'We're not recruiting fast enough' says the owner of a ride-booking company. As the province continues to reopen further, ride-booking and taxi companies are preparing to get busier. But some in northeastern Ontario say recruiting drivers to meet that demand hasn't been easy.
As the province continues to reopen further, ride-booking and taxi companies are preparing to get busier. But some in northeastern Ontario say recruiting drivers to meet that demand hasn't been easy.
"A lot of our drivers who are early retirees are reluctant to come back until they get their second vaccination," said Sharon Flinn, co-owner of Lockerby Taxi in Sudbury.
"And even though they may have their second vaccination ... they don't want to take that extra risk, you know, should the other variant, the delta one now, begin to penetrate into the community."
Lockerby had to lay off more than half of its drivers during the pandemic.
According to Flinn, about 30 percent of those drivers have returned to work. But not everyone wants to return.
For now, she says Lockerby Taxi has enough drivers to meet current demand, but the company is working to recruit more drivers for what Flinn believes will be a bigger demand in the months ahead.
Flinn said it can take a number of weeks for someone to get their taxi licence, which requires a criminal record check, and to be trained with the company.
"We've got to start recruiting now and getting them in," she said.
Lockerby isn't the only company focused on recruitment. URide is a ride-booking company that operates in a number of cities, including Sudbury, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay.
"We're not recruiting fast enough," said CEO Cody Ruberto.
"So we really need to ramp up, especially the weekend nights."
Ruberto said since they were allowed to reopen, restaurant patios have been jam-packed with patrons, who then need a ride home afterwards.
Ruberto also anticipates a huge spike in demand for rides heading into Canada Day, since some provincial restrictions will be lifted.
He added that the company has already seen a 30 percent increase in demand in the last two weeks.
"Over the coming months I think it's going to be one of the busiest times for ride-sharing, taxis, any kind of transportation service," Ruberto said.
He said when demand spikes that quickly it's really hard to catch up on the supply side.
"It normally takes a little awhile to build up your driving roster, so if you double or triple the number of riders coming through in a short period of time, it's always going to be a bit of a struggle," Ruberto said.
Meanwhile, the owner of Aaron Taxi in Sudbury, Mike Sanders, said recruiting new drivers is always difficult since hours are long and there are other risks involved.
"It was a challenge before, it remains a challenge," he said.
Sanders is also anticipating a surge in demand that will come as more restrictions are lifted.
He was able to keep all of his staff on throughout the pandemic, even though some didn't get a lot of customers. Because of this, he said the workforce at Aaron Taxi is in decent shape.
"So, we can handle a bit of surge," Sanders said, though there will still be times when people will have to wait.
"I hope people are patient."
With files from Sarah MacMillan