Monday, July 15, 2024
NewsRide Hailing newsTaxi industry news

“It’s a joke” that Toronto doesn’t acknowledge its own training program, says Taxi veteran

36-year Taxi driving veteran Jafar Mirsalari Photo: Twitter

Toronto’s refusal to acknowledge any previous Taxi driver training has nothing to do with public safety, says 36-year veteran driver Jafar Mirsalari.

“It’s a formality, but it has nothing to do with public safety,” says Mirsalari. “It’s a money grab, it’s just window dressing. It’s a way for them to claim these tens of thousands of rideshare drivers now have training. Six hours of training with an online test? It’s a joke.

“This is not going to reduce the number of aggressive drivers on the road, and it is not going to improve professional customer service to the industry,” Mirsalari says.

On November 24th, Toronto’s Licensing department sent a letter to all Taxi and rideshare drivers advising them that all vehicle-for-hire drivers would be required to take one of six newly approved courses in order to renew their licenses.

Click to read Toronto’s Nov. 24th letter/Taxi driver training

Vehicle-for-Hire Review Team <[email protected]>

To:[email protected]

Thu, Nov 24 at 12:23 p.m.

City of Toronto - e-updates
We are writing today to provide an update on the Vehicle-for-Hire Driver Training Program. 
As you know, in July 2019, City Council adopted amendments to the Licensing of Vehicle-for-Hire Bylaw that requires all taxicab, limousine and private transportation company (PTC) drivers to successfully complete a third-party driver training program approved by the City. The accreditation of the training programs was put on hold in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to redirect resources to urgent pandemic efforts, such as enforcement and the development of online services. 
In 2022, the City approved six driver training program providers and new applicants for taxicab, limousine and PTC driver licences were directed to successfully complete a training program and submit the certificate of completion, as a requirement of licence issuance. After a review of the capacity of the approved training programs, the City is now requiring all drivers already licensed with the City to complete this mandatory training program before renewing their licence in 2023.
This requirement will be indicated in the 2023 Licence Renewal Notices for taxicab and limousine drivers and communicated to PTCs so that their drivers are informed. New driver licences are not being issued and driver licences will not be renewed if the certificate of training completion is not provided.
Information about the approved driver training programs is available online at Vehicle-for-Hire Bylaw Updates. Please feel free to contact [email protected] if you have any questions. 
Regards,The Vehicle-for-Hire Team

Mirsalari lists off the training courses he has taken over the years, including Toronto’s own three-week course (“It was excellent – long, but excellent”); Centennial College’s program which included in-car assessment; weeks of Defensive Driving training; and annual refreshers as an Accessible service provider.

“Centennial was a real test, in an empty parking lot on a snowy, icy day,” he notes. “It was real Defensive Driving; and the City of Toronto says a six-hour online course is better, that Centennial’s course is not good enough? It’s crazy!”

When asked why Toronto doesn’t even recognize its own three-week training certificates, Toronto’s Licensing staff sent this reply:

“It has been several years since the City-run trainings for non-accessible vehicles-for-hire drivers, and the new training program now includes updated topics, including information on new legislation and recent transportation infrastructure such as bike lanes, that were not included in the trainings prior to 2016.

“The focus of the new training is to improve driver awareness on customer service issues, such as accessibility, the act of pick up and drop off, anti-racism and sensitivity. As directed by City Council, this new training is mandatory for all drivers, including drivers who previously completed the City-run training programs prior to 2016. The City aims to have all vehicle-for-hire and private transportation company (ride hail) drivers successfully complete the new driver training by the end of next year.”

Like many of Toronto’s most experienced Taxi drivers, Mirsalari is approaching retirement age and says when his pension kicks in at age 65 this year, he is bailing out of Toronto’s Taxi system.

“License renewal, driver’s fees, brokerage fees, training fees…who needs it?” he asks.

The idea that Toronto is pushing its safest and most experienced professional drivers out of the industry while ushering in inexperienced, barely-trained rideshare drivers is a sad irony, he says.

“Tory said he didn’t want to create the ‘Wild Wild West.’ Yet that’s exactly what he’s done,” Mirsalari points out.