TORONTO — Long before COVID-19, Toronto’s taxi industry had been struggling to cope with skyrocketing insurance premiums and the rise of ride-sharing apps. But as the pandemic worsens in the city, a growing number of drivers are parking their vehicles for good.
Since January 2020, the number of licensed taxi and limousine drivers in the City of Toronto has decreased by 25 per cent.
Abdul Mohamoud, CEO of Co-op Cabs, sat down with CTV’s Your Morning to discuss the challenges that taxi drivers face.
“The taxi industry has been under pressure, quite some time for multiple issues,” Mohamoud said Wednesday.
When Ontario issued a provincewide stay-at-home order last November, Mohamoud said it was as if someone “pulled the parking brake on our industry,” as taxis were only serving essential trips. Co-op cabs had 1,100 vehicles on the road prior to the pandemic. Today, the company is only operating 200.
“Business dropped to almost 20 per cent and continues to operate at a skeletal level at this time,” he said.
“It’s not profitable. We’re using our contingency funds to bridge our business to a better time.”
Currently, Mohamoud says he and other members of the industry are in talks with the City of Toronto to see how taxi drivers can help transport vaccines, after initially being left out of the plans.
Even before the pandemic, taxi drivers had struggled amid the growing popularity of ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. Mohamoud wants tighter regulations on ride-hailing services that put a limit on the number of vehicles that can operate at any given time, for example.
“You cannot just flood over 100,000 vehicles in the City of Toronto. That doesn’t help the city and as well as the operators,” said Mohamoud.
Unlike Uber and Lyft, taxi drivers are also required to have 24-hour commercial insurance. But insurance premiums have skyrocketed as fewer companies are willing to underwrite taxis, forcing many operators to keep their cabs parked. While Ontario Premier Doug Ford promised last year to take action, cab drivers are still waiting.
“If you look at the demographics of the members of the taxi industry, you see immigrants, as well as visible minorities. And there’s that general feeling that the City of Toronto has been treating and continues to treat the taxi operators and the taxi members in this industry as a second-class industry.”