Thirty taxi drivers have completed the mandatory training courses required by the City of Whitehorse, said Kyle Morrison, education constable with the city.
The remaining drivers (there are 69 total in Whitehorse) have until the end of January to take the courses while the city is still offering them for free.
The training is part of the 2018 re-write of the city’s vehicle-for-hire bylaw. The bylaw was previously re-written in 2015 to include stricter record checks for drivers, different in-car cameras, and services for those with disabilities. Most of those rules came into effect in May 2017.
In December 2017, a number of women’s groups raised concerns with council over passenger safety. At the time, RCMP had charged a taxi driver with the sexual assault of two women passengers.
The new bylaw, which was adopted June 25, 2018, requires cars to be equipped with hardwired in-car cameras, and for drivers to take the city’s program, which launched in October.
Morrison said training was initially intended to be a three-to-four day program. It was divided up after the city received feedback from drivers that it was difficult to take four days off.
He said rules and regulations, customer service and safety, and disability awareness training are offered on a rotating schedule on Tuesdays. There are written tests at the end of each course.
Morrison said that while the issue of assault and harassment isn’t specifically addressed in course material, the program stresses understanding people’s needs and cultural backgrounds, how to be respectful, and how, when you’re a man driving a woman, to understand that there are lines you can’t cross.
“When you have certain people in your vehicle, you need to take better care,” Morrison said, noting that the overall goal is better all-around customer service.
Joe Mulcahy, general manager for Yellow Cabs, said seven of his 17 drivers are currently taking the course.
He said he hasn’t taken it himself, but he was present when the city spoke with drivers months ago during consultations for the bylaw re-write.
Mulcahy said it’s good that the mandatory education is in place because he knows there have been complaints about certain drivers over the last three years.
“So the city felt to cover themselves, they’d do this,” he said.
“I thought we needed it … it’s needed in this city because a lot of the drivers are not aware of the cultural differences.”
Morrison also said the training has been valuable in terms of hearing from cab drivers about issues they face, including driving in the evenings, and the types of customers they can run into at different hours.
Drivers who have not taken the courses by the end of January will have to pay for it themselves. If they haven’t done so, they will not be able to renew their licensing with the city, which is a yearly requirement.
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