Nfld. & Labrador

Taxi company says privacy laws limit driver checks

Taxi companies say privacy laws make it very hard to catch a driver whose license has been suspended.
The driver who struck a pedestrian last week was working for City Wide, but the company didn't know the driver's license was suspended. (CBC)

A St. John's taxi company says privacy laws make it tough to catch a driver whose license has been suspended.

Last week, a taxi driver with no license hit a woman on a crosswalk.

City Wide taxi fleet manager Denis Dooley says privacy laws make it tough for the company to check up on their drivers' records. (CBC)

The driver told CBC News that during the accident, it felt like a garbage bag was hitting his windshield.

He said he was sorry he hit the woman, but claims he didn't know that his driver's license was suspended.

City Wide, the taxi company for which the driver was working, says laws should be changed to make it easier to check up on their drivers. 

"We weren't too happy," said Denis Dooley, a road fleet manager for City Wide. "If he did know, he won't drive for City Wide again."

Every September, Citywide makes their drivers produce a certified driving record from the province and asks drivers to report changes to their status.

Dooley says provincial regulations prevent them from going further.

"They don't give us the power to phone in motor vehicles and ask for a particular person's driver's license, if it expired or not," he said.

"They try to tell us it's a privacy law."

Drivers can give written permission to have their records checked, but Dooley says this would cost the company thousands of dollars every month.

City Wide is calling for a return to the old system, when a city inspector licensed the drivers.

"They had the right to go to motor vehicles to find out if your license is suspended for any reason," Dooley said, adding the city used to then call companies and inform them of drivers who should not be on the road.

Unfortunately for the cab companies, however, City Hall is not interested in going back.

"They hire the drivers," said city councillor Tom Hann. "They should be able to make sure that they're qualified to do so and have all the necessary qualifications to operate a cab in the city."