City of Cold Lake taxi operators and drivers have made some recommendations regarding a draft bylaw that would regulate the city's taxi industry.
On Tuesday, Sept. 20, Howard Pinnock, City of Cold Lake General Manager of Planning and Development, shared three suggestions with city council in relation to the bylaw for governing the operation of taxi services.
Earlier this year, council created a draft taxi bylaw, which requires all taxi drivers to purchase a permit, at a cost of $100, and submit a copy of their driver's abstract and criminal record check annually. City administration met with local cab companies to discuss the bylaw in August.
The cost of the annual permit, along with the annual driver's abstract and criminal record checks, proved to be a common concern among taxi drivers and operators, said Pinnock.
“So with that in mind, administration is suggesting that you may want to consider reducing that increase.”
Coun. Bob Buckle agreed, saying, “It sounds fairly excessive.”
Pinnock suggested that a better option would be $70 for a one-year permit, or $120 for a two-year permit. However, drivers would still be required to provide a driver's abstract and criminal record check annually.
“The reason behind that, is to make sure that the folks that are operating taxi cabs and do have citizens in their care when they are transporting them… don't have any driving convictions that may make them ineligible for a taxi driver permit,” explained Pinnock.
“Obviously we want for our citizens, on behalf of our community to do our due diligence. I just think it is excessive annually,” Buckle said, regarding the approximate $150 fee to cover the cost of the supporting documents to submit an application for the permits.
Coun. Chris Vining disagreed. He believes an annual driver's abstract is essential because of the amount of time taxi drivers spend on the road.
The majority of council agreed, and voted to keep the annual submission of these documents in the bylaw.
Permits can be denied at the application stage, or can be suspended or revoked by licensing officers, peace officers or RCMP, should a taxi driver fail to comply with the requirements of the permit. In both cases, a driver can make an appeal to council.
“We determined that each taxi business operates in a slightly different fashion,” noted Pinnock.
In some cases, the driver owns their own vehicle, and operates under a particular cab company, while other companies own their cabs and hire drivers. One concern expressed by a taxi operator was whether or not the drivers who own their own vehicles would be required to posses their own business license.
The bylaw in Cold Lake will allow contract drivers to work under the business license of the company they are contracted through.
Included in the bylaw is a requirement stating that all taxi vehicles must have an annual mechanical inspection.
Pinnock explained, “When the cab company comes in to renew their business license, they would have to provide a list of all of the vehicles, the make, the model, the year, of all of their cabs, as well as a mechanical fitness certificate for each vehicle so we can make sure that those vehicles are going through mechanical fitness process once a year.”
The bylaw also requires all drivers to carry a fire extinguisher and first aid kit in their vehicle.
It's only a matter of time before ride-share services, such as Uber, make their way into cities like Cold Lake, Pinnock said, adding this too was a concern expressed by taxi operating services.
Should the city wind up with Uber or a similar program, Buckle said they should allow ride-share service regulations to fall under the provincial bylaw, which was a thought reflected by council.
Taxi drivers and operators will be able to voice their concerns during a public hearing once the bylaw reaches first reading. In the meantime, Pinnock will redraft the bylaw with the amendments made by council.