Taxi companies in Penticton say they are taking every necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but it’s not enough to make most drivers feel comfortable with working through the pandemic. Dozens of unused taxis now sit in lots as drivers refuse work. (Phil McLachlan - Western News)

Over 50 Penticton cab drivers walk off the job amid COVID-19 concern

Local taxi companies have cut operating hours as drivers refuse to work due to COVID-19

Concern stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic has caused over 50 taxi drivers in Penticton to walk out.

In fact, drivers have gone home at such an alarming rate that Klassic Kab and Courtesy Taxi dispatch manager, Shawna Severinski, says she’s unsure how much longer her companies will be able to operate.

“They’re terrified,” Severinski said. “Anyone who has babies, children, elderly at home, we gave them the option of going on E.I.”

READ MORE: Taking time off work due to COVID-19 now falls under medical leave

Klassic Cab and Courtesy Taxi are now closed from midnight to 6 a.m., down from their usual 24-hour service. Severinski said this has never happened before in company history.

The two cab companies normally operate with 15 to 18 drivers on during the day. These days, they are down to just four.

In total, the fleets normally employ anywhere from 50 to 60 drivers. Now, they have just 10.

Severinski says the company is taking every necessary action to ensure the safety of both drivers and passengers.

At both Klassic Kab and Courtesy Taxi, drivers are sterilizing the cars and debit machines between every trip, wearing gloves, and customers must sit in the back seat to promote social distancing.

“We’re taking every precaution possible,” said Severinski.

However, some drivers are still uncomfortable working around dozens of people each day. Often they transport people who have just touched down at the airport.

As for the demand in services, Severinski said call volume is down but drivers are just as busy because of the lack of remaining workers.

She said if the situation doesn’t improve, she fears the companies may have to shut down entirely.

“It (shutting down) is possible. Right now we are desperately, desperately, desperately, trying to stay open at least Monday to Friday,” she said.

“Our hours are becoming less and less every day and we’re losing drivers every day.”

The only competing cab company in town, Eco-Cab, is having an equally tough time as a result of the pandemic.

“It’s been drastic, it’s had a huge affect on our business,” said acting manager Darren Regnier.

Eco-Cab has also been forced to reduce their hours as staff refuse to work. The company normally employs 14 drivers but are currently down to six. Regnier says he wouldn’t surprised if that number continues to fall.

He says he understands the drivers’ fears despite their best efforts to disinfect everything.

“We have a very public job so the drivers are nervous, and understandably so. Considering the size of the vehicles that we’re in, it’s impossible to maintain six feet,” Regnier said.

“There’s a certain level of risk that our drivers are not willing to take and it’s understandable.”

Regnier says business has still been steady despite the virus. Although, he’s not sure if this can be attributed to more calls or a lack of drivers.

One major difference that Regnier has noticed is the nature of the calls his company now receives.

“We’re not seeing a lot of frivolous trips anymore,” he said.

He stressed they won’t refuse anyone who needs a ride, adding that traffic along the airport route continues to be busy.

“We have to keep the community moving,” Regnier said.

“As far as I know we’re deemed an essential service so we have to maintain a certain level of service but we’re trying to go beyond that and I’ve only got so much to work with here.

“We are doing our very best to keep things moving.”

@PentictonNews
editor@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Here’s what is considered an essential service in B.C.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton may soon allow drinking alcohol in some public places

Trying to inconspicuously drink on the beach could become a thing of the past

Dementia intensifies loneliness and loss for seniors in pandemic, says caregiver

Seniors care expert says patience and sharing keys to helping those with dementia cope through virus

No injuries in Penticton Indian Band structure fire

The structure, which sustained significant damage, was boarded up and seemingly vacant

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

Central Okanagan schools ready to welcome students back

Students are set to go back to school next Monday, June 1

Houseboat company partly owned by Shuswap MLA withdraws controversial ad

The ad welcomed houseboaters from other provinces, contradicting anti COVID-19 measures.

Squabble between campers in North Shuswap leads to bear spraying

An argument over late night partying escalated into a fight which led to one person being sprayed

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

VIDEO: Flowers stolen from Vernon distillery

Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery captured surveillance footage of the thief in a black car

Fundraiser launched for North Okanagan drive-in

Vernon resident seeks to raise $20K to save Starlight Drive-In

Most Read