Second council vote could bring in mandatory training for Toronto's ride-hailing drivers
TORONTO -- The City of Toronto is exploring making training mandatory for ride-hailing drivers — again.
A bylaw passed years ago was supposed to require an in-person course for new drivers, but as the pandemic raged the training programs were never put in place, even as tens of thousands of drivers were licensed.
Observers hope a second vote at city council — expected next week — will finally make it happen.
“I just think the city needs to move on this, and stop putting it off and putting it off,” said Earla Phillips, who has driven with various ride-hailing companies for more than six years.
She cheered when the city of Toronto made training mandatary for new vehicle for hire and private transportation company drivers in 2019.
That was shortly after 28-year-old Nicholas Cameron was killed on route to Toronto International Pearson Airport with his girlfriend in an Uber.
A lawsuit claims Cameron was killed when his driver initially headed the wrong way down the Gardiner Expressway, his phone fell from a mount in the vehicle, and when he re-entered the flow of traffic the vehicle was struck by another car.
“I was horrified. This was a death that was needless. It didn’t have to happen. Training could have addressed some of the issues that arose during that tragic accident,” Phillips said.
The program was supposed to be in place last year, but the pandemic gave city staff other priorities. With so many people staying home and avoiding contact, the bottom fell out of the ride-hailing and taxi markets.
The general manager of Uber in Canada, Matthew Price, urged the city to slow the implementation of the training program, writing, “to add the financial and regulatory burden of enrolling and participating in a training program in the midst of this unprecedented crisis would be unfair and even unrealistic for these drivers.”
Price suggested to push the deadline back to September 2020. The pandemic dragged on much longer than that. By May 2021, Price suggested in another letter to city staff that it was time for the city to start its training program.
In a letter to the city, the taxi industry pointed out that there’s no training program even now, and the city has licensed some 40,000 drivers anyway, calling that a major safety risk.
“The idea this hasn’t been given more thought and more action when their mandate is public safety, how this didn’t get done, is shocking to me,” said Kristine Hubbard of Beck Taxi.
Next week, city council will hear a motion put forward by Councillor Kristyn Wongtam asking staff to consider putting a stop to issuing new licenses until the training program is in place, reporting back on any legal issues those licenses create, and — once again — provide a plan to implement the driver training program.
“While municipal, licensing and standards continues to ensure that drivers hold a Class G or higher provincial driver’s license, pass driver screening and vehicle requirements, and carry $2,000,000 in mandatory insurance coverage, it is important that the driver training program be implemented as directed by city council,” the motion says.
In a statement to CTV News Toronto, Uber said, “We fully support the driver training mandate set out by the City of Toronto, and we continue to urge the city to move forward with a swift and timely rollout.”
Lyft told CTV News Toronto in a statement, “We are supportive of Toronto’s efforts to improve public safety and look forward to further collaborating to achieve our shared goals.”