You Talkin' to Me, Québec? Big Changes Coming to For-Hire Passenger Transport by Automobile

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Beginning October 10, 2020, for-hire passenger transportation by automobile will take a new turn as most of the provisions of Bill 17, An Act Respecting Remunerated Passenger Transportation by Automobile (the "Act") will come into force. Three draft regulations have been proposed to address licensing requirements as well as standards for user safety, quality of service, driver training and fare transparency.

Enacted last October by the Parliament of Québec, the Act replaces the Act respecting transportation services by taxi (the "Taxi Act") and establishes a new framework applicable to all industry stakeholders. As a result, mobile applications for passenger transportation by automobile, which until now have only been available in Montréal and Québec City, should now be able to be used throughout the province of Québec. This blog post is intended as a general demystification of the Act and its regulations.

Purpose of the Act

The main objective of the Act is to monitor and control remunerated passenger transportation by automobile in order to ensure passenger safety and fare transparency, all within a perspective of sustainable development, reduction of carbon footprint and fairness among :

  • the different ways of organizing the transportation, whether or not it is offered as part of a transportation system;
  • the different means used to dispatch trip requests, by mobile app or otherwise; and
  • the different modes by which such transportation may be provided, including taxi, carpooling and public transit.

The Act also aims to promote access to automobile transportation for persons with disabilities and to promote emerging technologies and emerging modes of transportation.

To achieve its objectives, the Act modifies the concept of the "taxi" and establishes standard qualification requirements by introducing, among other things, the concepts "qualified driver" and "qualified automobile" which are explained below. As a result, the Act provides a better framework for passenger transportation by automobile that has been requested exclusively by technological means. Another interesting aspect of the new law is that it clarifies the distinction between remunerated transportation, carpooling and transportation offered by a volunteer driver.

It is also worth noting that in the event of non-compliance with the Act, the Commission des transports du Québec (the "Commission") will be able to impose monetary administrative penalties of up to $5,000. Similarly, a violation of certain provisions of the Act can result in a fine of up to $100,000.

Passenger Transportation by Automobile

For the purposes of this Act, "passenger transportation by automobile" means the movement of a person, the passenger, by means of a motor vehicle driven by another person, the driver. The vehicle used must not be capable of carrying more than nine occupants at a time, otherwise it will instead be subject to the bus and minibus regulations.

The Draft Regulations

As of July 15, 2020, the Quebec government has published three draft regulations. Each one of them has its respective usefulness and, in all cases, the drafts present transitional provisions to promote a smooth transition between the current Taxi Act regime and the regime under the Act.

In summary, the draft regulations are as follows:

Draft Regulation Respecting Remunerated Passenger Transportation by Automobile (the "Regulation"). The Regulation complements the Act and enables its coming into force by setting out rules that complete those provided for in the Act with respect to:

  • the training requirements for the various stakeholders governed by the Act and the content of their respective obligations;
  • the use and maintenance of qualified automobiles as well as the special features reserved for taxis; and
  • the recovery of an amount due under the Act, the collection of dues and the penal fines and monetary administrative penalties in case of violation of the Act.

Draft Regulations Respecting the Transmission of Information and the Multiplication Factor of the Fare. This proposed regulation, among other things:

  • provides a framework for the transmission of information to the Commission and the Minister of Transport regarding the starting points and destinations of the trips provided under the Act; and
  • fixes the multiplication factor of the fare at 1.5.

Draft Regulation on the Training of Qualified Drivers. The purpose of this proposed regulation is to regulate the training that a person must complete and the examination that he or she must successfully pass in order to be a qualified driver under the Act.

Standard Qualification Requirements

One of the main changes brought by the enactment of the Act is the obligation for all industry stakeholders to comply with the same qualification requirements in order to offer and perform a transportation service. The Act provides that transportation must be provided by a "qualified driver" and a "qualified automobile".

To this end, the certification of qualified driver or qualified automobile can be done either: 

- by being authorized as such by the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ); or

- by being registered with a transportation system operator authorized by the Commission.

A company wishing to operate a transportation system must meet the conditions set out in the Act and may apply to the Commission for authorization in this regard by completing a form (form available in French only) and paying the applicable fees.

