A number of illegal cab operators are putting a business at risk, and potentially their passengers, according to a local cab company.
TeeKay Taxi, previously Fort Town Taxi, has experienced a significant drop in business, according to owner Tammie Joyal.
Joyal attributes the drop to unlicensed cabs picking up passengers and cutting into her business to the amount of an estimated 70 to 80 per cent decrease.
“And that makes it very difficult when your insurance is $500 per month, per taxi,” she said.
While she had known there were some illegal operators before, she reports they are getting more and more aggressive in taking business from her legitimate drivers.
The problem is, if her business fails, there will be no full-time legitimate cab company for the community.
“We’ve had a number of cab companies come to this town and they just go under,” said Joyal.
This also concerns Emily Colombo, economic development officer for the District of Fort St. James.
“The taxi service in town provides transportation for many people in our community, often supporting the success of other business ventures such as grocery stores and places where alcohol is served.,” said Colombo. “Through supporting the licensed taxi service, we are helping to support not only one, but many local businesses.
“This is good for the local economy, and helps to ensure that even the most marginalized members of our population can have access to transportation.”
To compensate for the loss in business, Joyal has had a car operating in Vanderhoof in recent weeks and has managed to get some other contracts to help out, but in Vanderhoof as well, illegal cabs have been a problem in the past, and were one of the reasons a previous operator closed shop there.
There have even been some issues with the illegal cabs “scooping” her drivers by intercepting fares in Fort, which unknowing passengers may not realize can put them at risk.
Illegal cab companies do not carry the proper licensing and insurance to protect passengers in the case of an accident. If an accident did occur, their insurance would be void.
Passengers getting into cabs can protect themselves by checking the vehicle is a marked taxi, TeeKay Taxi will have signs on their three vehicles, hopefully before this article goes to print. They also all carry a second smaller licence plate attached to their bumper, next to the regular licence plate.
“When we accept rides indiscriminately from unlicensed companies that are ‘scooping’ rides from the legitimate company, we put the feasibility of both operations into question,” said Colombo. “One company feeds the other, and if the licensed company cannot afford to operate, we will loose all taxi service in town.”
Anyone who has an unlicensed cab show up to offer them a ride, should call and report the vehicle to the RCMP.