A ride share car displays Lyft and Uber stickers on its front windshield in downtown Los Angeles on Jan. 12, 2016. The British Columbia government’s firm position on tougher driver’s licence requirements for ride-hailing is a move in the right direction, given the experiences from other jurisdictions, a transportation expert says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Richard Vogel

B.C. on right road with tougher ride-hailing driver rules, says expert

The provincial government is holding firm that ride-hailing drivers have a Class 4 licence

The British Columbia government’s firm position on tougher driver’s licence requirements for ride-hailing is a move in the right direction, given the experiences from other jurisdictions, a transportation expert says.

“I would applaud the B.C. government for standing up, because most other governments have basically stood down,” said Garland Chow, an emeritus associate professor at the University of B.C.’s Sauder School of Business.

The B.C. Transportation Ministry updated safety, insurance and penalty rules and regulations this month and set Sept. 3 as the date ride-hail companies can apply to enter the market. Rules covering fares drivers can charge, vehicle boundary zones and the numbers of ride-hail vehicles allowed on the roads are due to come this summer, the ministry said.

Chow said other jurisdictions have had push back from the large ride-hailing companies over licence restrictions and safety concerns, but B.C. has the opportunity to get it right before the service takes to the streets.

The provincial government is holding firm that ride-hailing drivers have a Class 4 licence, like those held by taxi, limousine, ambulance and other commercial vehicle drivers, as opposed to the Class 5 licence, held by most B.C. drivers.

READ MORE: B.C. ride hailing licence fees set, applications accepted in September

Chow, who testified last January before the all-party legislative standing committee that produced proposed ride-hailing regulations, said he agrees with the licence requirement, for now. He noted the regulations allow for a review of the requirement after two years.

But both Uber and Lyft have said the requirement could be a deal-breaker for them in the province.

Lyft Canada spokesman Aaron Zifkin said in a statement the company remains concerned.

“Requiring commercial Class 4 licences for drivers will not improve safety, but will increase wait times and benefit the taxi industry,” said Zifkin. “Lyft does not currently operate ride sharing in any jurisdiction that requires drivers to change their driver’s licence to a commercial driver’s licence.”

Uber Canada said in a statement last week that Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec do not require ride-hail drivers to hold a Class 4 licence or equivalent. It said there is no evidence that such a licence provides more safety than a standard licence.

Chow, who’s an economist with a statistics background, disagrees.

He has reviewed recent accident comparison data from the Insurance Corporation of B.C. that shows from 2012 to 2016 the accident rate for those driving commercial vehicles with the Class 4 licence is 13 per cent lower than Class 5 drivers.

The insurance corporation said in a statement that when the mileage difference between Class 4 and Class 5 drivers is factored in, one would reasonably expect that the Class 4 crash rate would be even lower.

Chow agreed that the accident difference could be dramatic for Class 5 drivers if road time is added to the equation.

“It would not be 13 per cent, it would be more like 40 to 45 per cent more accidents,” said Chow. “That’s super significant.”

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said in a statement the requirement adds an extra level of safety for passengers, which is an issue the government continues to feel strongly about.

Class 4 drivers must be at least 19 years old, have at least two years of non-learner driver experience, have fewer than four penalty point incidents in the last two years and could be excluded over certain medical issues.

“We are not the only jurisdiction that requires taxi drivers or drivers of commercial ride-hailing vehicles to hold a commercial class of driver’s licence: Alberta has this same requirement, New York City has an equivalent, and ride-hailing companies are complying,” said Trevena.

Chow said the other factor in the market is B.C.’s public auto insurer, which is floundering financially and has to set the insurance rates for these vehicles.

“If Class 5 licensees, indeed, have more accidents and all of the sudden a whole bunch of Class 5 people now go into the commercial world of driving other people, you’re increasing the probability of a more costly accident because for sure that other vehicle is going to have people in it.”

The government has said the insurance corporation will have its product ready for the launch of ride-hailing in September. It will be a blanket, per kilometre insurance that applies when a driver is providing ride-hailing, with the driver’s own basic insurance applying in all other instances.

Chow expects Uber and Lyft to continue to push to have the Class 4 licence requirement dropped in what he said would be an extended staring contest between the government and the companies.

“This is no different that me going to buy a house and I’m saying, ‘there’s no way I’m going to buy this house for more than this amount of money, period,’ ” he said. “Yet I know I’m ready to negotiate a bit because I really want this house. It may be that this is part of negotiating gamesmanship.”

ALSO READ: Fake Uber driver charged with kidnapping in U.S.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

More rescues, less flames: Future of Abbotsford firefighting up for discussion

Mayor says talks with province needed, councillors suggest city may need more full-time firefighters

String of purse snatches at Mill Lake in Abbotsford

Two women were mugged in a three week period starting Sept. 30

Harrison outdoor skating rink to open this weekend

Public skating will be open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Mission principal saves goat, praised as hero by kindergarten students

“Today I get to be the hero in their eyes, changing the world one stuck goat at a time”

Abbotsford man’s murder trial set for January

David Albert Miller charged in death of 52-year-old woman in Kamloops

VIDEO: ‘Climate emergency’ is Oxford’s 2019 Word of the Year

Other words on the shortlist included ‘extinction,’ ‘climate denial’ and ‘eco-anxiety’

Canucks erupt with 5 power-play goals in win over Nashville

Vancouver ends three-game slide with 6-3 triumph over Predators

B.C. widow suing health authority after ‘untreatable’ superbug killed her husband

New Public Agency Health report puts Canadian death toll at 5,400 in 2018

65-million-year-old triceratops makes its debut in Victoria

Dino Lab Inc. is excavating the fossilized remains of a 65-million-year-old dinosaur

Changes to B.C. building code address secondary suites, energy efficiency

Housing Minister Selina Robinson says the changes will help create more affordable housing

Trudeau appears open to safer-opioid proposal in Vancouver: mayor

The city has applied for $6 million from Health Canada to allow for the safe distribution of diamorphine

Security guard at Kamloops music festival gets three years for sexually assaulting concertgoer

Shawn Christopher Gray walked the woman home after she became seperated from her friends, court heard

Most Read