VANCOUVER - With their official approvals now just weeks away, the two biggest ride hail companies say the B.C. government’s class four commercial licence requirement for all ride hail drivers is making it hard to attract enough recruits.
“We've seen lots of early interest, but what we have yet to see is how many people are willing to go through the entire process,” said Michael van Hemmen, the head of western Canada for Uber.
The process for getting a class four licence includes a knowledge test, a road test, a vehicle inspection and a medical exam, and every step costs money.
“Because of the class four licensing restriction we are seeing fewer drivers than we would see in a healthy ride sharing market like the others ones we operate in,” said Lyft’s general manager for B.C., Peter Lukomskyj. “Getting drivers enrolled into the program and finding enough drivers will be a challenge here.”
Because so few women have an existing class four licence, attracting female drivers for ride hailing will be even tougher.
“Around 30 per cent of Uber driving partners across North America are female, and we know from early numbers that we're seeing here that will not be the case in B.C.,” said van Hemmel. In Calgary where class four is also a requirement only five percent of Uber drivers are women.
If Uber and Lyft can’t find enough recruits, operating areas could be smaller and wait times long when ride hailing launches later this fall.
“We are concerned as to what we're hearing,” said Anita Hubmerman, the C.E.O. of the Surrey Board of Trade and a member of the Rideshare Now coalition. “We want full Lyft, Uber and other ridesharing company participation within Metro Vancouver.”
She argues class four isn’t necessary for passenger safety.
“It is onerous and in other jurisdictions it’s not required," she said.
For drivers willing to jump through the class four hoops, there is an upside.
“There's definitely a lot to do,” said web designer Travis McCray who plans to drive for Lyft part time “I think for one it’s going to be great to cut down initial drivers, so that I can make a little more in the beginning.”
Lyft is willing to re-pay the cost of getting a class four license for people like McCray. But Lukomskyj is worried there won’t be enough of them.
“I think British Columbia is going to get a limited level of rideshare out the gate because of the class four restriction.”