How does Amish taxi driving work? From time to time we get this question from people interested in doing this job as a side business, or full-time gig.
Generally speaking, an Amish taxi driver is simply anyone who is paid to drive the Amish. This typically means either local business trips, visits to family or community events, or on more distant journeys.
Business Insider ran an article on this topic last year, which recently came across my radar. It’s written by Amanda Grossman, who had the job for a short period. It gives a nice level of detail for those curious.
Her father has done the job full-time for over 14 years, with trips taking him around Pennsylvania and other locations in the US and Canada. Amanda helped out part-time one summer.
She describes what the job is like from a financial and logistical perspective, along with some of the side benefits.
First, what does taxi driving look like in practice?
The job is simple: an Amish person, who cannot own a vehicle, calls an Amish Taxi Driver up and asks to be taken to XYZ on X date at X time.
You pick them up, they usually have a bazillion little stops to make (you would too if you knew you didn’t have access to places further than a horse ride away for awhile), and then you take them home. They pay you by the mile, and then they pay you $10/hour waiting time while they shop, make a “visit” (this could mean anything from making house calls to making hospital calls on family, friends, and community members), or see a chiropractor, etc.
How does the money add up? Compared to part-time student work – and assuming you can get out of bed at a rather painful hour – not bad at all:
That summer I made a sweeeeeet $3,000 which was made up of $0.60/mile + $10/hour of waiting time. I’d say my driving days were over after that, but to be honest the gig kind of grew on me.
That next semester my dad scored a market run for me at $120/day. There was only one problem with it: I had to wake up every Saturday at 4:00 a.m. to make the pickups.
The earnings, however, far outweighed the inconvenience of waking up before sunrise, and allowed me to earn what it would take 23.3 hours to earn at my work study job behind the desk. The best federal work study job you could get, btw – the college library at $5.15/hour.
And for someone doing it full-time?
My father currently drives roughly 80,000 miles/year, and his taxable income last year was $33,000. His gross income per month runs around $5,000, or $70,000 a year.
How do you get into taxi driving? One thing I often suggest is getting the word out on message boards in local shops frequented by Amish, which is where you often see little ads from drivers. Once you’re in, the Amish grapevine works like no other. As Amanda’s father explains:
An Amish person called one day and asked me if I had time to take him away. And he would pay me for it. It worked out. And, he happened to tell his brother about it. Word got out, and all of the sudden my phone rang and rang and rang.
The article also discusses other costs and hurdles, such as typical repair costs, gas cost per mile, and insurance and registration requirements.
Finally, there are the interesting parts of the job. Amanda shares several stories. Here are a couple:
Getting to be a fly on the wall to an entirely different culture without having to leave the country is pretty amazing. It’s led to some really cool and sometimes just downright interesting opportunities.
Like the time I took an Amish family to the beach (yes, I saw the Amish in their bathing suits).
Or the time I got to take a family down to their Englishmen friends in Baltimore. This led to driving into D.C. the next day and taking the Amish on their very first metro trip (and from the looks of the passengers, their very first sight at the Amish!).
Amish population growth continues to be strong. And it’s unlikely Amish will accept operating vehicles en masse anytime soon.
So “Amish taxi driver”is a job that will continue to be in demand. From my experience speaking with Amish, a good and reliable taxi driver (they don’t always turn out to be that way) is appreciated.
If you’d like to read more, here are some previous posts:
Forty Years of Driving the Amish in Lancaster County
Amish van photo: TijsB/flickr