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Industry, media slam “online only” training for Vehicle for Hire drivers

The Toronto Star’s Ben Spurr was not very impressed with Toronto’s online-only VFH training course.

Online-only training for Vehicle for Hire drivers in Toronto continues to get slammed by Taxi industry members, as well as mainstream media outlets including the Toronto Star.

Beck Taxi Operations Manager Kristine Hubbard spoke with 640 News’ Kelly Cutrara on June 28th and disputed all suggested that an online program with focused on customer service is training enough for professional drivers, Taxi or rideshare.

“Customer Service or multiple-choice questions do not save the life of a cyclist, do not save the life of a pedestrian, do not keep a driver from ruining his or her life, not realizing what they were getting into when they took this training course,” Hubbard told Cutara.

“The City says the focus of the training is to improve driver awareness of customer service issues, not to teach driving skills, which is the responsibility of the Ministry of Transportation’s licensing system. Basically, they’re passing the buck by saying, ‘If you’re if you received a license, you’re probably qualified to drive anybody around.’

“It’s absolutely absurd. I have my provincial driver’s license, I take my kids to school, you know, I drive to work, I go to the grocery store, it’s not the same thing as driving a Taxi, which is very much concentrated downtown, navigating bike lanes, areas that you’re not familiar with, scanning the streets for the people who might be flagging you down or looking for a ride while you’re checking a cell phone, which I’m still not sure how that’s possible.

Kristine Hubbard, Operations Manager at Beck Taxi Photo: Beck Taxi

“It’s frankly terrifying. And it’s becoming more and more difficult to work in the city when our politicians and our regulators suggest that they care about our safety, and then prove time and time again that they don’t.”

The Toronto Star’s Ben Spurr took the DRVRhub online course, the only one of 3 approved courses delivered completely online and in which no human instructor ever meets the human student. Spurr noted, “In order to pass, I had to answer multiple-choice questions on topics like providing service to customers with disabilities, driving in an urban setting, and legal responsibilities. There was no limit on how many times I could take a quiz if I didn’t pass on the first try.

“There was also nothing to stop me from skipping to the next page without reading each lesson. But even dutifully absorbing each page, I finished the course in about one hour and 50 minutes, and was emailed a certificate moments later.”

Toronto’s two largest Taxi brokerages, Beck and Co-op, have both announced that the online DRVRhub certificate alone is not sufficient training for drivers within their brokerages; Beck drivers will need to take the AMB or Drivewise program, while Co-op drivers will also be required to take Co-op’s in-house training.

When asked about the effectiveness of online-only training, Toronto’s Licensing and Standards staff provided Taxi News with the following response:

“The training providers approved by the City’s expert panel satisfy the mandatory criteria provided by the City and had submitted course curriculum, which demonstrated how they met the curriculum criteria. These criteria were developed as directed by City Council and the City worked with an external training partner to establish the final set of criteria. Approved training providers are delivering and/or testing certain practical elements of the curriculum requirements through in-car training, video or simulations online, as outlined in the criteria document (attached).

“The approved training programs present a range of learning modalities (for example, in-class, online, in-car etc.). A mix of training providers is required to ensure a competitive market, to provide opportunities for drivers to choose the training that better suits their learning style and needs, and to enable thousands of drivers to complete their training in an efficient and timely manner. This approach is consistent with other comparable jurisdictions, such as New York City and Seattle, where in-car, in-class, or online options are permitted and industry members may determine which training is best suited for their needs.”

DRVRhub has not replied to Taxi News’ emails.