Grieving mother questions why Toronto licensed 40,000 ride-hail drivers without mandatory training
TORONTO -- More than 40,000 licenses for vehicle-for-hire drivers have been issued in the City of Toronto even though those drivers haven't received the mandatory training.
The city's licensing department says it's a temporary measure that allows drivers to continue to be licenced during the pandemic, but critics say the decisions to let untrained drivers carry passengers could make the city's roads less safe.
"I really do believe there's no excuse for this," said Cheryl Hawkes, whose 28-year-old son, Nicholas Cameron, died in an Uber vehicle in March 2018.
"They've exposed all of us, everybody who hires a vehicle to transport them, rideshares, limos, taxis – there's no legal requirement for training right now," she said.
Ride-share drivers and taxi drivers must have a class G or higher provincial driver's licence, pass screening and vehicle requirements, and carry $2 million in insurance coverage.
But in 2019, amid safety concerns including those related to Cameron's death, city council introduced mandatory training as a new requirement, which was supposed to be in place by June 2020.
"It is our understanding that as of today, there is still no training program," wrote Eric K Gillespie, a lawyer representing the taxi industry, to the city. "However, the city has licensed more than 40,000 drivers without requiring the training mandated under the by-law. In our respectful view, the lack of mandatory driver training creates a significant risk to the public."
City licensing staff say the pandemic hobbled their ability to provide any in-person training.
"In March of 2020, with the pandemic hitting us, it totally changed, and we weren't able to deliver training in classrooms and training in cars," said Carleton Grant, the director of Toronto's Municipal Licensing and Standards.
But that doesn't explain why the city continued to issue those licences, says Abdul Mohamoud, the CEO of Co-op taxi. He said the number of his drivers has shrunk along with demand in the pandemic, from 1,100 to fewer than 100 at one point.
"We haven't had any new drivers because our business dropped 90 per cent, so when the order came to stay at home, it was like an emergency brake that was pulled on our business," he said.
City Councillor Krystin Wong-Tam said that without an established training protocol in place, she doesn't believe the city should be issuing any more licences to Uber or Lyft drivers.
"I do not believe that COVID-19 is a legitimate reason on why we don't have mandatory training for drivers, largely because this council direction came in 2019. We do know that this is important to city council. We did say to city staff, 'Get this done.'"
Municipal Licensing Standards says it will be bringing a report forward in November.
-With files from Janice Golding.