For many in Toronto and the GTA, the recent rise of rideshare businesses has been an excellent way to earn an income in one’s spare time. Becoming a driver for Uber or Lyft, the two predominate rideshare businesses operating in Ontario, previously required little more than what most drivers need to do just in order to drive themselves around town:
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Have a valid driver’s licence
- Have valid car insurance
- Drive a car that passes safety checks
In addition, drivers were required to submit to a background check, including any driving and/or criminal offences, and have at least one year of driving experience before becoming licenced to operate a vehicle-for-hire. Once a driver cleared these hurdles, they were generally ready to start earning income. However, in a news release dated January 2nd, the City of Toronto announced the implementation of additional requirements that apply not only to drivers operating for rideshare companies, but also those who drive taxis, limousines, and any other vehicles for hire in the city.
Toronto’s Enhanced Vehicle-for-Hire Bylaw
In an effort to enhance safety for passengers, pedestrians, bike riders, and other drivers, the city has implemented the new bylaw as of January 1, 2020, meaning the new requirements are already in place. The purpose of the law is to enhance the rules already in place, as well as add additional protections.
Changes for Drivers
- The minimum driving experience threshold has been increased from one to three years.
- All drivers will be required to complete a mandatory City-approved driver training program in order to acquire or renew their licence to drive a vehicle-for-hire. (More on this below)
- Drivers are required to equip cars with a ‘watch for bikes’ notification, as well as send text reminders to passengers, to remind passengers to check for cyclists before exiting a vehicle.
- All driver-used handheld devices (such as a phone used for GPS purposes) will need to be securely mounted to the interior of the car.
- Drivers must post signs in the vehicle informing passengers that they are using recording equipment in the car. Drivers for rideshare programs will also have the option of informing passengers of this fact via the app, prior to picking the passenger up.
Accessibility Fund Program
In addition to the new rules for drivers, the City is establishing an Accessibility Fund Program in order to support and increase the availability of accessible transportation, as well as to subsidize the cost of providing wheelchair-accessible vehicles. To do this, drivers who apply for a new or renewal licence will be charged additional regulatory fees. Note that drivers of accessible vehicles will be exempt from these fees. Funds will then be distributed to drivers and operators of accessible vehicles based on eligibility criteria. Drivers of accessible vehicles will also be subject to additional training requirements.
Driver Training: What Is Required?
The training will be aimed at improving driver awareness and increased public safety. The training will cover a host of topics relevant to driving and public service provision, including:
- Safely transporting passengers
- Driving in an urban setting
- Providing accessible service
- Anti-racism, diversity and sensitivity training; and
- Legal requirements of operating a vehicle-for-hire
Those seeking a new licence to drive a vehicle-for-hire will be required to show proof of training in order to obtain a licence beginning in June of this year. For drivers who are already licenced, they will be required to complete training prior to the end of the year.
While the City will begin enforcing the driver training program as of June, it does not yet exist in practice. The City is currently working with Centennial College to develop the program, which it hopes to have up and running by June. The timing will certainly make the requirements difficult to meet for those seeking a licence in June when the training becomes mandatory for new applicants.
Those Looking to Get Into the Vehicle-for-Hire Business Should Seek Legal Advice
With the changes being implemented on a rollout basis, drivers and those looking to go into business in order to earn additional income need to be aware of the requirements. Further, owners and operators of vehicle-for-hire businesses need to be fully aware of their obligations under the new bylaw. An experienced business lawyer will be able to fully explain the new changes and ensure compliance for any business and its drivers as the changes come into effect.
The skilled business lawyers at GLG LLP in Toronto regularly assist entrepreneurs and business organizations of all sizes and structures with a variety of issues, including configuration and structure of the venture as well as drafting and reviewing business agreements. In addition, we represent parties in all manners of business litigation or alternative dispute resolution if necessary. Call 416-272-7557 or complete the online form to arrange a consultation with one of our lawyers today.