Virus fears fuel a cab driver shortage in Penticton - InfoNews

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Virus fears fuel a cab driver shortage in Penticton

FILE PHOTO- Penticton's Eco Taxi owner Bairaj Gill says his company is trying to deal with a sudden shortage of cab drivers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
March 28, 2020 - 6:30 AM

Penticton taxi cab companies are struggling as they try to keep up with burgeoning demand combined with depleted crews of cab drivers.

Dispatch manager for Penticton’s Klassic Cab and Courtesy Taxi companies Shawna Severinski says the companies normally have 67 drivers working the city.

“Right now we have nine, and we didn’t lay any off, they demanded to go on Employment Insurance,” Severinski says this afternoon, March 27.

“They are telling us, ‘we’re not coming in, we’re too afraid,'” she says.

Severinski says what cabs are available are working hard to keep up with the demand.

“We run the post office mail carriers to their routes, we take doctors, nurses and home care workers to work. We’ve laid off four dispatchers and for the first time ever, we’ve had to close between midnight and 6 a.m. due to being short-staffed,” she says.

“You can’t force them into the cars. We are desperate for anyone with a Class four or better drivers licence who can pass a criminal record check,” she says.

She says the company has ads out for drivers across the country.

The company has also implemented extra cleaning measures including wiping down and sterilizing the debit machine and door handles after every fare.

“Customers must sit in the back seat. If we could find the plexiglas shields the New York City cab drivers have, we could get 25 to 30 of our drivers to return to work, but there is no one in North America open to make them right now,” Severinski says.

“We’re running at a loss every single day,” she says. The company pays for a computer dispatch system for 37 cars when one four or five are running, and pay the same price for its use.

“It’s getting difficult, but we’ll do anything we can to stay open and help essential services keep running,” she says.

Penticton Eco Taxi owner Balraj Gill says his company is also experiencing driver shortages.

“We normally have 17 drivers, we are now down to six,” he says.

Gill says many of his drivers live with children or older people and they didn’t want to risk bringing the virus home with them.

“We’re having a hard time keeping up, but we are doing our best to provide service to the community,” he says, adding Eco Taxi was also looking for drivers.

“We’re trying to keep the operation going 24 hours, but we have had to shut down by eight or nine, some nights, and others around two or three o’clock,” he says.

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