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A chauffeur in Japan
A chauffeur is an individual who operates any self-propelled vehicle (automobile) for a profession. While the term may refer to anybody who drives for a living, it usually implies a driver of an elegant passenger vehicle such as a horse-drawn carriage, luxury sedan, motor coach, or especially a limousine; those who operate non-passenger vehicles are generally referred to as "drivers" (as in bus drivers and truck drivers) despite the fact that buses have passengers. In some countries, particularly developing nations where a ready supply of labor ensures that even the middle classes can afford domestic staff and among the wealthy, the chauffeur may simply be called the "driver". "Chauffeur" is the modern French masculine term (noun/verb) derived from the meaning "he who heats". The earliest automobiles, like their railroad and sea vessel counterparts, were steam-powered and required the driver to pre-heat the engine to produce energy, thus, the French term for stoker was adapted.

People currently sometimes employ chauffeurs full-time to drive themselves in their own personal vehicles, yet there are also professional services offering limousines or rental cars driven by chauffeurs. This is very similar to but more luxurious than taking a taxicab. A variety of benefits are cited for using chauffeurs, including convenience, productivity and time savings, and driving safety for businesspeople and seniors. Indeed, insurance costs for luxury vehicles are often lower if the designated driver is a chauffeur.

The requirements to be a chauffeur vary in geography and vehicle size or type, with many of these requirements established at the state or municipal level in the U.S. In addition to a standard driver's license, some areas require a chauffeur to obtain an additional professional license, which frequently sets certain numerous minimum standards for age, driving experience and record, local geographic knowledge, and indigenous security and operational procedures.

Some limousine companies in the United Statesmarker and the European Union require their chauffeurs to undergo specific training courses. These courses involve evasive or defensive driving techniques, and also teach the proper methods to ensure safety in the most extreme conditions such as inclement weather, a flat tire at high speeds, or other exterior influences for loss of vehicular control, etc. Most companies will also have their own courses as to what they expect from their chauffeurs. Chauffeurs may be taught proper etiquette for use when they are in presence of their clientele. Almost all companies and local licensing agencies currently require random drug screening to maintain only the utmost professionals to represent the profession. This came as a result of professional ice hockey player Vladimir Konstantinov's career-ending injuries when his recently-hired chauffeur, Richard Gnida, already serving a license suspension for drunken driving, lost control of their limousine and crashed, seriously injuring Konstantinov and his other passengers.

In many places (or at times in the past), proper physical presence is presented by the chauffeur at all times. This usually includes a well-groomed individual, conservatively dressed in a clean and crisply pressed black or dark suit or tuxedo, dress shirt, and appropriately matching tie, with black leather gloves and freshly-polished matching footwear. Some companies have complete uniforms for their chauffeurs, and some require that hats be worn as part of the uniform. Some companies do not keep strictly to this standard, and there is wide variation globally throughout the transportation industry.


  1. Konigsberg, Eric. "Once Around the Block, James, and Pick Me Up After My Nap". The New York Times, January 24, 2007, pg. B7. Accessed 14 November 2009.
  2. Stern, Linda. "Hey, Look, Boss: No Hands!" Newsweek, October 1, 2007. Accessed 14 November 2009.
  3. Villano, Matt. "A Chauffeur Role That Tries Harder". The New York Times, September 17, 2007. Accessed 14 November 2009.
  4. "Too Old To Drive?" The Rachael Ray Show, October 10, 2007. Accessed 14 November 2009.

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