Advocates for ridesharing services in British Columbia have started a petition calling on the province to drop its requirement that drivers have a Class 4 licence to operate.
The province says drivers for services like Uber or Lyft will be commercial operators and should have the same level of certification as taxi, limo or school bus drivers for safety reasons.
It adds that regular inspections and medical tests for drivers are a reasonable expectation for anyone who is driving for money.
But a new group called Stranded BC says it doesn’t believe having a Class 4 licence will make ridesharing any safer, and will instead hamstring the industry — making life less safe for people stuck looking for a ride.
“It’s going to prevent a company like Lyft to come to B.C. because they don’t go into any province that doesn’t have a Class 5 limit,” said tech entrepreneur Hossein Maleki, an organizer with Stranded BC.
“Uber most likely would not implement in any place outside of Vancouver, so Kelowna, Victoria, all the other places in B.C. are going to be left out.”
Maleki said such an anemic ridesharing system will end up costing restaurants, tourism and tech companies like his that are having trouble attracting talent.
Data from ICBC suggests that Class 4 drivers are not necessarily safer than those with a regular Class 5 licence.
WATCH: Global News investigation — B.C.’s powerful taxi lobby
The insurer says there are roughly 50,000 Class 4 drivers in B.C., compared to 2.8 million drivers with a regular licence.
Data collected between 2012 and 2016 found that Class 4 drivers had about one per cent fewer crashes than those with a Class 5. That data, however, does not account for the higher number of hours of driving time or kilometres driven by Class 4 holders.
Nonetheless, BC Liberal Richmond-Queensborough MLA Jas Johal said insisting on the Class 4 requirement will cost B.C. economically.
He said in his riding, where Chinese-language grey-market ridesharing companies are already operating, there are already thousands of drivers and companies are pulling in tens of millions of dollars in revenue.
“The clear sign that the market has gotten ahead of policymakers is the Asian ride-hailing that has been operating illegally here in the Lower Mainland, particularly in Richmond,” said Johal.
B.C.’s NDP government says ridesharing companies can begin applying to operate in the province on Sept. 3.
Final details about how many licences will be available, how much companies can charge and where they can pick passengers up and drop them off remain unclear.
-With files from Paul Johnson and Richard Zussman