Stranded BC

Class 4: for the safety of passengers or a protection for taxi people

Source: Province of British Columbia, 2018

The Minister

“I will not move on Class 4 licence. I think people’s safety is paramount, and a Class 4 licence adds to that level of safety,” Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena said shortly after the report of the standing committee was released. As the representative of the people, the minister’s concern is really praise-worthy.

But at the same time, she uttered - “I think that if people are earning money by driving people from Point A to Point B, they should be prepared to make that investment (in a special licence)”. This second sentence clearly showed that beside the safety issue there might be an issue regarding INVESTMENT!

It became clear when Minister Claire Trevena said, “We have lots of people who are working hard, who have a lot of money invested in taxi licences. This is their income. We have lots of drivers of taxis who are working as taxi drivers. We want to make sure they continue working. But we also want to know people have the choice that they have so clearly said that they want”.

The Doubt

The statements of the minister gave birth of doubt among many intellectuals and experts.

“Clearly, the taxi industry has governments and politicians in their pocket,” said economist Jonathan Rhys Kesselman, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Public Finance at Simon Fraser University’s School of Public Policy.

“Parents send their children in cars with other parents on field trips and they don't worry that that driver doesn't have a Class 4 licence,” said MLA for Surrey South Stephanie Cadieux, who is a member of an all-party committee tasked with delivering recommendations on ride-hailing. 

“However, the Surrey Board of Trade is disappointed that Class 4 licence requirements are a part of the regulation. This needs to be revisited by government to enable full market participation in the ride-hailing industry,” Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman said in a statement.

Reason of Doubt

The intention of the Government is doubtful as the minister is not ready to accept the recommendation of the Committees set by the Government.

“A Class 5 driver licence with a TaxiHost Pro certificate is arguably at least equally qualified as a Class 4 driver to drive a taxi” said transportation expert Dan Hara (who holds a PhD in economics) in the report ‘Modernizing Taxi Regulation’ prepared for Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“The Committee recommends to the Legislative Assembly that the provincial government:

  1. Require TNS drivers to hold a Class 5 driver’s licence.”

Says the ‘Recommendation’ of Select Standing Committee on Crown Corporations for the Fourth Session of the 41st Parliament, entitled Transportation Network Services: Boundaries, Supply, Fares, and Driver’s Licences.

The Government and Minister turned down the recommendations of both Hara’s Report and that of the Select Committee.

What the Minster Did

(1) After the publication of Hara’s report on modernization of taxi industry, the Passenger Transportation Board issued 200 new taxi licences to Vancouver Taxi Association. Kater struck a deal last summer with the Vancouver Taxi Association, long a supporter of former Vancouver city councillor and now Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff Geoff Meggs, to secure 140 taxi licences for the tech company’s own fleet of vehicles. The B.C. Taxi Association has accused the provincial government of helping the Vancouver Taxi Association create a monopoly in the Lower Mainland with the bulk of new licences possibly winding up with one ridesharing company.

(2) And after the submission of the Recommendations by the Select Standing Committee, the Minister declared that all ride-hailing drivers will be required to have a Class 4 restricted licence instead of the standard Class 5 licence that most B.C. Though the legislative committee advocated for Class 5 (Recommendation – 11)

Why Class 4

“Industry stakeholders agree that it is hard to attract enough taxi drivers in BC’s growing economy. Additionally, they pointed out that the two extra years required to obtain a commercial driver licence means that new immigrants, traditionally a source of taxi drivers, often find other work before being able to qualify.” 

The problem of shortage of drivers with Class-4 licence was also found out by the Select Standing Committee. The committee also discovered unique fact like – “Some Members emphasized different types of safety and suggested that a commercial licence poses a barrier to women, pointing to Alberta where a commercial licence is required and women make up only five percent of TNS drivers.”

Oni Chowdhury, MacLure's general manager, admitted his company has been struggling to find drivers since the province approved 175 new taxi licences in April

"There is a driver shortage, that's for sure," Chowdhury said, adding that other taxi companies are experiencing the same problem.

A lot of people may discouraged by that, especially if they were only planning on doing Uber on a very part-time basis,” said Tom Ross, a professor with the University of B.C.’s Sauder School of Business. He also agreed that the licensing requirement will be a barrier to recruiting ride-hailing drivers.

Due to the requirement of Class 4, there will be only a few drivers available for ridesharing companies and the interest of the taxi industry will remain unaffected.

Safety First

“I think people’s safety is paramount, and a Class 4 licence adds to that level of safety,” said the minister.

But is Class 4 safer?

“Members also discussed the extent to which the two licensing processes serve to improve public safety, contending that regulations must produce a demonstrable increase in safety. Some Members suggested that there is no evidence to indicate that requiring TNS drivers to hold a Class 4 licence improves safety.” 

The province is insisting on Class 4 licences for ridesharing drivers in order to maintain safety but as Aaron McArthur reports, ICBC data shows the crash rates of Class 4 and 5 drivers are similar.

It would be better to stop writing now and let the reader reach his/her own conclusion. Later the qualification and expertise of the members of Public Transportation Board and others will be discussed.

Sources:

globalnews.ca. (2019, April 10). Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/video/5154325/icbc-data-shows-crash-rates-of-class-4-5-drivers-similar

Hainsworth, J. (2019, May 23). nsnews.com. Retrieved from https://www.nsnews.com/2.4219/peace/ndp-creating-lower-mainland-taxi-monopoly-alleges-b-c-taxi-association-1.23831979

Hara Associates Inc. (2018). Modernizing Taxi Regulation. Ottawa: Hara Associates Inc.

Kotyk, A. (2019, July 4). bc.ctvnews.ca. Retrieved from https://bc.ctvnews.ca/b-c-passengers-want-option-of-ride-hailing-passenger-transportation-board-1.4494578

Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. (2019, March). leg.bc.ca. Retrieved from https://www.leg.bc.ca/content/CommitteeDocuments/41st-parliament/4th-session/cc/SSC-CC_41-4_Report-2018-03-26_Web.pdf

Orton, T. (2019, July 8). vancouverisawesome.com. Retrieved from https://www.vancouverisawesome.com/2019/07/08/ride-hailing-bc-september-2019/

Zeidler, M. (2018, January 7). cbc.ca. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/even-taxi-drivers-say-they-want-to-work-for-uber-but-will-there-be-enough-of-them-1.4476067

Zussman, R. (2019, July 10). globalnews.ca. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/5481798/ride-sharing-licences-ruled-out/