Nova Scotia

Halifax looks to overhaul taxi driver training

The city has put out a request for proposals asking outside organizations to submit pitches on how to conduct expanded driver training.

City spokesman says there's no question confidence from the public has been eroded over the last few years

Halifax intends to train taxi drivers.

Halifax is looking to overhaul how it trains and taxi drivers.

On Friday, it issued a request for proposals asking outside organizations to submit pitches on how to conduct expanded driver training.

The city currently does no training, and drivers are only tested on their knowledge of local streets and landmarks, as well as English comprehension, Halifax spokesman Brendan Elliott told CBC Nova Scotia's Information Morning.

Under the changes, two more elements will be introduced — instruction on how to work with people with disabilities and in cultural awareness.

"We're looking at a situation where we have a lot of newcomers to Nova Scotia, so some of them will end up becoming drivers and we want them to understand — be a little more culturally aware of what is expected of them in Nova Scotia," Elliott said.

"But taking it from another perspective, looking at it from the passenger's perspective, we have a lot of newcomers that are now taking cabs around the city and we want all of our veteran and long-time drivers to also understand what might be expected from the passenger in the way they are being driven around the municipality."

Training unrelated to misconduct allegations

The RFP was issued after Halifax's transportation committee decided more comprehensive training standards were needed for cab drivers.

Elliott said there's no question public confidence has eroded over the last few years as a result of incidents involving some cab drivers, but said this training is unrelated to those misconduct allegations.

The most high profile was a Halifax judge's decision to acquit cab driver Bassam Al-Rawi after the judge ruled the prosecution had failed to prove a woman he was accused of sexually assaulting in the back of his cab had not consented. 

"The industry has told us that a few bad apples — quite literally a few — have made it very difficult for drivers in the municipality," Elliott said.

"It there is anything good that has come from what has been made public in the last couple of years in relation to very few drivers is that people are more aware of the fact that there really needs to be that professional relationship. 

"And I think drivers are actually going out of their way, even more than they might have before, to ensure that passengers feel safe in their cabs."

Training for all drivers

Elliott said the city intends to train not only new drivers, but those who are already licensed. There are 1,000 traditional cab licences issued in the Halifax region as well as another few hundred limousine licences and licences for those who drive accessible cabs. 

The request for proposals closes May 30.

With files from Information Morning