Penticton cab companies short of drivers

Taxi business 'getting scary'

Dale Cory

The COVID-19 crisis has turned the world upside down, including for transit options in Penticton.

Local cab companies have many requests, but there are very few drivers to chauffeur people around. 

“Normally we have 65-70 drivers and up to 37 cars. Right now, I have a total of nine drivers. The most I’ve seen on in a week is five cars at once,” said Shawna Severinski, dispatch manager at Klassic Kab and Courtesy Taxi. “It’s getting scary in the taxi business.”

The company has created a separate phone line for healthcare workers and postal employees to call in so they are ensured a ride first, because demand is high.

“We have the customers. We have the people we want to get where they need to go. But trying to get drivers to come into work is very difficult. Any of our drivers with respiratory issues or small children, or grandparents at home, of course, we had to give them the option of EI if they wish,” explained Severinski.

“People need to understand, yes, it’s an essential service, but we’re here for emergencies. We’re here for healthcare workers.”

For the first time in its history, Severinski says the cab company is informing customers of the free bus service available.

BC Transit has a somewhat opposite problem. They have the buses and drivers — but ridership is down.

“We’ve seen ridership reduced between 50 and 75 percent, which isn’t a surprise given the changes in delivery modes of schools, both secondary and primary, along with the changes in businesses and government agencies,” said Jonathon Dyck, communications manager with BC Transit, which unveiled new guidelines for social distancing Friday.

“As of Monday, we are asking drivers to limit passenger capacity on buses. What that means is that drivers will be counting the number of people that come on the bus, and if it does get too full, they will put a bus full sign on. We're continuing to look at ways to improve our service and create social distancing.”  

Meantime, back at Klassic Kab and Courtesy Taxi, Severinski is in hiring mode.

"Anyone, if you have a class 4 or better, all you need to do is go down to the RCMP and tell them you need a chauffeur's permit. They will do the criminal check, you bring it in, and I will put you in a car now!” said Severinski. “I will have somebody train you in 10 minutes. I will have you on the road and making money within an hour or two. We’re doing everything humanly possible to stay open. But, trying to get people to come to work? They’re scared!”

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