British Columbia

Uber says it may not operate outside of Metro Vancouver due to driver shortage

Company spokesperson says ride-hailing will be more costly and difficult to operate in British Columbia than other provinces if drivers must have a Class 4 commercial licence.

Company says it will be difficult to offer service if drivers require Class 4 licences

Uber drivers in British Columbia will require a Class 4 commercial driver's licence. (Julia Page/CBC)

Uber says it may not operate outside of Metro Vancouver if it can't get enough qualified drivers with a commercial licence in keeping with ride-hailing regulations set by the B.C. government.

Spokesperson Michael van Hemmen says the company's decision to launch will also be based on policies finalized in mid-August by the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) on issues such as flexible pricing and boundaries.

The province has said ride-hailing drivers must have a Class 4 licence, like those held by taxi drivers, as opposed to the standard Class 5 licence held by most motorists in the province.

Van Hemmen says the licensing requirement will make it more difficult for Uber to operate in rural areas of the province, where fewer people hold a commercial Class 4 license.

He said a pilot project should be considered by the province to see if drivers with Class 5 licences, who receive additional training specific from Uber, such as how to accommodate passengers with service animals and disabilities, would be effective enough to satisfy the PTB's safety concerns.

'Cautiously optimistic'

Applications from ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft will be accepted as of Sept. 3 but van Hemmen says the onerous requirement to have a Class 4 license may mean the company will find it difficult to do business.

The company already operates in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta, and van Hemmen says the latter province also requires a commercial licence for ride-hailing drivers, as does New York City, the only jurisdiction in the United States with that regulation.

Van Hemmen said he is "cautiously optimistic" the province will clear the path for ride-hailing services to operate this year and, despite the stringent licensing requirements, Uber is getting prepared to launch.

The company sent emails Wednesday to people who expressed interest about becoming drivers in B.C., telling them to start the process of acquiring a Class 4 licence if they don't already have one. 

Uber said in a statement that while B.C. cites the requirement of a medical exam as providing additional passenger safety for Class 4 licence holders, medical practitioners are already required to inform the province's auto insurer if a patient has a condition that would impair driving.

With files from The Early Edition and Bridgette Watson

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