all applicants are required to take an authorized training course, as well as pass a drug test and, of course, have a valid driver’s license.
But the tougher test is a far cry from the certification process in London.
Cabbies across the pond need to study for three years before they can obtain a license. That instruction includes the memorization of the city's 600 square miles of curvy streets, which all have names instead of numbers for added confusion.
And, perhaps more importantly, London cabbies also must have no prior criminal convictions and a pass a character evaluation.