- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A bill awaiting Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s approval would create new statewide regulations for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft while overriding Salt Lake City regulations that have left the company’s drivers with big fines.

Sen. Stuart Adams, a Republican from Layton who sponsored the proposal, said that because the companies were picking up members of the public and operating outside Salt Lake City, the state needed to step in with regulations. “We need to try to find a fair way to be able to make sure they function, and a safe way,” Adams said.

The proposal is modeled after legislation passed in other states, including Colorado, he said.

The state law would require drivers for the app-based services to be covered by at least $1 million in liability insurance. Companies would be allowed to do their own background checks and vehicle inspections.

If the companies fail to comply, they can face a fine of up to $500 for each violation.

It’s unclear if and when Herbert would sign the proposal, but he has until April 1 to make a decision.

It classifies ride-hailing services as transportation network companies that are distinct from taxis.

Late last year, the Salt Lake City Council passed rules to regulate Uber and Lyft, which had been operating in the capital city for about a year. The city’s ride-hailing rules call for additional background checks, vehicle inspections and business licenses from the city. The rules also require that each car be covered with $1.5 million in liability insurance.

Uber and Lyft argued the rules were burdensome and redundant and said they wouldn’t follow them. Both companies said they already run background checks and inspect vehicles.

Since mid-April of 2014 through Thursday, 137 Lyft and Uber drivers have been cited for violating city regulations, according to the Salt Lake City Department of Airports, which regulates ground transportation for the city.

Each of those drivers was issued at least one warning before facing fines of up to $6,500, said Larry Bowers, an operations manager with the airports department.

The city employs secret shoppers to hail rides on Lyft or Uber and later sends a registered letter to the drivers that includes the ticket and fine.

Lyft had said it has fought the tickets by offering an attorney to drivers and has paid fines for them.

Chelsea Wilson, a spokeswoman for Lyft, said this week that the Salt Lake City ordinances treated the ride-hailing companies too much like taxis. They put onerous requirements for multiple licenses and inspections for individual drivers, many of whom do it as a part-time job and drive maybe a few hours a week, Wilson said.

The state legislation recognizes that ride-hailing is different, she said. “It also finds a way to maintain the highest level of public safety while also still allowing innovative industries to thrive,” Wilson said.

The statewide proposal would pre-empt Salt Lake City’s rules, with the exception of regulations regarding transportation to and from the airport, where separate security checks are required for commercial transportation.

City officials said that under the new law, drivers for Uber and Lyft who want to serve passengers at Salt Lake City International Airport would still need to get a special airport-issued badge and undergo a fingerprint screening and background check by the federal Transportation Security Administration.

The city did not take a position on the legislation. Art Raymond, a spokesman for the mayor, said the city plans to update its rules to reflect the new insurance requirement and is reviewing the rest of the state proposal to see if city officials would need to take any action to comply with the new proposal.

Messages left representatives for with Yellow Cab and Ute Cab Co., which operate in Salt Lake City, were not returned. Representatives for Ute Cab have criticized the statewide proposal in the past, arguing that it creates special preferences for Uber and Lyft by exempting them from city regulations.

Michael Amodeo, a spokesman for Uber, did not return messages from The Associated Press seeking a comment on the proposal. Representatives for the company told lawmakers earlier this month that they support the proposal.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide