Quebec Unveils Its Regulations for a Post-Taxi World
On October 10, the Act Respecting Remunerated Passenger Transportation by Automobile (CQLR c T-11.2, the "Act") came into force. As we announced in a previous blog post, the Act establishes a new regulatory framework applicable to all industry stakeholders.
On October 7, 2020, the Government of Québec published three regulations implementing the Act: a general regulation specifying the terms and conditions of qualification, the standards relating to the safety of users, and the quality of services offered; a regulation governing the transmission of information from operators to the government; and a regulation in respect of the requirement for driver training.
The Regulation Respecting Remunerated Passenger Transportation by Automobile (the "Regulation")
The Act provides that remunerated passenger transportation by automobile requires a qualified driver and a qualified automobile. A qualified driver may be either authorized by the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec ("SAAQ") or registered with a transportation system operator. Similarly, a qualified automobile must be either authorized by the SAAQ or registered with an operator.
The Regulation provides useful details on how to qualify as a driver and how to qualify an automobile. It includes the conditions to be met at the time of application and throughout the qualification process.
In general, the Regulation provides that any automobile that was attached to a taxi owner’s permit on October 9, 2020, is deemed to be an automobile authorized by the SAAQ as of October 10, 2020. In addition, until March 31, 2021, a taxi owner's permit will serve as a document attesting that the automobile is authorized.
To be a qualified automobile, a vehicle must (i) be fewer than four years old, (ii) have fewer than 80,000 km of mileage and (iii) meet certain general standards with respect to dimensions and mass.
An automobile with an odometer indicating more than 80,000 km or a model year at least four years old must undergo a mechanical inspection prior to being authorized by the SAAQ. In addition, the automobile must undergo additional mechanical inspections either 12 months after the last mechanical inspection or when the automobile’s odometer reaches a reading 60,000 km higher than at the previous inspection, whichever comes first. The fees associated with an automobile authorization application are currently set at only $9.20, but this could change when and if the SAAQ adopts a regulation to that effect.
The Regulation also provides that any automobile used to provide remunerated transportation must be equipped with an accessory that allows it to be “distinguishable.” This distinctive accessory must be placed on the rear window of the vehicle when it is "in service." The accessory has not yet been released but it will be issued by the SAAQ to the driver who requests it at a cost of $26.60. The accessory differs from the taxi domelight, whose use is still reserved for taxi drivers. Moreover, the use of a domelight by taxi drivers exempts them from the obligation to have a “distinctive accessory.”
The accessory referred to above must not be confused with the accessory provided for in section 68 of the Act, which allows an automobile to be identified as being part of a transportation system. The design of that identifying accessory is left to the operator's discretion but must comply with the visibility standards set out in the Regulation.
The Regulation provides for transitional rules benefiting drivers currently holding a taxi driver's permit. In particular, the Regulation provides that taxi driver’s permits remain valid until their expiry date. At the time of what would have been the renewal, qualified drivers must, however, make an appointment with the SAAQ to have their photo taken and bring a certificate of no judicial record, in order to then become qualified drivers under the Act.
The seat belt exemption granted to taxi drivers under the Highway Safety Code applied where taxi drivers operated on municipally-governed public roads and was repealed by the Act. Going forward, no similar exemption is provided unless the driver has medical reasons for not wearing a seat belt.
Transportation System Operators
In addition to the many conditions set out in the Act, including having demonstrated to the Commission des transports du Québec (the "Commission") that it is capable of performing its obligations as an operator and that it has sufficient human and material resources to meet the activities contemplated, the Regulation sets out a series of additional conditions that a business must meet in order to qualify as an operator.
In particular, the Regulation provides that, in addition to having to prove that it has the relevant knowledge and experience in the field, a business wishing to be an operator must present a concrete plan of its future operations that sets out the method it will use to establish a fare, the portion it will keep as operator and the projected evolution of its fleet of registered automobiles.
It also sets out the financial guidelines and criteria that operators must meet as well as the rules governing the reports they must provide to the Commission and the Minister of Transport.
