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On right ride-hailing road?

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.

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.



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