[By RANDY SHORE]

Thousands of ride-hailing drivers are set to hit the streets of Metro Vancouver when companies are permitted to begin operating in the next few weeks.

No fewer than 19 ride-hailing platforms are being vetted by the Passenger Transportation Board, some with hundreds of drivers already qualified to work.

The Chinese-language Kabu Ride app was disabled in September to avoid operating illegally after legislation passed enabling legal ride-hailing.

But Richmond-based Gokabu Group had been operating Kabu Ride in the “grey space” for more than three years with hundreds of drivers pulling in more than $10 million a year combined, said company spokesman Martin van den Hemel.

They began encouraging drivers to get their Class 4 drivers licence months ago and secured affordable training with local driving schools to ensure they would have a small army of drivers ready to work under new provincial rules.

Kabu Ride has “hundreds of qualified drivers” who have been through Kabu training, obtained a commercial driver’s licence and secured all the documentation required by the transportation board, said CEO Auston Zhang. “We’ve got many more taking their knowledge test to obtain a Class 4 learner’s licence.”

The vast majority of Kabu Ride drivers are men, but the company is encouraging female applicants.

“We have stay-at-home moms who work for two or three hours a day while their kids are in school,” said Hemel. “We also have drivers who work 50 hours a week and make north of $65,000 a year.”

Lyft is operating two driver hubs in Metro Vancouver — with a third on the way — to recruit and educate potential drivers about the documentation needed before they can participate in ride-hailing.

To drive for a ride-hailing service, you must possess a Class 1, 2 or 4 drivers licence, produce a commercial driving record, obtain a criminal record check and your vehicle must pass a commercial vehicle inspection.

More than 600 people have attended Lyft information sessions in Vancouver, Surrey and Langley, the company said.

Lyft driver Met Yi Su likes the flexibility that gig driving offers, to work around his main job.

“I’m a project manager for a mining organization, which has me working in the field around six months of the year,” he said. “What attracts me to driving with Lyft is the option to do it anytime I want. My wife stays home with the kids, and I can do ridesharing as needed.”

Uber is encouraging potential drivers to use its online guide to get through the qualification process and “be ready to drive in the next few weeks.”

The ride-hailing giant has started distributing Uber decals to its qualified “driver partners” to display once the transportation board approves its transportation network service licence.

Edmonton’s TappCar also has plans to serve Metro Vancouver along with smaller cities in B.C.

It is difficult to know exactly how many drivers will be in the field because some are likely to be active on more than one platform, but other Canadian cities are recording tens of thousands of trips a day.

Based on data from Calgary, the City of Vancouver conservatively estimates 500 to 1,000 ride-hailing vehicles will operate in the “metro core,” compared with about 800 licensed taxis, according to a response to a freedom of information request.

On average, drivers in Calgary worked 10 hours a week and made 2.5 trips an hour. But that’s only part of the picture.

Ride-hailing firms reported more than four million trips in Calgary last year, according to a presentation to the International Association of Transportation regulators.

That’s almost 11,000 trips a day serving a population about half of Metro Vancouver’s 2.5 million residents. Mississauga ride-hailing drivers logged 10 million trips in 2018 — 27,300 trips a day — with a population of less than one million.

Most of that is new business. Ride-hailing trips appeared to have a relatively modest effect on the volume of taxi trips in those markets.

Kabu Ride is a platform with uniquely local roots and an impressive growth record.

Zhang and Gokabu president Billy Xiong had originally conceived their platform as a social media app for foreign students, but quickly changed their business model when they noticed that users were organizing rides around the city.

The company has 60 full time employees and about 25 part time staff. The company also offers subsidized health and disability benefits, through The Cooperators, to “driver partners” who work enough to qualify.

While their ride-hailing service is suspended, some drivers are still active on the food delivery platform, Kabu Eats.

~source