The role of the registered dispatcher is to dispatch the trip requests they receive to qualified drivers. This dispatching can be done both by a physical person and through “technological means that do not require human intervention” (such as an algorithm in a mobile application). When registering as a dispatcher, the dispatcher must indicate the boundaries of the territory they serve. A dispatcher who dispatches trips exclusively on behalf of one or more transportation system operators is not required to register with the Commission.
Operators and dispatchers who offer trips requested by a technological means that does not require human intervention will be required under sections 35 and 51 of the Regulation to provide monthly reports to the Commission and to the Minister of Transport concerning, among other things, trip dates, departures and final destinations, amounts charged to clients, amounts paid to the drivers who performed the trips, and information regarding the automobiles used.
Before the first daily use of their automobile, a qualified driver must carry out a basic inspection. This inspection must be recorded in a report that allows the driver, in the event of a compliance inspection, to prove that the vehicle inspection has been performed.
The Regulation provides that the driver must check, among other things, the level of brake fluid and windshield washer fluid, the proper operation of the parking brake, windshield wipers, headlights and signals, the state of wear of the tires and their valves, the proper adjustment of the rearview mirrors, the absence of warning lights on the dashboard, and when effective, verify that the geolocation device is properly working.
The Act provides that any qualified automobile must be equipped with a geolocation device enabling the vehicle to be located in real time. The Regulation provides for transitional rules regarding the use of such devices.
There are three dates to keep in mind:
- October 10, 2020: the obligation to have such a device is effective immediately for any driver who, before this date, was the owner of a valid taxi owner’s permit and who is subject to the By-law concerning taxi transportation of the City of Montréal;
- October 10, 2022: the obligation to have a geolocation device will be effective as of that date for any owner of an automobile registered with an operator or dispatcher who dispatches trip requests exclusively through technological means that do not require human intervention;
- October 10, 2024: geolocation devices will be mandatory for all qualified drivers.
To be compliant, the geolocation device must obtain recognition by the Minister of Transport. The application for recognition must include a description of the device and the way in which it will be attached to the automobile. The Regulation also provides that every 5 years, a person who has obtained recognition of a geolocation device must send an expert report to the Minister confirming that the device continues to meet the requirements set out in the Act.
In addition to the requirements set out in the Act regarding the conditions to be met in order to perform a valid remunerated carpooling service, the Regulation provides that a driver may not request a financial contribution of more than $0.54 per kilometre travelled. This financial contribution is based on the trip carried out and not on the number of passengers. Thus, the maximum amount that can be charged remains the same regardless of the number of people who have benefited from carpooling.
For instance, this corresponds to an amount of approximately $108 for a trip whose departure point is Québec City and whose destination is Saguenay.
Temporary Charges – Dues
As noted in our previous article, the Act provides that a temporary charges of $0.90 must be added to the price of any trip performed. The Regulation establishes that this fee must be charged to customers beginning January 1, 2021. The dues must also appear as an individualized charge on the invoice paid by the customer. Similarly, owners of vehicles equipped with a taximeter must have their taximeter adjusted to show a reading that includes this fee.
As with sales taxes, an operator who collects dues in accordance with the Regulation is deemed to hold them in trust for the province of Quebec, separate from its assets and its own funds, and to pay them to the Minister of Transport within the time limits prescribed by the Regulation. The Regulation also provides that any person who fails to collect dues or pay them to the Minister is liable to a fine of $200 for each day that the offence continues.
Penal (Regulatory) Offences and Monetary Administrative Penalties
The Regulations establish penal offences for anyone who does not comply with the Act and its regulations. For individuals, these offences are punishable by fines ranging from $250 to $5,000. For businesses, the fines vary from $500 to $10,000.
