Alberta government says insurance for ride booking companies coming by July

EDMONTON _ The Alberta government has approved insurance for ride-booking companies like Uber, but it’s not available yet.

Transportation Minister Brian Mason said Monday that the insurance likely won’t be ready until June, or by July 1 at the latest.

“What we’ve done is taken the time to do due diligence and ensure that there’s no loopholes,” Mason said.

“That in fact, if a passenger is injured in an accident involving an Uber vehicle, the insurance company is not going to be able to say, ‘you’re not covered.”’

California-based Uber is an app-based business that allows people to request rides over their phones and sets them up with drivers in their personal vehicles. Getting an Uber ride is typically cheaper than taking a taxi.

Cities across the country have been debating how to handle Uber.

In January, Edmonton became the first jurisdiction to legalize the new industry, and a bylaw is to come into effect Tuesday, with conditions including provincially approved insurance, vehicle inspections and fees. Calgary city council also recently passed a bylaw which could start in April.

Ramit Kar, general manager for Uber in Alberta, said at a rally of supporters on the weekend that the company would stop operating in Alberta unless the government quickly made insurance available.

Kar released a statement Monday saying Edmonton’s mayor and city council could delay the bylaw until the insurance is available “and support thousands of local families who rely on ride-sharing as a way to earn or travel affordably.”

Mayor Don Iveson said there would be no delay in the bylaw and Uber will have to shut down.

“If they operate without insurance, they’re going to be in a lot of trouble tomorrow,” Iveson said.

Mason said it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the insurance is coming later.

“We’ve always been working along the basis that the insurance product wouldn’t be ready until June or July. I believe Uber and the city have been aware of that.”

In addition, the province is requiring ride-hailing drivers to get criminal record checks and have at least a Class 4 driver’s licence, which is a commercial licence.

Uber had fought the licence requirement, which is part of Calgary’s bylaw, and argued its drivers should just have a regular Class 5 licence. A Class 4 licence requires more training and knowledge in areas such as defensive driving, driver fatigue and dealing with disabled passengers, Mason said.

“Whether it’s full or part time, commercial drivers have a responsibility for their passengers which requires the appropriate level of skill and road knowledge,” he added.

“My top priority is to ensure that passengers as well as drivers are safe.”

Edmonton company TappCar, set to launch in the city in March, is hiring a mix of former Uber and taxi drivers and other professional drivers laid off from the oilpatch.

Spokesman Pascal Ryffel said the government regulations won’t delay the company. Its drivers will all have at least Class 4 licences and full commercial insurance similar to that for taxi drivers, he said.

“We always went under the assumption that these are the rules.”



Buffett says auto insurance rates are going up, distracted drivers a problem

By Josh Funk


OMAHA, Neb. _ Billionaire Warren Buffett said the U.S. economy appears weaker than he thought it would be as recently as last fall, but that doesn’t change his optimistic long-term view of the country’s prospects.

Buffett appeared on CNBC Monday and addressed a variety of topics after releasing his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders over the weekend. The more than 90 companies owned by Berkshire give Buffett a complex and detailed view of how the economy is affecting different U.S. sectors.

“Business is a little softer in many places than I anticipated four or five months ago. That doesn’t mean it’s in reverse,” said Buffett, who is Berkshire’s chairman and CEO.

The economy continues growing slowly, and Buffett is confident the U.S. economy will improve over time, but plunging oil prices have had a significant impact.

Thousands of jobs have been lost in the oil industry, the budgets and local economies of producing states have come under severe pressure and energy companies have had billions shaved from their market value. Yet Buffett said that the benefit for the vast majority of Americans trickles in slowly every time they fill up their gas tanks.

“The country will grow in value over time,” he said.

Over the past six months, Berkshire has built up a 14 per cent stake in oil refiner Phillips 66. Buffett said it’s wrong to think of that investment as a bet on oil prices because refiners, who are paying a lot less for the crude they turn into gasoline and other fuels, can turn a huge profit when oil prices fall.

But one of Berkshire Hathaway’s operations has been damaged by those plunging prices.

Because gas prices are so low, people are driving more, and the number of vehicle accidents spiked.

The National Safety Council recently estimated the number of traffic deaths in the United States rose 8 per cent from 2014 to 2015, the largest year-to-year percentage increase in a half-century.

Underwriting profits at auto insurer Geico, which is owned by the conglomerate, plunged from $1.16 billion in 2014, to just $460 million last year.

In addition to the millions of additional road miles that are being logged, Buffett said distracted drivers are as serious problem.

And that could offset some of the savings Americans are seeing at the gas pump.

Auto insurance rates, Buffett said, are going up this year.

