Barrie, Ontario is the latest battleground for Uber as the ride-share company struggles to operate legally, city by city. Taxi officials are pushing for Uber to adhere to the same rules and regulations as cab drivers, as the city’s finance and corporate services committee prepares to discuss how to address the ride-share company at their next meeting.
Insurance remains a key issue as taxi drivers argue they’re unfairly faced with steep costs to insure and endorse their vehicles while many Uber drivers operate without commercial coverage at all. Melvin Woods, of Barrie-based Deluxe Taxi, told the Barrie Examiner that all drivers who accept passengers for cash need to ensure they have the appropriate coverage. “They (Uber) have to have the appropriate insurance. That's big, number-one as far as I'm concerned,” he said. “If the city's going to protect the citizens out there, they (Uber) have to have the appropriate insurance, which is a big deal to all of us.
“We comply with all of the city rules. That's what they should be doing,” he stated to the paper.
In addition to insurance, Barrie taxi supporters are demanding UberX drivers adhere to safety inspections and criminal background checks.
Uber has maintained that every ride with one of its UberX drivers is insured, stating on its website: “Uber maintains insurance for bodily injury and property damage to third parties. We also have a well-established claim notification process. Upon being notified, we work with our riders or partners to notify appropriate insurers of a claim.”
However, auto insurance brokers, who have seen claims made by ride-share drivers refused by carriers, argue that drivers and passengers remain unknowingly vulnerable.
“That’s my big gripe – I wish Uber was completely forthcoming, blatantly saying, ‘our policy does not cover your vehicle for physical damage,” said Adam Mitchell, president of Mitchell & Whale Insurance
in an interview with Insurance Business Canada. “A normal auto policy will cover you for the medical, will cover you for the accident benefits, and the liability, but no one (in the case of Uber) will step up to pay for or replace the vehicle.”
“It’s super grey and super-misunderstood.”
Uber was recently legalized in Toronto with the caveat that drivers take out minimum $2-million liability coverage, report proof of insurance to the city, and have vehicles inspected twice per year.
However, it has been banned outright in neighbouring city of Mississauga, where city council recently mandated all transportation companies have a broker license, employ only licensed taxi and limousine drivers, and use only licensed vehicles. Uber is also currently reaching out to the Quebec government to establish agreed-upon guidelines that would allow the ride-share company to operate in the province.