The Broward County Commission recently approved more stringent mechanical inspections of transportation network companies (TNC) such as Uber and Lyft, and all other for-hire vehicles. Now, drivers for these companies will have to undergo more thorough background checks.
Taxi cab companies have complained that TNCs don’t face the same regulations and fees they do and that these new vehicle for hire operators cut into their business, especially at the airport. Unlike taxi cabs, TNC’s are not paying airport fees for picking up passengers at the airport. Taxi drivers do, and this money is used to pay for the maintenance of the airport.
Under the proposed new terms, for hire vehicles will have to be inspected by a mechanic and meet requirements as proposed by the County. A checklist will be developed requiring mechanical inspections and aesthetic inspections.
“You don’t need two different inspections,” said Commissioner Mark Bogen. “I propose they go to a mechanic and get it done.”
“What’s important is that the mechanical inspection and physical inspection occur. Whatever is most expedient,” said Commissioner Lois Wexler.
“I think Uber is an innovative platform. It is part of a wave of what people call the sharing economy which is manifesting itself in numerous ways,” said Commissioner Beam Furr. “For Uber drivers, it is a lifeline and helps them find jobs that were not available them. People are using technology to communicate quickly and bring services and people together.”
Furr supports transportation network companies like Uber if they are willing to meet certain conditions. He believes these companies have something to offer consumers and that the competition they bring to the market will improve transportation in general.
“I think the competition has forced taxis to raise their game. They have enjoyed a monopoly and become complacent. Now we are seeing taxis push customer service, using apps and improving their cars,” said Furr.
“We use Uber and Lyft all the time. I love how you know exactly when they’ll arrive and the cost. I have been ripped off and stood up by taxis too many times. I will do whatever I can to support these two great companies,” said South Florida resident Diane Solberg.
The challenge is that this new technology is outpacing the current regulatory environment. And Furr believes these companies need to be regulated. He believes that all transportation network companies should undergo a background check, carry insurance and have their vehicles inspected for safety. “These are very low thresholds and I think drivers should be able to meet them,” said Furr.
Background checks of all for hire drivers would be expanded to include statewide and national criminal background checks and require fingerprinting. The broader background check would be conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI and alert the County if a driver committed a crime nationwide. Currently, Broward County conducts statewide criminal background checks and a driving record check every two years. The additional cost of the background screenings will be paid for by the driver.
“We don’t want to over regulate this industry, be we do want to protect the public and do what is in the best interest of public safety,” noted Mayor Tim Ryan.
“My issue is safety and security. I want to insure that a level two background check would flag the county if any crime is committed by a driver out of state or this jurisdiction,” said Commissioner Chip LaMarca.
“Life in this country is vastly improved through the past 20 years because of the free market,” commented Hollywood resident Omar E. Recuero. “These companies are showing how consumer demand trumps all.”
The County Attorney’s office will draft an ordinance incorporating the changes for a public hearing and future Commission approval.