Buffett said he can’t predict how the current era of low interest rates will affect the economy because it has never happened before, but they could distort prices and encourage more borrowing.

He said Berkshire has to keep billions of euros in banks in Europe, and the low rates could have a negative effect there.

“We would be better off if we had a big mattress in Europe that we could stick all the stuff in,” Buffett joked. “If I could just find a person who I trusted to sleep on the mattress, that’s what we would do.”

Buffett said he understands why regulators cut interest rates to help Europe recover, but there’s no way to know how that will affect business. He said Berkshire paid more for its recent $32.36 billion acquisition of aircraft parts maker Precision Castparts because rates are so low.

Buffett’s letter, which reviews the operations of the conglomerate over the previous year, is widely read. Berkshire posted a $24 billion profit last year, up from $20 billion in 2014.



Uber says it will shut down Tuesday unless province agrees to changes

EDMONTON _ The manager for Uber in Alberta says the ride-sharing app will cease operating in the province on Tuesday unless the provincial government makes insurance and licensing changes.

Ramit Kar told a demonstration of about 150 Uber supporters on the steps of the Alberta legislature on Saturday that the government must allow flexibility on requirements that drivers have commercial licences.

He says the province must also approve a ride-sharing insurance product that Uber has obtained from a private insurer.

Uber wants the changes in order to satisfy requirements passed by Edmonton Council that take effect on March 1.

Under the Edmonton bylaw, Uber drivers must carry provincially approved insurance, have an annual vehicle inspection and agree to a criminal record check.

Kar says without action by the province by Tuesday, thousands of people will be affected.

“We hope that the voice this group and the many voices they represent are heard by the province and that we see action soon,” Kar told cheering supporters, many of whom were Uber drivers.

“We hope to continue to see you on the road.”

A spokesperson for Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason said in an emailed statement on Saturday that the government is dealing with several issues, including licensing and insurance, and wants to address all the issues at once rather than in a piecemeal fashion

“We are committed to finding an appropriate solution allowing ride share companies to operate in a fair manner, while also protecting drivers, passengers, and other road users,” Aileen Machell said.

Calgary city council has also passed a ride-sharing bylaw which could take effect in April, but officials with Uber have said those rules are too strict.

Calgary’s bylaw requires ride-sharing drivers to have a Class 4 driver’s licence a commercial licence. It also requires an annual $220 operating licence from the city, regular inspections, proof of eligibility to work in Canada and a police background check.

Several Uber drivers addressed the rally in Edmonton, saying the service gives them jobs and provides users with safe rides.

But Isack Isack, an Edmonton taxi driver who observed the rally and challenged Kar when he took media questions, said a commercial licence is important for anyone carrying passengers for money. Medical requirements for drivers, he noted, are more stringent with a commercial licence.

“They’re carrying other people,” Isack said to Kar.

Kar said Uber drivers are driving their personal cars, and that it’s no different than carpooling. He said Uber has proposed a number of options to the province for getting around the requirements of a commercial licence.

“A Corolla is a Corollla is a Corolla no matter which way you look at it,” Kar said.



Insurance company: New Uber insurance plan in Alberta just needs political stamp


Uber’s new insurance policy meets every technical requirement demanded by Alberta’s Superintendent of Insurance, says an official with the policy author, Intact Financial.

It just needs political approval from Finance Minister Joe Ceci. Uber officials are getting nervous with just five days remaining to Edmonton’s March 1st deadline.

Intact senior vice president Karim Hirji said he got verbal confirmation from the superintendent several weeks ago. “He’s comfortable with the product structure we’ve agreed to jointly with him and it’s up to the provincial government for further review.”

“The Superintendent of Insurance has been involved in constructive discussions with Intact insurance. But the issue remains under review and no agreement been reached,” said Leah Holoiday, press secretary for the finance minister, in an email.

Uber officials say they will disable the app in Edmonton if they are unable to secure provincially-approved insurance before Edmonton’s new ride-sharing regulations take effect March 1. They are also hoping Mason grants an exemption to the provincial law requiring a Class 4 licence, with a medical and additional driving test, for anyone driving a passenger for hire car.

Hirji said the new Intact policy will be signed with Uber to give all Uber drivers commercial coverage from the moment they accept a ride request to the moment the passenger exits the vehicle. It will be primary coverage, rather than the contingent coverage that caused many to take issue with their current policy.

Each driver will still need personal policies to cover them when they don’t have a ride booked. But since many personal policies say the policy is void if the driver is caught driving anyone for a fee, Intact will offer personal policies that allow ride-sharing. It will also offer contingent, or secondary, coverage for all Uber drivers until other insurance companies start to allow ride-sharing as well.

