Jim Bell, president of Diamond Taxicab and treasurer of the Canadian Taxicab Association, said he’s “not surprised” by the report.
“Not everyone that is licensed is driving cabs full-time,” Bell said. “Certainly there are potential abuses out there because of the nature of the business.”
Some drivers could have a medical issue and can’t drive while others might be no longer eligible to drive a taxicab because they can’t get insurance, he said.
“Is there potential for abuse? For sure, but that should be part of the audit check to cross check back and forth,” Bell said.
There are over 10,000 licenced drivers for 4,849 taxicabs operating in the city, according to a taxi cab industry report from the city released in September.
Steve Peevers of Taxi News said he believes the majority of cabbies out there are working for peanuts per night — and while technically, they are employed as a driver — it is not nearly enough to make a decent wage. That’s why they apply for social assistance.
“If you were getting a cheque to drive that car and collecting a cheque for welfare, that’s outright fraud and [you] should be dealt with by the law accordingly,” Peevers said.
“But there are guys that get cab licences – especially immigrants – and they want to make a living and go out all night to make $4 for 12 hours’ work. Should they be getting welfare? I believe they should.”
According to a 2008 “Toronto Taxi Drivers: Ambassadors of the City” report, hundreds of cabbies across the city are working marathon hours for just $2.83 an hour – $1.42 less than the starting meter charge of $4.25.