British Columbia

B.C.'s new ride-hail licensing too complicated for prospective drivers, advocates fear

The province is getting pushback from ride-hailing advocates who say the new rules and regulations announced by the B.C. government Monday make it difficult for prospective drivers to become licensed.

Companies like Lyft says restrictive regulations can only benefit the taxi industry

Ride-hailing advocates say the province's new licensing regimen including a Class 4 licensing requirement makes it virtually impossible for the service to operate in B.C. (Richard Vogel/Associated Press)

The province is getting pushback from ride-hailing advocates who say the new rules and regulations announced by the B.C. government Monday make it difficult for prospective drivers to become licensed.

Under the province's new rules, people interested in becoming ride-sharing drivers will have to acquire a Class 4 commercial licence, the same as taxi and limo drivers and undergo criminal and driving record checks.

"It's excessive red tape and bureaucracy," said Ian Tostenson, a spokesperson with Ridesharing Now For B.C. 

He's concerned the additional licensing — which comes with fees, road tests and driving record checks — will prove too much for some people.

"I get that they want a level playing field, but we're going to level the playing field in favour of slowing down the process of people being able to be become a ride-share driver," Tostenson said. 

"But frankly, it's playing into the hands of the taxi industry."

The province says the new requirements will make the service safer for passengers.

And ride-hailing company Lyft agrees with Tostenson that, without any data to back up the safety claims, the restrictive regulations can only favour the taxi industry.

"The amount of time and money they would need to expend to become a driver, it just becomes not worth it for them anymore,"  said Aaron Zifkin, managing director for Lyft Canada. 

"You get a population of drivers that are only full-time commercial drivers," he said.

B.C's strict rules aren't unique: Alberta also requires a Class 4 and New York requires a commercial licence. 

A Class 4 commercial licence is the same as taxi and limo drivers have. (Reuters)

To get a commercial licence, ICBC says drivers first have to get a learner's licence before taking a road test for the full Class 4 licence. 

Both involve knowledge and road signs tests, as well as being able to meet medical standards. Before drivers can apply for a commercial licence they must meet these requirements:

  • 19 years old.
  • Possess a full B.C. drivers licence
  • No driving- related criminal convictions within the past three years.
  • Have fewer than four offences within the last two years that involved penalty points 

Following the road test, drivers pay fees for testing and licensing, as well as a medical processing fee which all adds up to $96.

Once all that is taken care of, drivers have to have their doctor complete a medical examination form.

RoadSafety B.C. reviews the form, and if there are any concerns, drivers may be asked for more information or may have to undergo an enhanced road safety assessment.

"By putting in a Class 4 regulatory regime, we're not going to have the number of drivers or the type of drivers that are critical to making these marketplaces work," said Zifkin.

Uber declined CBC's interview request but issued a written statement. 

"We will review the information and evaluate how they may impact our ability to provide British Columbians with the same ride-sharing experience they already enjoy in cities across North America," said Michael van Hemmen, business manager, western region, with Uber Canada.

But Garland Chow, a transportation economist with UBC's Sauder School of Business and a former taxi industry consultant said Class 4 licences do improve safety and reduce accidents.

Class 5 drivers, he said, have 13 per cent more accidents than Class 4 drivers.

"That's a certainty. It's not a statistical estimate or anything," said Chow.

Ride sharing companies can apply for licences in September, while prospective drivers can begin the process of getting their Class 4 licence any time.

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