Ridesharing company Lyft has told the provincial government that unless changes come to Saskatchewan’s ridesharing legislation it will be nearly impossible for them to operate in the province.
The Vehicles for Hire Act was passed in May, but some insurance specifics need to be cleared up before companies can begin to offer rideshare services. Lyft and several other ridesharing companies have been meeting with the province since legislation was passed.
Lyft’s public policy director, Prashanthi Raman, said the company has issues with the requirement for potential drivers to have a class 4 license. The basic Saskatchewan license is a class 5.
This is detailed in a June 29 letter sent to the Minister responsible for SGI Joe Hargrave.
“Over 90 per cent of our drivers in North America actually drive less than 20 hours per week. So they’re everyday people, like you and me, who are just trying to make ends meet,” Raman said.
“When you add an additional onerous requirement of a class 4 license it really precludes individuals, who are not chauffeurs for their livelihood, preventing them from economic opportunity.”
Raman added that Lyft uses third party driver background checks and requires a criminal record check before allowing drivers to operate for the service.
In order to obtain a class 4 license, drivers must be at least 18 and not a novice driver. They must also pass a road, knowledge and medical test.
Over 70,000 people in the province hold class 4, or above licenses.
Hargrave said the need for a class 4 license is about helping ensure passenger safety and to keep a level playing field with the taxi industry.
Both Raman and Hargrave are optimistic something can be worked out between the two parties.
The minister added that TappCar has said they will work with class 4 licenses, in addition to several regional rideshare services.
In Alberta, rideshare drivers are required to hold a class 4 license. Uber is currently active in both Edmonton and Calgary with these regulations. Lyft is currently negotiating with the province in hopes of entering the market.
Hargrave said that the goal of reducing impaired driving rates is a big goal in this legislation, but he said that safety on the roadways must be ensured as well.
“We have to remember that safety is number one for importance; not only for the driver, but the passengers, for everyone,” Hargrave said.
“We think that’s got to be the overriding thing with this, is that safety dominates and safety is the number one issue.”
SGI critic Carla Beck said she is on board with the extra safety requirements required in the legislation, but called into question earlier assertions from Hargrave that ridesharing could help fill the void left by STC.
“Unfortunately, it’s not a big surprise that Lyft isn’t coming into a market as small as Saskatchewan,” she said.
“These companies, if they do set up in Saskatchewan, will likely be in the larger markets, specifically Regina and Saskatoon, and will still leave the smaller markets underserviced.”
Hargrave said potential regional rideshare operators are looking at small cities like Prince Albert and Estevan.
Aside from the license class issue, Raman said that Lyft does not have an issue with other regulations put forward by the province. This includes criminal background checks, which Lyft also performs, and a special scaled insurance based on how often rideshare operator’s pick-up fares.
Hargrave said that licensing and insurance regulations are close to being finalized. He expects they will formally be announced in the early fall.