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Letter: Innisfail taxi drivers already struggling

Driver hurt by comments regarding change to Innisfail taxi bylaw

I am hurt by the comments that I hear from different people in regards to the Innisfail taxi bylaw.

There are four vehicles that haul people that should not, as they are not part of a taxi company or Uber – they are known as “gypsy” vehicles or drivers. These unauthorized drivers take away from those who are part of a company, making it difficult for them to make a living.

Taxi drivers require fares to make a living and to cover the costs associated with being a driver, including but not limited to: criminal record check, vehicle leasing, insurance and maintenance fees, as well as licensing and medical clearance fees. All of these costs are ones that allow us to legally operate as taxi drivers.

When these unauthorized vehicles take fares from those part of a company, less money is made, resulting in difficulty covering the associated fees and, more importantly, with making a living wage. When taxi drivers cannot make an appropriate living wage, there is little reason for them to want to do the job.

There are many days where I, along with my fellow drivers, have a hard time making minimum wage. At times we often end up making so little that our pay works out to $5 an hour, sometimes even less. Sometimes our total daily take-home is less than $20.

Additionally, those who accept fares when not authorized to do so, have no proper regulation.There are no standards for their insurance, licensing, or vehicle condition for them to adhere to, meaning that they may not be safe to drive with.

I have heard that there are people who wish to start their own company, following the announcement of the new bylaws in town, but have little confidence in how they will be regulated, as well as concern for the financial state of current taxi drivers should a new company enter the area.

As it stands, the company I work for is allowed up to eight operating vehicles in the area, but with the bylaw, this number is dropped to three, which leads to worry about future demand once COVID-19 restrictions lift up.

We are already struggling with the financial aspects of being drivers with low demand and unauthorized vehicles taking fares, that the introduction of new companies is something to be concerned about, especially once demand for drivers picks up again.

How will current drivers be able to make a living wage in the future, should our allowance to operate in this area be restricted? One thing that keeps us going is the hope that the future will be better, which is why we keep driving and wish to keep a presence in this area.

I would like this matter to be considered and sorted out so that current taxi drivers are not left at unfortunate odds in regards to their ability to do their job and make a living wage.

Louie Armstrong,

Innisfail taxi driver