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Carpooling in Canada: Is It Illegal?

Afraid of giving your neighbors and nearby co-workers a lift because you heard that carpooling is illegal? It’s not necessarily illegal, but here’s what you have to look out for.

Is Carpooling in Canada Really Illegal?

The concept of carpooling is a cost-effective and convenient one: you and someone who lives near you might be heading towards a similar area at the same time, but you have a car and they don’t.

To reduce your gas costs of traveling alone and to make the travel more convenient, you can decide to carpool and drive that person to your area. It’s not a hassle on your part because you were already planning on travelling there, and you also get your friend to pay for part of the gas used to travel.

Cheerful Asian businessman chatting on phone and hailing cab

But some people interested in carpooling in Canada may be hesitant to do so because they’ve heard that carpooling is illegal. Is this true? No, it’s not illegal per se. But it is regulated at a Provincial level because of people who tend to abuse the definition of carpooling for their own gain.

Here’s what you need to know.

General Definition of Carpooling

Without taking any legal regulations into account, the definition of carpooling is simple: you, the driver, have a car and are planning to drive from Point A to Point B. There are additional empty seats in your vehicle, so to make up for the costs of traveling, you decide to offer someone, a passenger, to let them ride with you. They live near Point A and are also heading to Point B, but they do not have a car. Paying you for the costs of the trip may be more expensive than public transportation, but it is much more convenient for them.

This practice is often done by co-workers who live near each other, neighbors who go to work in buildings near each other, and those looking to lower the costs of gas, toll fees, and other expenses of traveling by actively looking for people also traveling on certain dates and times. The driver does not earn a profit, but is simply looking to lower the costs of their drive by having others chip in.

driving a car

This is different from services like car share and ride share. Apps like Uber and Lyft are for-profit companies, and when you book your car, there is a profit for both the driver and the company. When you use their carpool services, the driver and the company still profit, but you’re paying less because you’re sharing the ride with someone else.

The difference between carpooling and ride sharing is essential to understanding why carpooling is regulated in Canada.

Legal Definition of Carpooling in Canada

While some countries do not have regulations for carpooling, Canada does. It is regulated at a Provincial level, so the rules may vary. But generally, for carpooling to be legal, it must fall under the following rules:

  • The driver and passenger have a common origin and destination.
  • The driver can do one return trip.
  • The driver does not turn a profit.
  • The driver does is not using a vehicle that has more than 10 passengers.

Canadian Provinces may have additional parameters, so be sure to check your local laws:

These laws were put into place for a good reason. Canada has an urban congestion problem, to the point that it’s affecting our country’s economy as commute times are becoming longer by as much as 50 percent. More private cars on the road mean heavier traffic that can affect everyone’s daily commute.

Carpooling has become a way to address these concerns. In Toronto, for example, for every 100 vehicles on the road, only eight of these cars are carrying a second passenger. If 12 more cars carried a second passenger, it could save the Canadian government $750 million a year in operating and infrastructure costs.

Unfortunately, as more people are looking for carpooling options, a few people are taking advantage of the growing trend and are establishing illegal carpooling models. This is what led provincial governments to establish these regulations.

Illegal Carpool Services

Ride-sharing apps: Taxis for the 21st century - Roadshow
Source:CNet

Many carpooling passengers looking online for carpooling services in their area may have experienced situations like these where, instead of a four-door sedan and the person they were coordinating with at the wheel, they find shuttle-style vans with over a dozen passengers. This clearly isn’t your everyday carpool, but someone attempting to provide transportation services for a profit and calling it a carpool to avoid the hurdles of public transportation licensing.

Transportation services that operate for-profit need proper operating licenses to legally service people and earn a profit for doing so. And because of these illegal carpooling schemes, provinces like Ontario and Quebec have begun cracking down on illegal carpooling. It’s typical to spot a legal carpool – they’re the ones in sedans and minivans driven by people dressed for their day jobs. But illegal carpools can also be spotted.

Illegal carpools are often done in vehicles carrying more than 10 passengers. They make multiple round trips from one point to another. And the driver of these vehicles has no purpose of going from Point A to Point B apart from the fact that they are driving their passengers to their intended destination.

In short, the driver’s trip is not “incidentally” similar to their passengers. So, the passengers’ payment is not to offset the costs alone, but to also profit.

Why Illegal Carpooling Continues

 

Compared to taking the bus or train, many people still opt for illegal carpooling because it was more affordable and less time-consuming than public transportation. However, these illegal carpool operations are unlicensed and continue to skirt the law by calling it a carpool. So, the passengers cannot be assured if the driver is licensed, if the vehicle is fit to drive, or, if the worst happens, if they are covered by insurance.

And because the internet has provided carpooling apps and forums like Craigslist to advertise carpooling, it’s become accessible to anyone willing to take the risk to travel for less.

Provincial governments and legitimate carpooling apps, however, continue to take steps to curb illegal carpooling.

So, Can I Still Carpool?

If you’re a sedan owner planning on giving their co-worker a lift to work, there’s nothing illegal about it as long as you’re not trying to profit. Just try to estimate the amount of gas used to travel and let your passenger pay for a fraction of it.

It’s not the perfect form of transportation. Carpooling has its own hurdles, like having to coordinate schedules and not being able to do things like stop for groceries on the way home). But carpooling can be beneficial to you as a car owner and for driving in general. You get to split the costs of your morning drive, and you can also help reduce the number of cars on the road when you allow others to ride with you.

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