Job Focus: Chauffeurs
Whatever your views on the electrification of the motor industry and the efforts of worthy environmentalists, people love to drive. For many, there are few experiences to rival the sensations of driving a decent car on a really good road, music playing, top down, sun shining. Enjoyable though one might find this rare scenario, much of the time driving is seen as a chore, or waste of valuable time. Many high-net-worth individuals are extremely busy people, and having someone to drive for you so you can work, or relax between appointments, is a godsend. Add to this the surety of arriving in style, and the cachet of having your own luxury private transportation solution, we reach the destination of requiring a private chauffeur.
The concept of paying someone else to drive for you predates motor vehicles by some distance. Nobles and aristocrats of earlier times needed dedicated staff to drive and maintain their horse-drawn carriages. Accelerate forward to the industrial revolution and these coachmen evolved into chauffeurs. The term is a French word which translates as “stoker” – the earliest motor vehicles were steam powered and required the stoking of coals.
For many years chauffeurs were responsible for maintaining and repairing their vehicles as well as driving them, and as such were skilled mechanics as well as drivers. This is of course not the case now, the complexity of modern cars requiring very specific attention. So what are the skills required by a chauffeur in the 21st century? This is not an exhaustive list, but key qualities of a modern chauffeur will include the following.
Safety, as it is often said, comes first. Transporting the principals from A to B in a safe, legal manner without incident is the number one priority. Even if the day is running behind and everyone is late, safety cannot be compromised.
A chauffeur should never be late. Punctuality is of paramount importance. This requires diligent preparation not just in terms of timekeeping, but also checking traffic, planning routes, learning where entrances to buildings are, researching opening times, toll roads, roadworks, flight times and delays – attention to detail allows for the expected performance in this respect.
Putting this work in beforehand allows for another key quality of a fine chauffeur: confidence. Remaining calm and collected at all times is nothing short of a requirement. Conveying this to the principal through proper driving, language and manner will help keep them relaxed when everyone else on the road is behaving like a madman.
Another related necessity is to always have a back-up plan. Prepare all you can, but a journey always has the possibility of presenting an unexpected occurrence. What happens if there’s an accident dead ahead, or a small child follows a football into the road, or you get a puncture? Knowing in advance how you’ll deal with whatever the open road throws at you goes a long way towards supporting safety, maintaining composure, and ultimately getting the principal to their appointment unruffled.
Presentation: the traditional image of a chauffeur as being crisply presented in a suit, tie, and shined shoes (and possibly, though by no means necessarily, a hat) remains relatively accurate today. The principals will expect their driver to be as well presented as their vehicle. This extends to their manner of communication, knowing when to keep quiet and when to chat, and being aware of the atmosphere required for the journey in question.
As with all household staff roles for high-net-worth individuals and notable families, discretion is very important indeed. A chauffeur will almost certainly be party to information which must go no further. Confidentiality is king.
Did we mention driving skills yet? As a professional driver it can be taken as read that an affinity with cars and driving is a requirement. This does not mean the ability to race round a track faster than L. Hamilton esq.; rather, smoothness is the order of the day. This comes in part from learned driving technique, and from the ability to look ahead and anticipate required action.