Qualified Driver

To be a "qualified driver", as defined in the Act and its regulations, a person must, among other things :

- hold a Class 5 driver's licence that has been in effect for at least one year. The need for a Class 4C licence under the Taxi Act will be removed;

- have completed a minimum of 15 hours of training and passed an examination, the terms and conditions of which are set out in the Regulation on the training of qualified drivers. The latter provides that :

o the training must cover the legal framework for remunerated passenger transportation by automobile, safety, the transportation of persons with disabilities, and customer service;

o the required passing mark for the examination is 75%; and

o not have a criminal record related to the inappropriate behaviour of a driver of an automobile in the transportation of persons (e.g., not having been convicted of a criminal offence of impaired or dangerous driving within the last 5 years).

The government has provided transitory provisions for persons who hold a taxi driver's permit or qualify as a partner-driver in respect of the current regulations governing for-hire passenger transportation via mobile application. For instance, the holder of a permit issued after October 9, 2017, may be deemed to have successfully completed basic training. 

Qualified Automobile

A "qualified automobile" must meet the conditions set out in the Act and the Regulation. An application for authorization will be admissible, among other things, if the automobile :

- complies with the model-year and odometer-mileage restrictions according to the type of vehicle; 

- is not equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock device;

- is equipped with a real-time geolocation device (GPS) recognized by the Ministère des Transports du Québec (Ministry of Transport of Quebec); and

- is equipped to transport no more than nine occupants at a time.

Taxi Industry

Although the Taxi Act will be repealed, the taxi industry will not totally disappear. 

What Is a Taxi?

As of October 10, 2020, a "taxi" will be defined as an automobile that is (i) qualified, (ii) equipped with a domelight on the roof of the vehicle, and (iii) equipped with a taximeter, with some exceptions.

In order to meet all the requirements, the domelight must comply with the installation requirements set out in the Regulation.

Reserved Privileges

The taxi industry will benefit in a number of ways, including the following:

- The use of a domelight will be reserved to taxi drivers so that users can spot their vehicle from a distance;

- Taxi drivers alone may offer a hailed ride (called for on the street) or a ride requested verbally, either by phone or at a waiting station;

- Paratransit contracts with municipal transit authorities and the transportation of persons in an institution to which the Act respecting health services and social services applies will be reserved for taxis; and

- Taxi drivers alone will be able to offer their clients a choice of fare, if any.

Fare Charged for a Trip

Starting this fall, the fare charged for a trip must be in accordance with the rates established by the Commission,[1] unless the trip is requested by technological means. In this case, the processing of the request must not require the intervention of a physical person and the user must be able to know the maximum price, in writing, and agree to it before the driver is informed of the request.

Trip Performed by a Taxi Driver

Depending on the circumstances, a properly identified taxi may offer users a choice between :

- traditional fares, i.e., a fare that is established by the Commission. This fare is valid only if the trip has been hailed or requested verbally, either at a waiting station or by telephone, typically measured by the taximeter; or

- dynamic pricing, i.e., agreed with the customer and when the trip is requested using a technological means that allows the maximum price to be known and agreed upon before being put in contact with a driver.

Finally, Bill 17 also provides for a temporary charge of $0.90 added to the price of any trip made and payable by the client. This temporary charge will be used to fund a compensation program for persons or groups who, as of March 19, 2019, held a taxi owner's licence. Once the temporary charges have generated the full amount of compensation paid, they will cease to be collected[2].

Carpooling Offered as Part of a Transportation System

The Act provides for various modalities for public transit and carpooling. To this end, a driver who does not meet the requirements to be a qualified driver may still receive the same treatment if the carpool is part of a transportation system that complies with the Act and the following conditions are met :

  • the automobile used is a passenger vehicle as defined in the Highway Safety Code, that is, a motor vehicle equipped to carry not more than nine occupants at a time;
  • the driver uses the automobile solely for the purpose of carpooling and not for any other purpose within that transportation system;
  • the driver decides the final destination, and the taking of passengers on board is incidental to the purpose for which the driver is travelling; and
  • the driver complies with other restrictions applicable to the trips performed.

On this last point, the Act provides that drivers must limit themselves to a maximum of 2 trips per day, the total duration of which does not exceed 13 hours. However, if the departure and final destinations of all trips on the same day are located within the territory of the same metropolitan community, i.e. Montréal or Québec City, the driver may perform a maximum of four trips per day and must respect a cumulative distance travelled of 100 km.

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.

[1] To view the rates and fares currently set by the Commission, visit the Taxi fares section by clicking here (available in French only).

[2] Ministère des Transports du Québec, Programme d’indemnisation des titulaires d’un permis de propriétaire de taxi, on line : https://www.transports.gouv.qc.ca/fr/aide-finan/transport-collectif/indemnisation-titulaires-permis-taxi/Pages/indemnisation-titulaires-permis-taxi.aspx. (available in French only)

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