New Jersey Will Not Allow Uber to Self-Regulate

A bill has been introduced in the New Jersey legislature to regulate “ride-sharing” services, such as Uber and Lyft, in the same manner as other car and limousine services by requiring driver background checks, insurance and vehicle inspections. All other car and limousine services ask for is a fair playing field.

Representatives from Uber and Lyft said the bill imposes onerous requirements upon them. Uber and Lyft tout their service as one where people use a smart phone application to connect riders with a ride and are usually provided by a private driver using their personal vehicle. Taxi drivers and other car and limousine services have complained that they (ie Uber and Lyft) don't pay the same fees for licensing and that the public is at risk because they're not subject to the same regulations.

Representatives of Uber and Lyft said legal proposals to require them to carry more insurance than taxis and other car and limousine services would make it impossible to do business in the state. Representatives of Uber and Lyft, which are known as Transportation Network Companies, claim they shouldn't be covered by the same regulations as taxi and limo companies because those vehicles are only driven for commercial purposes.

Insurance seems to be the biggest point on difference between the lawmakers and ride sharing companies. Several lawmakers said ride share drivers use their personal auto insurance policies while on the job, which wouldn't cover commercial use of their vehicles. Car and limousine services in New Jersey want things to be equal because they pay insurance for the whole day, pay for drivers to get fingerprinted, pay taxes, get background checks, pay the city for licenses and medallions.

Lyft claims to be more like a ride share or car pool because the drivers take their regular route and offer a seat to someone who would be driving. While a Lyft driver may not be looking to make a majority of their income as a driver that should not matter. While these people may or may not be driving part time, they are clearly not people who are simply driving to work and offering someone a seat.

Lawmakers in New Jersey are questioning the practice of charging higher prices at time of higher demand. While “surge pricing” may encourage more drivers to offer rides, it is inherently unfair to the consumer. Overall, this is about public safety. The state cannot to allow non-professional drivers, who have not been properly been vetted, to be transporting consumers. From a law enforcement perspective, having Uber and Lyft performing their own background checks are worthless. It is akin to risking that a company will simply perform a Google search before permitting a driver to operate. One thing is clear and that premise is that self-regulation is a recipe for disaster.