More than 300 drivers apply to tap Winnipeg's new vehicle-for-hire market

More than 300 drivers have applied to work for vehicle-for-hire company TappCar, which faces one final hurdle before it can operate in Winnipeg.

TappCar faces one more hurdle before it's cleared for March 2 launch

Edmonton-based TappCar has one more hurdle to clear before it can operate in Winnipeg. (CBC)

More than 300 drivers have applied to work for vehicle-for-hire company TappCar, which faces one final hurdle before it can operate in Winnipeg.

The Edmonton-based company intends to begin driving passengers around Winnipeg on Friday, one day after the city's new vehicle-for-hire bylaw goes into effect.

TappCar has received a flood of applications since it announced its intention to operate in the Manitoba capital, said Rod Fox of Lakeview Insurance, TappCar's Winnipeg broker.

"Over 300 have applied, in person or online. I'm excited to see how many drivers there are on the launch date, on March 2," Fox said Monday.

Before that can happen, the Winnipeg Parking Authority must license TappCar as a dispatch company. That application is still being processed, Winnipeg communications director Felicia Wiltshire said.

"We are continuing to work with TappCar on their dispatch licence application and are hopeful everything will be completed by the end of the week," Wiltshire said.

TappCar is expected to be the first new vehicle-for-hire company to enter the Winnipeg market because the firm has expressed no objection to Manitoba Public Insurance's coverage regime.
Lakeview Insurance broker Rod Fox said he's excited to see how many drivers will work for TappCar on Friday - assuming the company obtains its dispatch license. (Warren Kay/CBC)

MPI requires vehicle-for-hire companies as well as their drivers to purchase insurance coverage.

The personal coverage "ensures that regular passenger vehicle owners will not subsidize the claims costs of ride share service operators, just like they don't subsidize the claims costs for taxicabs or commercial trucks today," MPI vice president Ward Keith confirmed in a statement.

Keith said Manitoba Public Insurance has provided TappCar with commercial automobile insurance, on top of the personal coverage its drivers must obtain.

Fox said the personal insurance will add between $300 to $500 to a driver's insurance tab every year.

U.S.-based vehicle-for-hire companies Uber and Lyft have balked at MPI's insistence on requiring drivers to obtain insurance coverage of their own. Neither of the larger firms intend to operate in Manitoba unless MPI changes its product.

The Pallister government signalled no changes will be made in the short term.

Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen said in a statement it's clear "multiple companies" are eager to drive passengers under MPI's existing framework.

Cullen said MPI will revisit its coverage once it studies data compiled from the first vehicle-for-hire companies to operate in Winnipeg. 

Keith said MPI will track claims made by vehicle-for-hire operators separately from those of other drivers so insurance rates can be adjusted over time.

The first review is expected in June, Cullen's office said.