The British Columbia government has set up a series of rules and regulations as it opens the door to ride-hailing applications for the service on Sept. 3.
New regulations require transportation network companies to pay $5,000 annual licence fees, charge 30 cents per ride on vehicles that don’t have access for disabled passengers and have drivers possess class 4 (commercial) licences and wear seatbelts at all times.
The government said an annual inspection is needed if the vehicle has logged 40,000 kilometres in the previous year, vehicles can’t be older than 10 years and illegal operators could face fines of $100,000. Criminal record checks for drivers are also required.
Ride-hailing companies will need to apply for permission to operate through the Passenger Transportation Board, which will determine the number of licences, routes and fare structure later this summer.
The PTB is consulting with B.C. taxi companies in eight locations around the province over the next two weeks.
Kami Cabs general manager Simar Singh told KTW he is unable to comment at this time, referring calls to Mohan Kang, president of the BC Taxi Association, of which Kami Cabs is a member.
Kang said a consultation meeting is set for Kamloops this Thursday and will include companies from Kamloops, Sorrento, Merritt, Chase, Clearwater and Barriere discussing fleet size, boundaries and rates with the PTB.
Kang said the taxi industry is advocating for an even playing field with competitive fares and stressing that ride-hailing is not needed throughout all of B.C.
“It doesn’t work in small places,” he said, noting demand in Metro Vancouver is much higher than in Prince Rupert. “The small mom and pop operations have to be financially viable.”
Kang believes the government will keep the association’s concerns in mind, but noted the full impact of ride-hailing on the taxi industry in B.C. won’t be known until the PTB’s consultation is complete.
Kamloops North-Thompson MLA Peter Milobar, who is a member of the all-party committee, described the lack of details surrounding supply, boundaries and fares two months ahead of applications being accepted as “ludicrous.”
He said he is disappointed the government is maintaining a class 4 licence requirement.
Milobar said class 4 licences create a barrier to the part-time drivers known to pursue ride-hailing work and would prefer both they and taxi drivers be permitted to operate with a class 5 licence.
In B.C., taxi drivers need a class 4 license, which is also required of anyone who drives a bus or ambulance.
“The reality is the government should have been also looking at modernizing the taxi industry,” Milobar said.
The all-party committee recommended ride-sharing operators not be required to obtain class 4 licences.
Kamloops’ Bryce Herman, who is president and CEO of Advance Hospitality Consulting, said Monday’s announcement “is a step in the right direction,” but he remains concerned about ride-hailing restrictions.
“The shared economy is really designed to be a more simplified approach so that a person with a clean driving record with a standard license is able to do it,” Herman said.
Herman believes there will be enough room for both ride-hailing and traditional taxi services in Kamloops, noting it is a benefit to have as many options as possible for people who have been out consuming alcohol or cannabis.
“At the end of the day, it creates a much safer environment on the roads,” Herman said.
Milobar said he anticipates ride-hailing apps will help fill the gap at times when there is a spike in demand from the public in Kamloops for which cab companies cannot always be at the ready.
Uber Canada spokesman Michael van Hemmen says the ride-hailing company will review the B.C. policy to evaluate it impacts on the ability to serve customers.
Ian Tostenson of Ridesharing Now for B.C, a coalition sponsored by Uber and Lyft, said he doesn’t expect the class 4 requirement will kill ride hailing, but added it will slow its rollout.
“What I’m worried about is if [ICBC] is staffed up, geared up and trained up to handle the onslaught of people [applying for class 4],” he said. “I hope they’ve anticipated this because you can imagine all the road tests that would happen for class 4 and you have to have qualified [ICBC driver] examiners — and where are you going to get those guys?”
Recalling his work on the committee, Milobar estimated it takes eight to 10 weeks to obtain a class 4 licence.
ICBC will also introduce a new insurance policy for drivers and vehicles operating with ride-hailing companies, effective this September. The policy is a blanket, per kilometre insurance product that provides third-party liability and accident coverage.