Nfld. & Labrador

Taxi drivers to get training in hopes of boosting public image

The taxi industry is getting a financial boost from the provincial government for training, in an attempt to get better drivers on the road and improve public trust.

$52K provided for 'human resources' plan

The Newfoundland and Labrador Taxi Alliance has made recommendations to government on how to improve the industry. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

The taxi industry is getting a financial boost from the provincial government in an attempt to get better drivers on the road and improve the public's image of the industry.

The province is giving $52,000 to the Newfoundland and Labrador Taxi Alliance, a group made up of owners and operators.

Doug McCarthy, alliance spokesperson, said the money will go toward first aid, sensitivity and driver training, and it will be administered by the Department of Advanced Education and Skills.

"It's about putting a better driver on the road, somebody who is more in tune with the needs [of] the community that we're serving," McCarthy told CBC News.

"It will also help us present a better image [of] the industry and the services we do provide to the public."

City, province still at odds

When asked whether any of the money will go toward regulation of the industry, McCarthy said he doesn't know.

A CBC News investigation in 2016 revealed there is no government regulation of the cab industry, unlike many other jurisdictions in Canada.

The taxi industry has been the subject of a disagreement between the City of St. John's and the provincial government. (Paula Gale/CBC)

In response to the story, the City of St. John's called on the government to oversee the industry. But the province pushed the issue back to the city, saying they already had the ability to change regulations in St. John's.

The city disagreed, saying it has "no ability to remove offending drivers from the road, as the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and RMCP do under the Highway Traffic Act."

The latest correspondence between the two parties took place on April 11, when the city said it sent a letter to Service NL — the government department overseeing the issue.

A city spokesperson said the letter went unanswered.

"The city is not in a position to duplicate the enforcement efforts of the police," the statement read. 

"Further to this, the taxi companies that service city residents are not confined to the boundaries of the City of St. John's, and cross into surrounding municipalities over which the city has no jurisdiction."

Taxi companies taking steps to regulate themselves

McCarthy said the two levels of government need to sort out their issues, but taxi companies will do their own work in the mean time.

Individual taxi companies have been requiring drivers to provide a criminal background check and vulnerable sector check, McCarthy said. Some require the driver's photo ID to be present on the dashboard.

McCarthy said the alliance would like taxi drivers to have five years of Canadian driving experience before being able to get a Class 4 taxi licence.

Doug McCarthy is one of the people leading the push on improving the taxi industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC)

Right now, taxi drivers only need one year driving experience. McCarthy said that's not enough.

He would like to see new taxi drivers placed under a novice designation, which would result in a suspension of driving a taxi if there are any infractions.

"Not only are they a better driver in regards to training and driving history — which would help our insurance rates hopefully be reduced — [but] having a more mature individual behind the wheel, the passengers are going to feel a lot of safer and [more] confident in taking taxis," he said.


Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.