Old London Black cab in black and white

ZEC Vehicles and the history of black cabs in London

London can always be associated with red buses and the iconic black cabs. These taxis are a true symbol of London, but how did they emerge?

The famous London taxis (black cabs) have an extensive history. They started as horse-drawn carriages called ‘Hackney carriages’. The earliest record of this method of transport dates back to 1662!

When motorised cars became popular, the design of the taxis changed. After 1945, the infamous black cab design became routine.

But in recent times, black cabs haven’t necessarily been ‘black’ as many cabs now feature different colours and are often covered in advertising. See below for examples:

Traditional London Taxi Cab of different colours. UK

Typical London street with a blue taxi in the middle, UK









The history of the ‘Hackney-carriage’ was approved by parliament in 1654, described as a remedy to: “Many inconveniences that do daily arise by reason of the late increase and great irregularity of Hackney Coaches and Hackney Coachmen in London, Westminster and the places thereabouts”. The first Hackney-carriage licence dates back to 1662, where there was an Act of Parliament to establish the Commissioners of Scotland Yard to administer them. Since then, they have been a significant part of transport within London. Black cabs are essential for people to travel to work. Not only that, they are fantastic for tourism.

Becoming a licensed black cab driver is quite a difficult process. Each driver needs to pass a test before they can drive the famous black taxi, called ‘The Knowledge’. In this test, they need to memorise every street in London within six miles from Charing Cross, meaning they have to learn 320 routes, 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks! The average time to pass the test is three years.

With many other vehicles on the road, black cabs have evolved to become much more eco-friendly over the years, helping to reduce emissions within the capital. Most recently, in London, there are plans to implement a low emission zone, to help improve air quality in and around the capital. As a result of this, the government is encouraging drivers, as well as cab drivers to make the switch to electric vehicles instead.

The government is providing plug-in taxi grants to help taxi drivers purchase electric cabs, such as the LEVC TXE. Vehicles like these are great to not only reduce harmful emissions but can also significantly reduce fuel costs for drivers. Over 3,500 taxi drivers now drive zero emission capable (ZEC) electric vehicles.

How can we help with your taxi insurance?

At Quotax Insurance, our promise is to provide London black cab taxi drivers with friendly and efficient service, helping owner-drivers and fleet proprietors find a competitive taxi insurance quote.

Our very competitive rates, along with our relationships with a wide-ranging number of specialist insurers mean that we are well placed to provide the perfect taxi insurance for London’s taxi drivers.

We also understand that your taxi is your livelihood – if it’s not working then neither are you. Find out more about our taxi insurance policies here, or give us a call to speak with an expert on 0208 691 9691.

Do not be tempted to display copied or forged area identifiers


Unless there are significant mitigating factors, drivers found working without displaying their area identifiers will face further action.
TfL say this action will typically be:
A written warning for a first offence.
A period of suspension for a second offence.
Revocation of the driver’s licence for a third offence.
To date, a total of 104 written warnings have been issued to drivers found by the TPH Compliance team not displaying both area identifiers while working.
A further 8 drivers have so far had their licence suspended for a minimum period of one month.
In addition, further to reports received via the reporting tool at, 73 letters have been sent to drivers advising that a report has been received and reminding them of their obligations to always display the area identifiers whilst working.
Since the area identifiers have been introduced, TfL has been working closely with the police to investigate and follow up instances of licensed and unlicensed drivers using forged area identifiers.
To date, 25 arrests have been made by the police for suspected forged area identifier use. Of these, 16 arrests are for drivers that are licensed to work in Suburban areas but have used forged All London identifiers. The remaining 9 are unlicensed drivers using forged area identifiers. Investigations are also underway into a number of other cases.
Of the 16 arrests so far, 6 drivers have had their licences revoked and the remainder are subject to their fitness to remain licensed being reviewed.