Above: This heavily-redacted response to an FOI request received on April 9th indicates that no drivers-for-hire have completeted training or testing in Toronto, almost a full year after the deadline set by Council.
Not a single vehicle-for-hire driver has completed Toronto’s testing and training program, which was mandated by Toronto City Council to begin on January 1st, 2020.
“The driver training program was to take effect June 1st 2020 for new drivers and proof of training to be provided to MLS by the end of 2020 for existing drivers,” reads the Freedom of Information document obtained by Road Warrior News (RWN) on April 9th, 2021.
“Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, driver training for the vehicle-for-hire industry remains delayed.”
On March 24th, Mayor John Tory announced Toronto’s Vaccine Equity Transportation Plan. It is designed to transport vulnerable residents and seniors to COVID-19 vaccinations with multiple partners including Uber. As per the FOI released April 9th, none of Uber’s drivers will have completed any Toronto training and testing program.
This information comes as a demoralizing disappointment to Cheryl Hawkes, the mother of Nicholas Cameron. Cameron was killed in an accident involving an untrained Uber driver on March 21st, 2018. Hawkes lobbied Toronto City Council for 3 years to convince elected officials that a driver training and testing program was necessary to prevent similar deaths in the future.
“City Council was unanimous in calling for driver training for rideshare drivers. There was wide public support. Studies were done. A bylaw was passed and bureaucrats charged with design and implementation,” Hawkes commented by email.
“Failure to bring this to fruition, a full three years after Nick’s death, speaks to the mysterious power of Uber at City Hall and Uber’s ability to pervert the course of its own regulation. Who helps Uber at City Hall?” Hawkes asks.
When the design for Toronto’s driver-for-hire training and testing was unveiled in early 2020, transportation industry members complained that as an entirely online program, no instructor would have an opportunity to assess a driver’s in-car abilities. While the province of Ontario moved its entire educational system online during COVID-19 and numerous private sector firms launched thousands of new online programs to cater to quarantined families, Toronto’s Licensing and Standards division did not do anything similar with its fully online driver-for-hire training.
Driver-for-hire training and testing is not mentioned in Licensing and Standards’ 2021 Budget Notes, where the number of approved staff positions increased from 533.5 in 2020 to 538.5 in 2021; projected net expenditures increased from $ 11.7 million to $ 11.9 million during the same period. Toronto withdrew $5,387,000 from its Vehicle for Hire Reserve fund in 2020.