Here’s how New Jersey lawmakers are trying to control Uber
As Uber and other ride-hailing services have grown in popularity in the Garden State, regulatory concerns remain about the drivers and their vehicles.
The Assembly Transportation Committee has advanced a measure that calls for regulating Uber, Lyft and other similar companies.
According to committee chairman John Wisniewski, consumers who are currently using Uber may assume there’s some measure of financial protection in place if there’s an accident and they get injured, but “that’s not the case under existing law."
The Middlesex County Democrat said the legislation would also require that drivers be fingerprinted, “to make sure that when you get into these cars that there’s a level of certainty that you’re being driven by a person who is not a danger to you or anybody else you’ve brought with you in the car.”
Uber has been battling other states and municipalities over similar legislation, which is often endorsed by the heavily regulated taxi and limousine industry. Uber has responded by arguing that more regulations could drive the company out of certain markets.
Last month, after Newark threatened to essentially outlaw Uber in the city and at its airport, the company agreed to cover drivers with commercial liability insurance, conduct driver background checks and pay the city $10 million in fees over the next decade.
Wisniewski said he found it “extraordinary” that a Uber representative speaking to the committee said because of their business model, they find fingerprinting to be inconvenient.
“The fair way to proceed is to require the kind of consumer protections that exist for other means of transportation. Bus drivers are fingerprinted, taxi drivers are fingerprinted,” he said.
He also scoffed at a suggestion made by an Uber rep that the company might have to leave New Jersey if the fingerprinting issue wasn’t “resolved.”
“This is nothing but a scare tactic. The reality is they make a lot of money, they’ll find a way to operate within what are incredibly reasonable guidelines,” said Wisniewski.
Other provisions of the legislation:
— These companies would need a permit from the Motor Vehicle Commission. The permit application would require submission of proof of insurance, proof that the company is licensed to conduct business in New Jersey and a $25,000 annual permit fee.
— The companies would have to adopt a non-discrimination policy with respect to riders.
— All passengers would have to have the option to receive a fare estimate prior to entering the vehicle.
— Drivers would have to have information on their smartphone while using its digital network that would allow a police officer to confirm their identity and the make and model of the vehicle.
— Drivers would have to be least 21 years of age, have a Social Security number and provide a copy of their drivers license, registration and insurance.
— Drivers would have to adhere to a zero-tolerance policy for using drugs and alcohol.
— Companies would have to maintain a six-year history of rides as well as individual records of each driver for at least five years after the driver stops providing rides with the company.
“The message to the New Jersey consumers is that we have your back,” said Wisniewski. “We want to make sure that you’re treated fairly, that you have the right kind of financial protections should something bad happen in these cars, and that you’re being driven by someone that’s passed a minimum level of security checks.”
The legislation will now be considered by the full Assembly in the coming weeks.