The Act also provides for specific offences, including operating or driving without authorization, which are punishable by fines of up to $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for businesses. In addition, when an offence under the Act is committed by a director or officer, the minimum and maximum amounts fines that would apply in the case of an individual are doubled. The Commission also has the power to suspend or cancel an authorization it has granted for a transportation system and its registered drivers if they commit the same offences more than once or if they commit a serious offence justifying such a penalty. Neither the Act nor the Regulation provide for imprisonment.
The Act and the Regulations also allow for the imposition of Administrative Monetary Penalties ("AMPs") by the Commission. The amounts for an AMP range from $450 to $1,300.
In the case of an AMP, the Act provides that directors and officers are jointly and severally liable for the payment of the penalty. The Act provides that such AMPs are subject to a limitation period of two years and that they may be reviewed by the Commission upon receipt of a request to that effect within thirty days of the notice of claim.
The Regulation Respecting the Transmission of Information and the Multiplication Factor for the Fare (the "Transmission Regulation")
The Transmission Regulation governs the transmission of information to the Commission and to the Minister of Transport by industry stakeholders. This regulation includes the obligation of operators and registered dispatchers to send annual reports to the Commission and to the Minister of Transport, dated March 1st annually, concerning the departures and final destinations of trips. These reports will begin to be due on March 1, 2022 for trips carried out beginning October 10, 2021.
Operators and dispatchers who offer trips that have been requested by technological means that do not require a human intervention will already be required to provide monthly reports to the Commission and to the Minister of Transport under sections 35 and 51 of the Regulation. Such operators and dispatchers will thus be exempt from submitting the reports required under the Transmission Regulation. The monthly reporting obligation for registered operators and dispatchers will begin on October 10, 2021.
The Transmission Regulation also sets the multiplication factor for the price of a trip at 1.5, which means that in the case of a trip ordered by technological means, the price paid may not exceed more than 1.5 times the fee schedule established by the Commission.
The Regulation Respecting the Training of Qualified Drivers (the "Training Regulation")
The purpose of the Training Regulation is to regulate the training that drivers must complete in order to be qualified under the Act, as well as the examination that they must pass.
The Training Regulation provides that a minimum of 15 hours of basic training must have been completed by the driver. The driver must also have obtained a minimum score of 75% on a written examination given by the SAAQ. A candidate who fails the examination may take it again 30 days after receiving the result. In the event of a second failure, the candidate must redo basic training.
The Training Regulation provides that drivers who held a taxi driver’s permit before October 10, 2020, are exempt from basic training at all times. Their sole requirements are to obtain a new photo at a point of service of the SAAQ when their current permit expires and to provide to the SAAQ a certificate of no judicial record. The exemption granted to drivers who provide adapted transportation will be effective until April 10, 2021.
The Training Regulations also provide for advanced training on the transportation of persons with disabilities. This training is complementary to the basic training and lasts a minimum of 18 hours. As with the basic training, the pass mark is set at 75% and the procedures in the event of failure are the same.
For a qualified driver who held a valid taxi driver’s permit before the Act came into force and who had already completed training on the transportation of persons with disabilities under the Taxi Transportation Regulation, this advanced training is reduced to seven hours, but the driver must still pass the examinations.
Finally, the Training Regulation establishes that basic and advanced training will be provided in vocational training centres that have entered into an agreement to that effect with the Minister. For the time being, it is planned that the basic training courses will be given online and that those for the advanced training will be hybrid (i.e. online and in class).
With the enactment of the Act, Quebec went forward with its long-suspected deregulation of the taxi industry in Quebec. The regulations described in the article implement the Act and set out a clear path for drivers, dispatchers and operators looking to participate in the industry. From a regulatory perspective, Quebec seems to have threaded the needle between safety, accessibility, training and acknowledging the skills and permits of legacy stakeholders. The enforcement provisions adopted in these three regulations are many and are detailed. As such, drivers, operators and dispatchers should pay close attention to the requirements mentioned above in order to remain compliant and avoid costly fines and other administrative and penal consequences.
McCarthy Tétrault's Transportation and Logistics Group regularly advises stakeholders in the automobile passenger transportation industry. For more information, please contact David F. Blair or Brian Lipson.