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N.L. makes changes to taxi licences, inspection followup

Service NL Minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh announces regulatory changes affecting the taxi industry, at the Motor Vehicle Registration division office in Mount Pearl. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/ The Telegram
Service NL Minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh announces regulatory changes affecting the taxi industry, at the Motor Vehicle Registration division office in Mount Pearl. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/ The Telegram

Industry reps, government say there will be improved safety on the roads

New regulations for taxis and taxi licences will improve safety and help support consumer confidence in the taxi industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to both industry and government representatives.

Additional requirements for driver skills and mechanics are being introduced after 87 roadside inspections of taxis in the province by Service NL found 53 vehicles non-compliant with existing regulations (without required documentation, or with mechanical issues).

Derek Chayter, Newfound Cabs
Derek Hayter, Newfound Cabs

The same set of checks identified six drivers without the correct licence.

A review of records at Motor Vehicle Registration found that of the 87 drivers stopped, 28 per cent had convictions for driving-related offences.

Drivers with convictions for driving unregistered or uninsured vehicles were in the mix (five drivers). The unregistered and uninsured vehicles offence count would include any past convictions involving personal vehicles, officials noted.

The majority of the convictions in the records — 17— were for drivers stopped for speeding. Of those, five convictions were for running 21 kilometres an hour or more over the speed limit. Again, incidents did not necessarily occur while they were on the job as taxi drivers.

The additional requirements being brought in include added restrictions for drivers who want to keep their Class 4 taxi licence. Drivers with three or more Highway Traffic Act offences within a two-year period will have their taxi licence revoked, with reinstatement requiring completion of a defensive driving course, and driver retests. The same requirements will exist for drivers who have their licence suspended for any reason. 

For Criminal Code Convictions related to driving or the Highway Traffic Act, drivers will have to serve any suspension ordered by the courts, plus an additional two years, before they will be eligible again to drive a taxi.

Barring a pardon, anyone convicted in relation to bodily harm or death will be prohibited from driving a taxi.

The additional requirements being brought in include added restrictions for drivers who want to keep their Class 4 taxi licence.

A review of driver records will be completely every year by the government.

Looking at training for all drivers, taxi licences will now require drivers to complete a defensive driving course, five hours of practical experience with a professional driving school, and completion of a road test with a Motor Vehicle Registration division driver in traffic (versus in the closed compound at Motor Vehicle Registration).

Drivers will have to hold a typical Class 5 licence for two years before they can get their taxi licence. This is up from the previous standard of one year.  

Mechanically, new regulations will require drivers to demonstrate their daily vehicle inspections as part of their licensing. And instead of presenting a copy of their vehicle inspection report upon request roadside, a copy of all vehicle inspection reports for taxis will begin going directly to Motor Vehicle Registration.

“I feel that the majority of those who are driving taxis and the majority of owners and operators are good with these changes and support these changes and are interested in the safety of the motoring public,” said Service NL Minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh during a news conference Wednesday morning.

Gambin-Walsh said a change in legislation would be required to make criminal background checks for drivers mandatory across the province. However, she said background checks are something taxi companies are requiring individually, and municipalities have the ability to require it under their own regulations, offering the example of the City of Corner Brook.

“We continue to discuss it with the City (of St. John’s),” she said.

The general manager of Newfound Cabs was in front of the cameras, seated beside the minister for the announcement, and told The Telegram multiple companies worked with the department to encourage the regulatory changes.

“With little doubt, there’s going to be a positive change, in that the drivers will have a more professional standing, their driving skills will be improved. And it’s only a step in many things that has to happen in this industry, but it’s one of the first big, positive steps that is happening,” said Derek Hayter.

George Murphy of Jiffy Cabs also attended the press conference, taking it in from the back of the boardroom. He said he agreed with Hayter’s comments and he’s also hopeful new training and other measures will have positive effects in terms of insurance rates.

“If you’ve got a better trained driver … there should be no reason to lump a taxi driver into Facility (Association),” he said, referring to the insurance entity offering coverage to drivers unable to obtain insurance coverage elsewhere at a lower rate. 

The larger issue of insurance rates remains unresolved as it is still before the Public Utilities Board for review.

While metro area companies were represented at the news conference, the new conditions — coming under provincial regulations — will apply to all drivers.

They will come into effect in July 2018.

Over 800 taxis are registered in the N.L. and there are currently 6,519 Class 4 licence holders in the province permitted to drive a taxi. Further details on the “vehicle non-compliance” reported in roadside checks will be published as the information becomes available.

Results of recent roadside taxi inspections

Province (Totals)

Total Inspected — 87 vehicles

Non-Compliant Vehicle — 53

Non-Compliant Drivers Licence — 6

St. John’s

Total Inspected — 59

Non-Compliant Vehicle — 35

Non-Compliant Drivers Licence — 3

Mount Pearl

Total Inspected — 5

Non-Compliant Vehicle — 3

Non-Compliant Drivers Licence — 0

C.B.S.

Total Inspected — 1

Non-Compliant Vehicle — 0

Non-Compliant Drivers Licence — 1

C.B.N.

Total Inspected — 3

Non-Compliant Vehicle — 1

Non-Compliant Drivers Licence — 1

Deer Lake

Total Inspected — 4

Non-Compliant Vehicle — 4

Non-Compliant Drivers Licence — 1

Corner Brook

Total Inspected — 15

Non-Compliant Vehicle — 10

Non-Compliant Drivers Licence — 0

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