If you’ve considered making money as an Uber driver in British Columbia, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered more roadblocks than expected.
Ridesharing is often marketed as a gig that’s quick to begin and allows you to be your own boss with minimal startup costs. However, the reality is that becoming an Uber driver in BC isn’t as easy as it is elsewhere in the world.
In fact, Uber just got the green light to operate in Vancouver on September 2019 — and not with open arms. The BC government and local lawmakers continue to push back with regulations that challenge the potential success of the rideshare company.
With Uber’s exact launch date in Vancouver still pending and its plans for the rest of British Columbia still up in the air, it’s fair to wonder if Uber will ever truly take off in BC and what prospective drivers really need to do to earn.
Why BC pushed back on ridesharing.
Despite the high demand for rideshare apps from many British Columbians, Uber remained shunned by the BC government throughout all of its peak years. Uber’s availability throughout the majority of major Canadian cities hasn’t stopped continued scrutiny from lawmakers.
The British Columbian government’s hesitation to introduce Uber is largely centered on its desire to protect taxi companies. The taxi system in Canada has an established history with a strict and expensive process to get drivers on the road. Taxi companies are just as passionate about keeping Uber out or regulated with the same strictness at the very least.
The BC Federation of Labour is also concerned about Uber’s alignment with worker’s rights in the area and its dependence on independent contractors, citing that ride-hailing creates large declines in industry-wide driver wages.
BC regulators’ stance against Uber actually goes further back to 2012, when the rideshare company first attempted to enter the Vancouver market with Uber Black, their original luxury service. Back then, regulators classified Uber as a limousine company and required minimum fares of $75.
From a less skeptical point of view, preventing Uber from coming into the picture will allow Vancouver to continue its impressive eco-friendly transit trends. The metro area currently has the fastest-growing public transportation use in North America, as well as the most shared cars per capita. As ridesharing launches, congestion may rapidly increase, as it historically has due to Uber and Lyft’s presence, while city transit use may decline.
When will BC get Uber?
Now that BC rideshare legislation is in place, Uber has plans to move into the Lower Mainland area by late 2019. However, this target launch time is unlikely to open up ridesharing to the entirety of the region.
Uber has only confirmed that its rideshare services will be available in the Metro Vancouver area and is unlikely to touch rural areas. This is because BC regulations — particularly on who can become a rideshare driver — are causing limited supply.
Despite the many steps forward Uber has taken in BC in 2019, Uber still isn’t sure to enter greater areas of the province, especially if the government attempts an even tighter grip. After all, Uber once voluntarily exited a major US market until background check regulations relaxed.
Given that taxi drivers are still lobbying to geographically restrict Uber, the future of Uber in the long term is not definitive.
Hefty regulations for BC rideshare drivers
For now, the biggest struggle Uber faces is finding enough drivers to launch its services at the same scale as they currently exist in similarly sized markets. Uber’s recruiting struggle is due to the fact that BC drivers must invest about $500 and two months of waiting time in order to even become a driver. In contrast, most Toronto drivers can start earning in less than a week and only invest $60.
The main driver of this cost is a special commercial license requirement. Rather than a basic Class 5 commercial license, BC requires rideshare drivers to have Class 4 licenses — the same ones required for taxi, limo, and ambulance drivers — or Class 1 or 2 licenses. To get a Class 4 license, drivers must:
- Be at least 19 years old
- Already have another valid license (typically Class 5)
- Have at least two years of licensed driving experience
- Pass a knowledge test ($15) and road test ($40)
- Pass a pre-trip safety inspection test
- Pass a medical exam ($28)
- Have active auto insurance
Class 4 license holders must also submit a passed background check every single year. To obtain this, drivers have to provide two government-issued IDs, including one with a photo, at a police station or RCMP detachment.
This long list of requirements is placed on top of Uber’s traditional qualifications, which require drivers to be at least 21 years old and have proof of work eligibility. Drivers’ vehicles must be less than 9 years old and pass an annual inspection.
Uber also requires another background check through Checkr that you must pass without violent, sexual, driving-related, or drug-related offenses. Less experienced drivers may later be asked to obtain and upload a commercial driving record through ICBC.
With these requirements, BC Uber drivers will be far from everyday drivers who sign up to drive through their apps.
Is signing up for Uber worth it?
If the initial investment doesn’t scare you off, becoming an Uber driver in British Columbia may be worth it. Despite criticisms of the government’s strict regulations, these laws ensure that your minimum fares cannot drop below the taxi flag rate. These laws also show BC’s commitment to protecting the rights of independent contractors.
In addition, if predictions about Uber’s struggle with driver supply are correct, BC may be a less saturated market. This means you’ll have more chances to successfully chase surge pricing and get back-to-back requests — as long as Uber remains in the region, that is.