“We’re hopeful that when other personal insurers understand what the commercial coverage we’re offering is, that more and more companies will permit ride-sharing under their personal policies.”

Uber’s Alberta general manager Ramit Kar said the app will stop working in Edmonton Tuesday if the province doesn’t approve the new insurance. “Unless the province really takes some action on insurance and licensing, we’re not going to be able to continue operations and quite frankly that’s going to cost the city of Edmonton thousands of jobs.”

He’s previously said 4,000 drivers have signed up in the last year, but won’t say how many are still active drivers.

Kar said the company can’t continue to operate without provincially approved insurance after March 1 because the Edmonton bylaw is clear. His position is that drivers were operating in an unregulated space before.

But he also needs the province to wave or change the requirement for a Class 4 licence since most part-time Uber drivers don’t have that. Alberta requires the professional-class licence for anyone driving someone else for pay.

“Class 4 does nothing to improve public safety. … It just ends up creating more red tape for drivers,” said Kar, adding that the majority of the other 70 places that have regulated ride-sharing don’t require a professional-class licence.

Source: Edmonton Sun

Uber threatens to leave if Alberta government doesn’t move on insurance

Excerpted article by Metro

Uber is yet again threatening to leave Edmonton — this time if the Alberta government doesn’t move swiftly on new insurance regulations for the rideshare industry.

The company did not return calls Tuesday, but in an email sent to its members it said it needs approval of a new insurance product and proposed licensing requirements to continue operating in Edmonton.

“Without approval by the NDP government before March 1, thousands of Albertans will lose their ability to earn by providing rides, and tens of thousands will lose access to a much needed transportation option,” said Ramit Kar, the company’s general manager, in the email.

“If the provincial government doesn’t act on driver’s licensing and insurance before March 1st, Uber will be unable to operate in Alberta.”

Last month, city councillors approved a new bylaw for ridesharing that would allow Uber and other similar companies to operate legally as of March 1, but requires provincially regulated insurance for rideshare drivers.

In the protracted debate that led to the recent bylaws passing, the company also threatened to leave Edmonton if city council did not approve the bylaw.

Intact Insurance is working with the compnay on a proposed insurance product, but Alberta’s superintendent of insurance has not made a decision on that insurance product.

In an email, Aileen Machell, press secretary to Transportation Minister Brian Mason, could not provide any details or a timeline for the government’s decision.

“Alberta is committed to finding an appropriate solution allowing rideshare companies to operate in a fair manner, while also protecting drivers, passengers, and other road users,” she said, in the email.

Mayor Don Iveson said the issue is now in the province’s hands.

“Ontario has shown us it can be done and it’s ultimately in the consumer’s interest and the public safety interest to see this resolved.”

Taxi Associations call upon Aviva to make new insurance available to cab drivers

The Toronto Taxi Alliance (TTA) today repeated requests for information it sent to Aviva’s CEO on January 29th.

In a letter to Aviva CEO Greg Sommerville signed by TTA President Gail Souter and Canadian Taxicab Association (CTA) President Marc Andre Way, the TTA and CTA wrote:

“We in the legal, regulated taxi industry are perplexed as to how it is possible for any Ontario insurance company to insure an illegal activity, such as UberX. In fact, one of our city councillors has written Finance Minister Charles Sousa to inquire as to how his ministry could approve an insurance product for an activity which violates the Highway Traffic Act.”

Among the requests the TTA and CTA made of Aviva were:

  • That Aviva agree to release the number of such endorsements actually sold: “As we have been informed by a number of insurance professionals, the fact that a commercial endorsement (for example, the OPCF 6A) is AVAILABLE does not mean any UberX drivers will purchase it.

“We are very concerned that an Aviva announcement that ‘an approved product exists and is available for purchase’ will be misconstrued by politicians to mean ‘20,000 illegal UberX drivers are now insured.’

“The fact that a product is available does not mean that thousands of UberX drivers are going to announce that they are picking up paying passengers, and purchase Aviva insurance with the new endorsement.

“More likely, they will continue to do what they are doing now: carry only a personal policy and refrain from notifying their insurance company they are carrying passengers for compensation. Release of information on the actual number of endorsements purchased will give politicians more accurate information on which to base their debates and decisions.”

  • That when this new hybrid endorsement is actually available, Aviva make it available to licensed, regulated taxi drivers who meet the same conditions being set out for UberX drivers.

“I trust you will agree that everyone – consumers, service providers, elected officials and the insurance industry itself – will be well and fairly served with the release of the above information.”

SOURCE Toronto Taxi Alliance

For further information: contact Rita Smith at 647 242 5505 or

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