Toronto considering mandatory training for Uber, Lyft drivers

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City of Toronto moves to review restoration of professional driver training
WATCH ABOVE: After scrapping regulations which required drivers working for taxi companies and ride-hailing companies like Uber in 2016, Toronto council approved a motion which could see training restored. Matthew Bingley reports – Dec 14, 2018

Toronto city council voted Thursday to get the ball rolling on a possible reinstatement of mandatory training for ride-hailing drivers, including those who work for services like Uber and Lyft.

The motion, which was passed unanimously, requested that city staff come up with recommendations that include a “consideration of all measures to increase public safety and the training requirements of private transportation companies and other vehicles for hire.”

“I’m cautiously optimistic that it’s going to lead to something productive,” said Patrick Cameron, who lost his brother in an Uber crash in March.

“But I’m holding judgement until the recommendation from city staff actually comes back to see what form it actually takes. Is it actually substantive training? Is it actually going to make a difference in improving people’s safety?”

Cameron’s brother, 28-year-old Nicholas, was killed in the back of an Uber while he was on his way to the airport.

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Abdihared Bishar Mussa, 23, was behind the wheel and had been driving with Uber for less than four days.

He was sentenced to two years of probation, ordered to take a remedial driving course and lost his licence for a year earlier this month following his involvement in the fatal collision. The court heard that Bishar Mussa had pulled his vehicle onto the shoulder of the Gardiner Expressway to pick up a fallen cellphone. He slowly merged back into traffic when another vehicle slammed into his from behind, killing Nicholas.

“It’s been incredibly difficult to lose someone to something that could’ve been so easily prevented,” said Nicholas’ brother.

Cameron’s family and other critics have been urging the city to reinstate driver training requirements, which were scrapped in 2016 after heavy lobbying by Uber. Back then, the city had a mandatory 17-day training course for both taxi and ride-hailing company drivers.

“I would like to see them reinstate a driver training program, whether it’s the exact same or something new and improved,” said Coun. Mike Layton, who introduced the motion. “I think it’s important to have a basic level of training for drivers.”

Currently, Beck Taxi is the only company that requires drivers to complete training. It makes them complete a week-long course at Centennial College before they can get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

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“We would say everyone should go through that training,” said Beck Taxi operations manager Kristine Hubbard. “It’s not just something that you can take lightly; this is about safety in our streets.”

“I think these [ride-hailing] companies should show some kind of respect for being able to do this work in our city, on our infrastructure. I’ll tell you that ride-hailing drivers support this.”

Global News contacted Uber and Lyft to get their response and ask whether they support or would comply with mandatory driver training, should the City of Toronto implement such measures. Neither company gave a direct answer.

Uber said: “We recognize the role Uber has in contributing to safety in communities and we want to be a part of the solution that advances technology and mobility, not just in Toronto but in cities across the world.”

Meanwhile, Lyft said: “The safety of the Lyft community is our top priority. Since Day 1, we have worked hard to design policies and features that protect both drivers and passengers. These include professionally administered background checks for drivers, in-app photos, real-time ride tracking, a two-way rating system, a 24/7 critical response line and a dedicated trust and safety team that investigates safety-related concerns. We will continue to work collaboratively with the City of Toronto through this process.”

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The motion approved by council asks staff to consider reviewing the municipal code on private transportation companies and vehicles for hire. Council would need to vote again on whether to implement the review or not in the new year.

—With files from Matthew Bingley

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