Testing Cab Drivers

Back in the 1920s, one Chicago cab company had some interesting tests it required its drivers to take. One was a "strength trial for the arms" in which the driver had to hold down a spring with his outstretched arm for as long as he could. There was also a psychological test:

The candidate is required to operate a somewhat complicated series of switches and foot-pedals according to carefully given directions, and while he is doing it, he is given unexpectedly a mild electric shock. The examiner observes to what extent the surprise upsets the equanimity and competence of the driver.

Perhaps Uber should consider similar tests for its drivers.

Popular Mechanics - Oct 1927

Sedalia Democrat - June 15, 1926

     Posted By: Alex - Sat Oct 27, 2018
     Category: Jobs and Occupations | 1920s | Cars

That looks like a phony requirement to keep women out of the taxi industry. Way more relevant would be a driving simulation with a woman examiner next to you whose job is to distract you and evaluate your reactions, a written test with questions like "Your customer looks like he's going to throw up. What do you do?" and "Please explain how to deliver a baby in a moving vehicle" and a thorough inspection of the candidate's car or minivan.
Posted by Yudith on 10/27/18 at 12:01 PM
Yudith, my grandson was delivered in a moving vehicle (an ambulance), but I'd be very surprised if the driver had anything to do with it.
Posted by ges on 10/27/18 at 07:49 PM
Remember that this was the 1920s. I don't think power-steering had been invented yet, and it certainly wouldn't have been installed in taxicabs. So yes, you would need a certain minimum of arm and hand strength to get your passenger safely through narrow alleyways.
It's easy to blame everything on sexism if you live in 2018, but a bit of historical knowledge...
Posted by Richard Bos on 10/28/18 at 06:54 AM
Maybe they also should have had him conduct a trivia game show while driving!
Posted by Joshua Zev Levin, Ph.D. on 10/28/18 at 12:50 PM
I am not a bit surprised, because similar tests are still administered to applicants for jobs as ... airline pilots. (And yes, Yudith, strength tests and physical exams were previously used to exclude women from pilot careers.) Nowadays a pilot applicant might take an eye-hand coordination test that deliberately speeds up to an impossible pace, to also measure the person’s perseverance and frustration.
Posted by Jenny on 10/29/18 at 10:53 AM
More likely, it was a series of 'tests' designed to weed out black people. The requirements for passing are somewhat arbitrary, so the examiners could simply fail anyone who the cab company deemed was not 'right' for the job.
Posted by Eric Gagen on 10/30/18 at 08:41 AM
Yudith and Eric, I suspect in Chicago in 1926 they didn't need tests to weed out anyone. They would just put up a sign saying "No [whatever] need apply."
Posted by ges on 10/30/18 at 10:00 AM
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