Occupations in this sector

Driving for a taxi company or rideshare services such as Uber or Lyft is a popular employment option for newcomers. According to a study reported in The Globe and Mail, Overqualified immigrants really are driving taxis in Canada, approximately half of all taxi drivers in Canada are immigrants. The 2012 study, Who Drives a Taxi in Canada?, also reported that immigrants accounted for more than 80% of the taxi drivers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Frankly, sometimes it can be difficult for newcomers to find employment in fields in which they were trained. Working as a driver can provide income until more suitable employment is found.

Taxi

Finding work as a taxi or rideshare driver is relatively easy. The required training isn’t intensive or costly. GPS systems make it possible to perform the job efficiently, even for those recently arrived in the GTA. And for rideshare drivers, in particular, the job flexibility makes it a good choice for a second income.

That said, there are some drawbacks:

  • To drive a car as a job in Ontario, you must have a valid Class G (or higher) driver’s license. As we explain elsewhere on our website, In order to get a Class G license, a newcomer must first obtain a G1 and then a G2 license. Since a 12-month waiting period is mandated between levels, it may take up to two years to obtain a Class G license.
  • In cities such as Toronto, a minimum of three years of driving experience may be required.
  • All rideshare drivers and some taxi drivers are considered to be self-employed. As explained on the Canada Revenue Agency website, this means that the company you work for does not make payments on your behalf to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Employment Insurance (EI), or income tax. You will be expected to pay into the CPP when you file and pay your income tax, and you simply will not be eligible for EI.
  • The job can be challenging, with long hours, high costs, low compensation, and no benefits.
  • Having a car to drive is a basic requirement, whether one’s own, a leased vehicle or one that is shared.

Taxi Drivers

Taxi drivers are required to hold a taxi driver’s license, which is not difficult to obtain. (See the “Regulation and certification” section below for details.) Once you have that license, you can apply to lease a cab from a brokerage (taxi company). Very few taxi drivers own their own cabs.

Taxi drivers in the GTA often work 12-hour shifts, six or seven days a week (Uber vs Taxi, The Walrus, Sep. 24/15.) Pay is variable, depending on daily fares. Take-home pay is impacted by costs and fees that the driver incurs, such as the lease for the vehicle. According to the Government of Canada Job Bank website, taxi drivers in Ontario earn a median wage of $14.73/hour (compared to $15.00/hour for all of Canada.)

Rideshare Drivers

Currently, both Uber and Lyft provide rideshare services in the GTA. Uber was launched in that city in September 2014; Lyft in late 2017. Uber’s earlier launch means that there are more statistics and news articles about Uber. As a result, that company is more heavily referenced here. However, as reported in the Toronto Star, Patience pays off for Lyft’s Canadian expansion (May 8/18), the response of Lyft’s expansion into Ontario has also been very positive.

Whether partnering with Uber or Lyft, rideshare drivers need to meet many of the same requirements as taxi drivers. They also need to provide the vehicle (which they do not need to own – as long as Uber’s policies are followed, you can use a partner’s or friend’s car.) Despite the requirements, rideshare driving is an attractive option because of its flexibility.

Since you get to choose your hours of work, you can focus on “surge hours”: peak traffic times when fares are increased and earning potential is higher. The flexibility in scheduling also means that rideshare driving can be a full-time or part-time job. For many, it’s a second job; Uber estimates, according to the article, Uber Vs Lyft In Toronto (The Walrus, updated Dec/16) that about 60% of its drivers have other employment. Finally, choosing your own hours can help to build your confidence as a driver. If you’re not comfortable driving in bad weather or heavy traffic, you can sit those times out. And then you can strengthen your driving skills when you do feel comfortable on the road.

According to a Global News report, We finally know what Uber drivers make, and it’s about minimum wage (May, 2018), Uber drivers earn, on average, $15.05/hour after expenses. That rate takes into consideration that drivers actually earn a gross of $27.43/hour. However, $12.38 out of every hour worked goes towards expenses such as vehicle registration, insurance, maintenance, depreciation, gas, and car washes, as well as cell phone costs and Uber fees (Lyft and Uber Taxes: Deductions and Expenses for Drivers in Canada (CommericalDriverHQ.)

In terms of having a car to use as a rideshare driver, there are numerous companies in Canada which finance cars specifically for this purpose, by month, by day, by week, and even by hour. These include Splend, Autzu, Toronto Auto Group.  and Hertz. See also this post on the Uber website: Uber: Need a car to earn?  For one perspective on where this might lead, see: Uber partnerships with car-rental startups could increase congestion, experts say (CBC, Aug 9/18).

Keep in mind that the $15.05/hour estimate is taxable income. Because rideshare drivers are considered independent contractors, income tax and Canada Pension Plan (CPP) payments aren’t automatically deducted from their pay. One must be prepared to pay them by installment, if required, or when your annual income tax return is filed. Income tax and CPP rates are variable, with many factors affecting your personal rate. Visit the Canada Revenue Agency website for more details.

As a post on the settlement.org website, What should I know about working for a rideshare service? cautions, “Make sure to carefully evaluate the costs and work conditions to see if it is a good option for you.”

