On the day before Edmonton's vehicle-for-hire bylaw comes into effect on March 1, it's worth looking back on just how much Uber has already got from our local government.
After showing up in Edmonton with their usual "we're disrupters and don't follow rules" shtick they persuaded council to pass a very amenable bylaw. But that's not enough. Now they've trained their guns on the provincial government.
They need the province to play ball because while Uber is currently doing quite well in Edmonton, that's not the case with our southern neighbours. In Calgary the Uber map is currently disabled and their supporter, business personality Brett Wilson, doesn't cut the most sympathetic figure critiquing Calgary for its treatment of a company valued in the multi-billions of dollars.
But this past week one of the things that Uber demanded was that its Edmonton drivers be exempted from the province of Alberta's regulations requiring at minimum a "Class 4 licence," which is a professional licence required for taxi and ambulance drivers. Most motorists carry a Class 5 licence.
This is Uber's biggest ask yet: a total rewrite of vehicle licence rules to accommodate their business model. You don't have to want to protect taxi brokers to see the unfairness in that.
Enough is enough. Ensuring that Uber drivers have Class 4 licences is an entirely reasonable stance by the province and to have reflected in Edmonton's bylaws. Class 4 licences help keep us safe, ensure professionalism and level the playing field for all drivers.
Uber wants to make it as easy as possible for anyone to drive you around. And while it might be convenient for them to keep the process as minimal and easy as possible, that's not necessarily the case for all of us.
Requiring specific licences for professional drivers keeps you, your family, and our streets safer.
To get a Class 4 license, potential drivers have to prove that they're physically and mentally healthy enough to be an attentive driver and must pass additional safe driver road testing.
Anyone who's driven late nights regularly can tell you that it takes stamina to drive around a city in the dark of night when your body is tired. A Class 4 licence also ensures your potential driver is mentally healthy enough to be trusted with the transportation of you and your family, especially when handling many hours navigating Edmonton's busy streets.
Finally, it ensures that a professional driver can handle Edmonton's treacherous driving conditions. It's normal for our city to be bombarded with blizzards, ice storms, heavy rains and much more. A professional driver has to be able to navigate these conditions when the challenges present themselves to ensure you arrive safely.
Class 4 licences are hardly impossible to get. Registry agents charge $150 or less to perform the test, which drivers can recoup in less than one or two shifts.
Whether you use Uber or not, Uber drivers are going to be on the road. They are going to be carrying your loved ones, and they'll be next to you when you're driving. Inadequate insurance and minimal training for Uber drivers is an unacceptable risk to all of us.
The safety of everyone on our roads isn't "red tape" and no company, disruptive or not, should receive special permission to shortcut around safety and licensing regulations.
Two-thirds of Canadians polled believe that Uber should be regulated according to an Angus Reid Institute poll. If we're regulating Uber it needs to play by the same rules as its main competitor: taxis. That's not asking for much -- just safety, professionalism and fairness. Uber's drivers need to get class 4 licences.
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