A Closer Look At Commercial Passenger Transportation Licencing

If you’re offering  a taxi, limo or similar kind of commercial passenger service, you’ll know about the Passenger Transportation Branch and the Passenger Transportation Board. If you don’t, or if you’re just wanting to get started in the industry, chances are pretty good you might have never heard of them before.

The Branch or The Board

If you’re looking for the “Coles Notes” version, it basically comes down to this: if you’re driving people around, and you’re making money at it, you probably need a licence. The folks at the Passenger Transportation Branch are the ones that make that happen.

Depending on the vehicle(s) a company wants to use and the service they want to provide, they will need either a general authorization or special authorization licence. What’s the difference? Well, the general authorization licences are for vehicles like large tour, charter or sight-seeing buses with routes that are determined by the company. Special authorization licences are for companies that operate private inter-city buses or small passenger-directed vehicles, like taxis, limousines and ride-hail vehicles.

The branch handles all the general authorization licences, but they send any special authorization licences to the board for review and approval.

Think of it like this: the Passenger Transportation Branch deals with all the day-to-day business of commercial passenger transportation licencing and compliance, and they’re part of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. The Passenger Transportation Board is called on when decisions have to be made on appeals and certain licence applications, and they’re an independent body. So the two are separate, but connected.

The Passenger Transportation Board is also in charge of establishing how many passenger-directed vehicles can be on the road — for example the number of taxis and ride-hail vehicles.  Determining the supply of vehicles and their operating boundaries ensures that the public need is met, but that other factors are also taken into consideration like congestion and service over-supply. That’s important stuff.

Keeping Passengers Safe

In addition to licencing, the branch performs road checks of the vehicles they licence, like taxis and limousines. You might see our Passenger Transportation Enforcement Officers out at airports, cruise ship terminals, or wine route areas, verifying that licensees, drivers and vehicles are meeting provincial standards. These officers also have the authority to conduct audits on licensees to ensure company compliance with the Passenger Transportation Act and Regulation, and investigate complaints against licensed and unlicensed operators.

During 2018 and  2019, new rules for “party buses” and other passenger-directed vehicles holding 12 or more passengers (like limo-buses) were put in place that increase penalties for operators who allow passengers to consume alcohol on board. (It’s illegal, in any vehicle!) Unaccompanied underage riders must have a guardian’s consent to be travelling in one of these vehicles, and companies must provide a safety monitor whenever an unaccompanied minor is on board. Steep fines can be applied for non-compliance (think in the realm of up to $50,000!), so compliance is recommended.

With ride-hail now available, passenger safety becomes even more important in this newly regulated industry. Drivers must hold a Class 4 licence which requires passing a knowledge examination and road test that are both more difficult than what a standard Class 5 licence requires. Drivers must also undergo a police information check and a driving record check, and may not be eligible to drive if their records include matters deemed to endanger passengers.

These are some examples of what we’re doing to support passenger safety, but it’s important passengers also take steps to ensure their own safety when travelling. For some helpful tips on this matter, visit our web page which outlines information for passengers wanting to use ride-hail services.

If you’d like to find out more about either the branch’s or the board’s work to ensure that commercial passenger services are safe, check out their websites. And if you have any other questions about the branch or the board, ask away. You can leave a comment below or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter.


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Page 1 of 6 comments on “A Closer Look At Commercial Passenger Transportation Licencing”

Leave a Reply to tranbceditor Cancel reply

  1. How about $400 flat rate from Whistler to the Vancouver airport that is probably also illegal is it not especially when the drivers are instructed not to use their meter.

    • Hi there Long John – thanks for your message. If you suspect a company of over-charging, we encourage you to share your concern directly with the Passenger Transportation branch.

      Contact Information
      For questions about Board mandate, processes, appeals of administrative penalties contact:

      Passenger Transportation Board
      For questions about applications or compliance and enforcement actions contact:

      Passenger Transportation Branch Office:
      604 527-2198
      604 527-2205
      200-1500 Woolridge Street Coquitlam, BC V3K 0B8

  2. In Canada we have this pesky little piece of human rights called the Charter of Right and that Charter protects persons from having to prove they are innocent of a crime. The legislation contained in the Passenger Transportation Act is being misused with the encouragement of the PTB. That legislation in section 42.2 of the Act does not specifically require drivers to presen t themselves to the police to “prove” they are innocent. Why does it not make that specification? Because that legislation would be against the law. Instead the legislation sneakily is written to ‘imply’ that employers have the power to force prospective employees to get the check done and come back. That is slimy and not allowed. If the legislation requires drivers to be checked for CR, then the authorities must provide a method to obtain the check WITHOUT REQUIRING THE DRIVER TO PRESENT THEMSELVES TO THE POLICE. This is not-negotiable and must be corrected. I intend to present the PTB with a petition requiring them to explain this deficiency to the court.

    • Good morning Robert – thank you for connecting with us here to share your concern. We shared your comment with our staff in the PTB and they have asked that you contact Virgina Bishop, A/Passenger Transportation Enforcement Supervisor, directly at passengertransportationbr@gov.bc.ca

      We hope this is helpful. Safe travels.

  3. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for your comments about amalgamating resources in taxi industry and your other suggestions, based on your 31 years in the taxi industry. I will forward them to our Passenger Transportation Branch.

  4. For Your Consideration: It is time we amalgamate our resourses in the taxi industry. All permits should be issued by PTB, with police checks,etc being done by local police. This will create a pool of drivers and weed out bad drivers. Secondly with area licensing being discussed we need to set up a single dispatch centre for taxi’s which will, reduce overhead for stakeholders and allow for better coverage during peak periods. I believe this is an avenue worth persuing. I have been in the taxi industry since 1976 with Coral,Richmond,Royal City and Alouette taxi companies.