See also this perspective on working for a rideshare service: When your boss is an algorithm (New York Times Oct 12/18.)

Need for English Language Proficiency

The Toronto Municipal Code, which governs the issuance of licenses for taxi and rideshare drivers, states that applicants “Must be able to communicate in English.” However, there is no requirement to demonstrate fluency. Instead, licensing staff simply gauge fluency “through the interactions the applicant has with city staff during the licensing process” (Training mandatory for new cabbies: Toronto Taxi Alliance (Toronto Sun, Aug 24/16.)) Each municipality within the GTA has its own code for such licensing.

The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks website suggests a minimum of CLB 5 for taxi (and rideshare) drivers. Drivers work directly with the public and must be able to make small talk, take direction, offer advice, and handle complaints. They also need to be able to make professional phone calls, communicate with dispatchers, fill out forms, and write notes.

Regulation and certification

Drivers of taxis and rideshare vehicles in Ontario come under local, municipal regulation and require either a taxi driver’s license or what may be called a Private Transportation Company (PTC) license. (See Uber website: Toronto regulations: Information for drivers.)

Amendments to Toronto’s Vehicle-for-Hire By-law, which came into effect on January 1, 2020, include the following changes for drivers of both taxis and rideshare vehicles, as noted in Toronto upping requirements for Uber and Lyft drivers (Daily Hive, July 19/19). The changes:

  • Increase the current minimum years of driving experience from one year to three years.
  • Make it mandatory for all drivers to take a third-party training program approved by the city. Preliminary topics include: transporting passengers in a safe manner, driving in an urban setting, providing accessible service, anti-racism, diversity and sensitivity, and legal requirements.
  • Require all drivers to affix “Watch for Bike” notices to their vehicles. PTCs will also be required to push notifications to passengers that instruct them to look for cyclists before exiting a vehicle.
  • Mandate drivers to securely mount all handheld devices to their vehicle.
  • Require drivers to display notices if a camera is being used to record passengers.

Taxi Drivers

To drive a cab, you must generally obtain a taxi driver’s licence by meeting the criteria outlined by the municipality, such as those listed on the City of Toronto website:

  • Hold a valid Class G (or higher) driver’s license;
  • Be legally entitled to work in Canada;
  • Be at least 18 years old; and
  • Provide a clean criminal record check issued by a Canadian Police Service.

Additionally, you must complete a short training course, such as a 25-hour course one offered by Centennial College, that covers topics such as “customer service, sensitivity training, the layout of the Greater Toronto Area, technology [in] the taxi and in car defensive training.” Such courses, in 2020, will incorporate the training requirements of the amended City of Toronto by-law.

Licenses are granted to successful applicants and must be renewed annually. The current fee to do so in Toronto is $130.

Rideshare Drivers

Rideshare drivers also need to obtain a specialized permit: a PTC (Private Transportation Company) license. However, this permit is granted based on vehicular eligibility.

  • Have an eligible vehicle to drive, that has passed inspection by a licensed mechanic. For Uber, a vehicle in the GTA must:
    • Be a 4-door vehicle with independently opening doors;
    • Be a model year that is 7 years or newer to drive with uberX, uberPOOL, uberXL, and UberSELECT in the City of Toronto, City of Mississauga, Town of Oakville, and Brampton. (If a vehicle’s model year is 8 to 10 years or newer, you may be able to pick up riders in other municipalities within the GTA.)
    • Be in good condition with no cosmetic damage;
    • Have no commercial branding;
    • Not be salvaged or rebuilt;
    • Have snow tires or all-weather tires installed from December 1 until April 30 the following year. (Only required for PTC licensed drivers in the City of Toronto and City of Mississauga); and
    • Pass a vehicle inspection by a licensed mechanic;
  • Have proof of vehicle registration;
  • Have proof of vehicle insurance. (Uber, for example, provides an additional insurance package for all its drivers in Ontario.)

As for the drivers, both the Uber website and the Lyft website state that their drivers must:

  • Hold a valid Class G (or higher) driver’s license;
  • Be legally entitled to work in Canada;
  • Be at least 21 years old; and
  • Provide a clean driving record and criminal record check.

In some cities only a quick and easy video-based course may be required in order to drive for Uber. It takes about 15 minutes to complete. Lyft has online training guides to help get you started as a driver. However, cities such as Toronto (see above), have recently implemented more demanding (though still relatively light) course requirements, which will required more time.

And, as the Lyft website points out, you must have a smartphone.

Training Programs for Newcomers in the GTA

There are no taxi/rideshare training programs specifically for newcomers within the GTA. However, Centennial College is among those that offer a training program, for which newcomers normally represent a significant percentage of those enrolling.

Job Market Outlook

With increasing traffic in the GTA and rising parking costs, the use of rideshare vehicles and taxis is bound to increase. However, with low barriers to entry, there will likely continue to be significant competition.

A recent news report, Do Canada’s taxi drivers have a place in transportation’s changing future? (Globe & Mail, Oct 5/18), highlights the competitiveness of the Toronto market and especially the concerns of taxi drivers and those owning taxi plate licences in that market.