Uber questions viability of operating across BC under licence requirements

Jul 25 2019, 7:01 pm

With the BC government recently announcing it will start accepting rideshare business applications in the province this September, but drawing a hard line on the requirement for all rideshare drivers to possess a Class 4 licence, rideshare operator Uber is expressing concerns that this could mean that operating beyond the Lower Mainland may not be viable.

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In a statement to Daily Hive, Uber’s Michael van Hemmen said the company wants to be able to operate in communities across BC.

However, “we need to conduct further analysis before we can determine the viability of operating outside Metro Vancouver under the BC government’s driver requirements,” he said.

Ridesharing services, he furthered, “need a critical mass of eligible drivers in order to deliver the quality of service our customers expect. The Class 4 licence requirement makes that much more difficult.”

Now, van Hemmen said Uber is asking the government to study “a third way to make ridesharing possible across the province.”

In an email to its existing Uber Eats drivers and obtained by Daily Hive earlier this week, Uber encourages people to “get road-ready” and make sure their licence is good to go.

“The process to become an Uber driver requires that all driver-partners have a valid Class 4 driver licence,” the company writes. “This can take a bit of time to complete so we recommend getting started as soon as possible.”

In a previous interview with Daily Hive, BC Transportation Minister Claire Trevena cited safety as the reason for the Class 4 requirement – the same one required for taxi drivers.

“If you’re going to be earning money through driving people from place-to-place, you need to make that investment so that you can show you are safe,” she said. “Anyone getting in as a passenger wants to know that the driver is as safe as possible.”

Of course, she said, the drivers have to feel safe as well.

“We obviously want to make sure that everybody is working in a safe environment, that they’re being respected as workers, and that they are getting a fair and living wage,” she said. “The companies coming in will be the ones responsible to get the license and make that the people driving for them have all the various record checks and the licenses they need to drive.”

Uber

Claire Trevena / Facebook

Earlier this year, a report from an all-party committee recommended rideshare drivers in BC not be required to hold a Class 4 licence to operate, BC’s Transportation Minister Claire Trevena is pumping the brakes on that idea.

In its report, the committee said members agreed that ensuring safety “is paramount.”

However, there was uncertainty around whether or not the Class 4 licensing process “actually produces safer drivers.”

In response to the report, Trevena penned a letter to the Passenger Transportation Board this week, stating that she does not support the recommendation that drivers be allowed to operate solely with a Class 5 licence – the standard licence of issue in BC.

“I am a firm believer in safety and believe that a commercial Class 4 driver licence provides a safer atmosphere for passenger directed vehicle movements, with extra testing and a medical examination completed at time of application and in routine intervals thereafter,” she wrote.

For now, Vancouver remains the largest city in North America without a ride-hailing service.