Established ride-hailing companies expressed cautious optimism with the B.C. government’s response to their case for easing strict limits on driver numbers and their boundaries.
San Francisco-based Lyft has emphasized the safety offered by service, particularly for women and people traveling at night, and the company’s track record in the U.S. of extending the service beyond urban areas. The company urged Transportation Minister Claire Trevena to adopt the recommendations.
Benefits include “reduced impaired driving, encouraging local economic opportunities and expanding the reach of public transit,” Lyft spokesperson Traci Lee said.
Uber, the other major U.S. operator in Canadian cities, is waiting for Trevena to decide on the final regulations before commenting.
Alberta-based TappCar echoed Trevena’s concern about safety, supporting the Class 4 licence requirement as well as limits on drivers.
“The recommendations made by this committee would steer B.C. towards a wild west rideshare economy, where safety would take a back seat to deregulation,” said Tappcar spokeperson Pascal Ryffel.
The B.C. legislation began with expanding the taxi model, and extending the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board’s authority to regulate taxis and inter-city buses.
Trevena said Tuesday she needs to study the ride hailing report before commenting on the recommendations, then emerged an hour later to tell reporters the Class 4 restriction is staying in place.
B.C. Liberal MLA Peter Milobar said the Class 4 restriction is a major problem, given the costs and up to five months waiting time to have medical, vehicle and driving tests done. He said people who can safely drive a sports team or car pool with a Class 5 licence should be able to drive for ride-hailing companies, if they pass the background and vehicle checks.
The Insurance Corp. of B.C. reports that the wait time for a Class 4 road test was 31 days province-wide during 2018. Time required by ICBC to review an application and driving record is currently 32 days. The target for next year is to decrease that to 10 days, and additional road test capacity can be added to handle increased road tests from ride hailing drivers, ICBC spokesperson Joanna Linsangan said.
The committee of four B.C. Liberals, four NDP and one Green voted narrowly against the Class 4 licensing measure. NDP MLA Ravi Kahlon withdrew from the final deliberations after opposition MLAs pointed out his father is a long-time taxi driver in Victoria.
Trevena said she was considering the ride hailing industry’s submissions that capping the number of drivers and restricting their operating area doesn’t work for app-based services where drivers may only participate occasionally.
“It’s clear that the public and the app-based ride hailing industry are concerned about B.C. adopting a regulatory model that is overly restrictive,” Trevena said, reading from a prepared statement. “I will be working in the coming weeks and months to promote flexibility around key issues of supply, boundaries and pricing to prepare for the introduction of ride hailing this fall.”
Class 4 licences are required to drive a taxi, ambulance, or a bus or limousine with up to nine passengers. Applicants must be at least 19, with two years of non-learner driving experience and driving records issued by every jurisdiction they have driven in for the past three years.
The testing for a Class 4 licence isn’t easy. ICBC reported to the committee that they see a 60-per-cent failure rate for the written knowledge test, which costs $15, a 20 per cent failure rate for the pre-trip test and 40 per cent failure for the first attempt at the road test for a Class 4 licence.
The road test for a commercial licence costs $40, the required medical exam is $28 and a $31 licence fee applies for people moving to B.C. and getting a new licence issued.
The medical exam must be filled out by a doctor and regular re-examinations are required for commercial licences. Milobar said the waiting time for medical forms is a significant problem.
Vehicle inspections will also be required for ride hailing drivers, and the committee recommended that vehicles more than 10 years old should not be used for ride hailing.