City no longer charging Uber drivers, situation in 'limbo'
City working on draft licensing bylaw
After two waves of charges against the city's Uber drivers, the city is no longer tracking down and charging drivers who are working for the popular ride hailing service.
That about-face from the city's previous position comes as Hamilton's licensing department works to find a way to allow the service to operate alongside the city's taxi fleets under a modified bylaw.
"We're working with Uber to find some sort of resolution," said Ken Leendertse, the city's director of licensing. "As we're doing that, it's kind of in limbo."
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Since Uber launched in Hamilton last summer, the city has charged 32 people for driving without a taxi license, which includes a $305 fine. Those charges are still sitting before the courts, Leendertse said.
Uber has repeatedly said it will "support drivers in instances of enforcement" — which basically means they will cover these sorts of fines, anyway.
In many ways, the city has been fighting a losing battle with Uber. Drivers aren't speeding around town with any kind of identification on their vehicles, so the only way bylaw officers were actually catching drivers was to use the Uber app to hail them.
Once a driver knows someone is bylaw enforcement, they simply block the account associated with the person's credit card.
"The challenges in the enforcement avenue are difficult," Leendertse told city council's general issues committee back in April. "It becomes a very difficult process and a very limiting process."
City councillors voted to outlaw any Uber drivers who don't have commercial insurance on their vehicles at the same meeting — but in July, Ontario's insurance regulator announced it has approved a policy from Intact Financial Corp. for private vehicles transporting paying passengers through the ride-hailing service.
Coverage extends from when the app is turned on to when passengers exit the vehicle, making commercial insurance much easier to acquire.
Leendertse's team has presented a draft licensing bylaw, which would subject ride-hailing companies with more than 50 drivers to an annual licensing fee of $50,000, plus a $20,000 dispatching fee.
The team has said it will present a final version of the draft bylaw to city councillors in the fall.
It would require drivers with ride-hailing companies to get police checks and annual Ministry of Transportation inspections. It would also require cars to be clearly marked.
Taxi drivers, by contrast, have voraciously protested the company's poaching of their previously monopolized territory.
Cab drivers pay as much as $10,000 per month for insurance, said Jagtar Singh Chahal, CEO of Hamilton Cab, in April. They also pay an annual licensing fee and undergo mandatory annual training through the city.
With files from Samantha Craggs