Fewer complaints for Montreal's taxi drivers, but their attitude still a problem
Customers noticed improved service, but half of complaints about lack of courtesy
Fewer complaints are being filed against Montreal taxi drivers compared to last year, but the bulk of those complaints remain about customer service.
According to data obtained by Radio-Canada, 663 complaints were filed with Montreal's taxi bureau between January and the beginning of September.
That is a 17 per cent decrease from the same period last year, when there were more than 800 complaints. There were 485 complaints filed in 2015.
"I think the industry has generally taken control," said André Poisson, general manager of the taxi bureau. "It realized it needed to improve customer service and modernize."
As was the case last year, the majority of the 2017 grievances concerned a driver's behaviour. Only six per cent referred to messy or dirty cars.
The taxi bureau also used mystery shoppers to assess quality of service. They completed 600 rides last year. And while drivers received an average satisfaction score of 85 per cent, the weakest element of taxi service in Montreal was found to be the courtesy of drivers.
Over-worked, over-stressed drivers
A representative of the largest taxi company in Montreal, Taxelco, acknowledged there is a problem within the industry. Jean Vachon, Taxelco's communications director, blamed the incidents of poor service on overworked and overstressed drivers.
"There is a kind of exhaustion," Vachon said. "There are people who have been doing this job for 20 years, who have seen their working conditions deteriorate over the years, who are frustrated, embittered, tired.... It has an impact."
He added that it can be difficult to "keep a good smile," to always be courteous, to work 15 hours a day and to "bring home a small income."
Increased competition from ride-hailing service Uber and incessant roadwork in Montreal were also cited by industry officials as contributing factors to poor service.
"It's not easy to drive nowadays," said Poisson. "They are facing competition with Uber. They face a traffic that is dense. It is a difficult service."
But Poisson also stressed that the 85 per cent satisfication score was a "very, very good result for the taxi industry."
Adapting to reality
The type of complaints filed at the taxi bureau include: the driver not being courteous with a customer, the driver talking on the phone and the driver not complying with the Highway Safety Code.
Montreal has in recent years implemented new rules governing the taxi industry in an effort to make it more competitive with Uber.
The province's taxi industry has been suffering significant decreases in revenue since Uber entered the market (though the ride-hailing service threatened last month to leave Quebec because of new regulations proposed by the government).
The training offered to taxi drivers must be adapted to the new realities of the market, Poisson said. The bureau will meet with drivers who received low scores on the mystery-shopper survey.
"Our goal is to meet those providers and show them their results so that they can see how they should work to improve," he said.
With files from Radio-Canada