The Toronto Sun recently reported on one of Toronto’s largest cab companies, Beck’s Taxi, experiencing a spike in ex-Uber drivers flocking back to the taxi company. Beck Taxi operations manager Kristine Hubbard said the company has noticed a spike in walk-ins from ex-UberX drivers who have obtained municipal taxicab drivers’ licenses wanting to drive with Beck: “The word ‘stressful’ comes up a lot in our conversations with new drivers who have come over to us from UberX,” she said. “Stress-wise, money-wise and support-wise they feel like they are part of a team now here at Beck.”
Uber Canada says drivers leaving their company is “not a trend we are familiar with,” according to company spokesman Susie Heath. She the Toronto Sun that since September 2014, “tens of thousands of men and women in over 40 municipalities across the province have partnered with Uber to earn an income around their family schedules.” Heath said they are expecting those numbers to rise.
“While there has always been insurance covering every ride, the province recently approved a new product designed specifically for ride-sharing, which is provided by Intact Insurance and has been purchased by Uber – every Uber ridesharing trip in Ontario is now automatically covered under the commercial policy,” said Heath.
Earlier this week, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario says the “blanket fleet coverage” addresses a “critical insurance gap” for the industry.
Toronto will be officially Uber-friendly this week, when new municipal regulations governing ride-sharing fleets come into effect on July 15. They include a requirement for all UberX drivers to be screened by the city and to carry proof of $2-million insurance coverage in liability and other documents before they’re approved for this new class of licence. Their cars must be newer than 10 years old.
Apart from that, there’s also an added $15 per-driver fee each year and a one time $20,000 application fee for any ride-sharing company. All vehicles – Uber or taxis – have to be regularly inspected at a city-run shop. “The City of Toronto will be prepared to receive applications and license companies (such as Uber) as Private Transportation Companies and their drivers as PTC drivers beginning July 15,” said Tracey Cook, executive director of Municipal, Licensing and Standards.
“As with many licensing applications, the issuance of a licence is not necessarily immediate. There is a processing time involved.”
Cook said the city continues to work with Uber to meet the new Vehicle for Hire Bylaw, approved by city council in May, and to begin the licensing process as soon as those requirements are met. “It is preemptive to comment on what, if any, enforcement measures would be taken,” she said. “Enforcement decisions are dependant on circumstances as they arise.”
Still, Municipal, Licensing and Standards spokesman Tammy Robbinson said it won’t withdraw the 2,000 charges it laid months prior when UberX was operating illegally. To date, there haven’t been any convictions.
The experiences made by former UberX-drivers are fairy similar. Abdi Jama, laid off in Calgary, came to Toronto looking for work. After a friend’s suggestion, he signed up online with Uber and started driving his own car for Uber in February 2015. A month into the job a customer (and not Uber) told him he was not insured. “My car has basic insurance so it only covers it for ‘pleasure,’ not the customer,” Abdi Jama said. “I tried to contact Uber, but there’s no number to call. I tried to e-mail but I don’t get any response.” After some more research, he decided it was too risky, compounded with the low $700 wages he was making for five days’ work. Two months later, he switched over to a taxi company in Vaughan for a year and now he works at Beck Taxi. Jama, who is working to support his 19-year-old son, said at least a half-dozen of his friends have quit Uber and are now cabbies. “They can’t afford to pay insurance and the money they made is very small,” he said.
- Kristine Hubbard (Beck Taxi): “The word ‘stressful’ comes up a lot in our conversations with new drivers who have come over to us from UberX.”