By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The City of Oshawa has passed what may be the first set of designated driver (DD) service regulations in North America.
At issue for several years within city hall, council agreed recently to a set of rules that would regulate the way designated driver services find their drivers, transport passengers and mark their vehicles, among other stipulations.
“This is our first step in building a foundation for this industry to operate in,” said Councillor Dan Carter.
With the foundation in place, DD services will have until the fall to get their businesses in line to meet the regulations. Currently, without a bylaw in place, the regulations cannot be enforced. City staff predict a bylaw will be ready when council returns from its summer recess.
Lengthy discussions and debates have characterized the process toward creating Oshawa’s new DD regulations.
The new rules will govern the approximately 21 DD services that operate in Durham Region.
Prior to these new rules, the taxi industry accused the DD service companies of unfair competition.
“To us, they’re gypsies,” said Neal Mattice, a taxi-driver with Blue Line taxi at an earlier committee meeting. “They found themselves a little loophole in the taxi bylaw.”
When council looked to close that loophole, several debates erupted throughout the process toward the final set of regulations.
DD services will now be required to have their drivers obtain a criminal information report with vulnerable sector screening, a driver’s abstract, a G license, a medical clearance letter and be 25 years of age or older.
Obtaining a medical clearance letter has been a point of contention throughout the process and more discussion arose during the final meeting of council before the rules were passed.
Previously, DD services argued the additional requirements for drivers would put an added cost burden on employees who are not making a big wage to begin with.
Councillor Amy England said she was worried the requirement would put an added burden on the health care system.
“I think what we’ll be doing is we’ll be flooding the system with a bunch of individuals who may not need to be there,” she said.
England attempted to have the requirement removed, however the request was voted down by all other councillors.
The regulations also allow DD services to negotiate their own fares with their customers, can transport the owner of the vehicle and their passengers to more than one residence, but are not allowed to carry passengers in their chase vehicle.
DD services will now also be required to obtain proof of commercial general liability insurance in an amount no less than $2 million.
This became another point of contention when a pair of insurance brokers from W.O. Insurance Brokers confirmed that there is no set policy that covers the kind of operations that DD services provide.
“This is just something they have not created at this time,” said Dale Gibbons with W.O.
However, Gibbons confirmed the insurance industry is working to create a policy that will fit in the industry, but when it will be finalized is unknown.