Drivers for ride-sharing services such as UberX would face less stringent safety rules than regular cabbies under new draft regulations Toronto city staff will unveil on Thursday.
Sources say the proposals would require drivers with Uber and similar services to submit to the same kind of criminal record checks that taxi drivers do now. However, unlike the system for cab drivers, Uber, not the city, would collect and screen the records. City inspectors could obtain them on request.
Different standards would also apply for safety inspections to the vehicles, the sources say. Drivers for UberX would be required only to submit an annual safety certificate from a licensed garage, while taxis would continue to have semi-annual mechanical inspections run by the city. City officials could ask either type of driver for a safety inspection at any time.
Both kinds of drivers would be required to have some sort of minimum insurance. The changes would also loosen some of the current regulations for traditional taxi cab drivers.
Mayor John Tory, who has said Uber should be accommodated in Toronto and that the city cannot block innovation, said on Wednesday that the proposals would protect consumers whatever service they use.
"The whole idea is to have a balanced system that offers people choice, that offers them the most advanced technology, and that offers protection for public safety whether you're in an Uber car or a taxi or a limo," Mr. Tory told local TV news channel CP24 in an interview from San Francisco, where he is on a trip to promote Toronto's high-tech sector.
The debate over the popular ride-sharing service has raged in Toronto and other cities for months, even sparking violent confrontations between traditional cabbies and UberX drivers. The service has so far operated in Toronto with no regulation, angering regular cab drivers, who must follow rules and pay hundreds of dollars in licensing fees every year.
City council passed a resolution last fall calling for new regulations that would level the playing field. The taxi industry is expected to oppose the draft proposals.
After city officials release the details on Thursday morning, the city's licensing and standards committee will debate the plans on April 14. The final proposal, likely with amendments from councillors on the committee who are vocal allies of the taxi cab industry, is expected to go before city council next month.
Other Canadian cities where Uber operates, including Ottawa and Edmonton, have proposed regulatory changes. A move in Calgary to impose a $220 licensing fee and other rules caused Uber to announce it could no longer operate there.
Uber has said its service deserves different treatment than regular cabs because many UberX drivers work only five or 10 hours a week. Uber says it has more than 400,000 users in Toronto and 16,000 drivers. The city has about 5,000 traditional licensed taxi cabs.