Ontario cabbies say they're being treated like criminals, if not worse.
Since just prior to the pandemic, taxi drivers say insurance providers have forced them to obtain commercial vehicle insurance through the facilities market -- typically for drivers who can't get approved for traditional insurance because providers have deemed them too high a risk.
"[It's} usually reserved for people charged with stunt driving, DUIs, or anything going into vehicular manslaughter or other problems like that," said JT Pearson, Office Manager at Kitchener-based City Cabs.
"The worst part is, anybody who even has the worst driving record in the world would have the opportunity, through improved performance, to get out of the facilities market," he said. "Unfortunately we cannot."
Pearson said this has meant some drivers have seen a two- to three-fold increase in their premiums.
"Some of our drivers used to have rates down in the 35-[hundred] to $4,000 a year range and are now looking at 11, 12, 13,000 a year for insurance," he said, adding those rates climb even higher for drivers involved in a collision whether at-fault or not.
On top of sky-high insurance rates, Pearson said taxi drivers have also faced significant added pandemic-related costs over the past few years along with digging deeper into their pockets to pay for sky-high gas prices and paying more for a new used vehicle.
"Many of these factors have forced some of our drivers to look at the balance sheet and say it's simply not possible for us to go forward as a taxi driver," Pearson said.
Pearson said the extra costs have already been passed, in-part, onto passengers but drivers and companies know they may be feeling the financial strain too.
"I know that, we feel it but the thing that we see every day is we're not the only ones," he said.
"We see these customers every day, we see them every week for appointments, every couple of weeks for getting groceries, we know how it is affecting them as well," Pearson added. "These are not people who are made of money, we can't look to a retiree and look at their fixed income and say 'you have to pay more for these services,' they won't be able to afford what we would have to charge."
Pearson, meantime, has launched a petition calling on the province to stand-up for taxi drivers and their passengers and demand a 'reasonable alternative' to the facilities market option.