The City of Toronto says it has approved its first accredited provider of standardized training for new ride-hailing drivers.
AMB Driving School will offer a mandatory training program for vehicle-for-hire drivers starting next month. The announcement comes after city council decided in July 2019 that mandatory training was necessary following a fatal accident involving an Uber driver the previous year.
Now, drivers must demonstrate they have completed the course and will have to submit a certificate of completion as part of their applications for ride-hailing licences, which would make them eligible to drive for companies like Uber, Lyft and Facedrive.
"The city has robust licensing requirements for drivers of vehicles-for-hire, to ensure the safety of passengers, drivers and the public," the city said in a news release on Wednesday.
In July 2019, council amended its bylaw on the licensing of vehicles-for-hire to ensure the introduction of mandatory training for all vehicle-for-hire drivers. But the COVID-19 pandemic delayed its implementation.
Council considered the matter again in November when it directed staff to stop issuing licences for new vehicle-for-hire drivers temporarily until the mandatory program was in place.
"The new driver training will focus on improving driver awareness of Vision Zero [the city's program to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities], transporting passengers in a safe manner, driving in an urban setting, anti-racism and discrimination, and legal requirements," the city said in the release.
The program will include in-person, virtual and in-car components. Drivers must contact AMB Driving School directly to register for the training program. The program will cost $250 to complete.
'Ambassadors for the city'
Shafique Malik, owner of AMB Driving School, said on Wednesday tthe training will cover basic skills and defensive driving, with a focus on pedestrian and cyclist traffic. It will also teach drivers how to be ambassadors for the city. He said training will begin on May 3 at four locations with more than 100 instructors.
"We are excited to hear that we are the first company accredited to teach the courses for vehicle-for-hire drivers," he said. "We're excited to start the courses."
Malik said the city approached the school before the pandemic. He said the school developed the program last year with the help of other five companies.
Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who represents Ward 13, Toronto Centre, said drivers of commercial vehicles that pick up passengers should know how to operate vehicles safely.
"None of us would ever get on a bus or a streetcar without understanding that the TTC would have properly trained their drivers before giving them the responsibility of carrying human life," she said.
"It's no different if you are a passenger in an Uber or a Lyft. You want your driver to be adequately trained, know the rules of the road, know how to handle the car in urban conditions as well as on a fast moving highway."
Uber calls approval 'important step forward'
Uber said in a statement on Wednesday that safety is at the heart of the company and it is encouraged that the city has approved a training provider.
"This is an important step forward so drivers can complete their training and get on the road, unlock flexible earning opportunities, help to decrease wait times and provide safe, affordable rides to all Torontonians," the statement reads.
The city says it expects more approved training providers will be added to its list within the next month. More information on the program can be found on the city's website here.