Uber Observers Catch an Earful At NELA Event

Posted on April 25, 2014 by Tom Halligan - Also by this author

The two young Uber gentlemen listening to the panel session on rogue mobile apps, held on the exhibit floor during the closing session of the New England Livery Association’s (NELA) Seminar and Trade Show Tuesday, underscores the fact that the Uber machine knows it is up against stiff — and growing — resistance from the limousine, taxi and black car transportation industries.

The two Uberites, who looked like they would be more at home at a Starbucks sipping a designer coffee than attending a limousine industry event, paid their way into the open event just to attend the session. But word did spread that they were in attendance.

Not that it mattered. If anything, they’ll have a lot to write in their post-session recon report to Uber management. They both certainly got more than a collective earful of negative shots from panelists Dawson Rutter, president and founder, Commonwealth Worldwide; Robert Werth, president, Diamond Transportation and president of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA); Alfred LaGasse, CEO of the TLPA.

I noted in my last blog post that Uber and the other rogue transportation app companies are here to stay. After the session, I’m going to hedge on that comment because there appears to be more of a groundswell of opposition growing now that the honeymoon period is over with these new wave of disruptive apps.

Dawson Rutter said that he believes the emergence of rogue app companies “caught politicians by surprise” who were swayed by an initial groundswell of support about these transportation apps.  “But when you see that they operate illegally, don’t have the proper insurance, or licensing, they will realize that they made a mistake and there will be a backlash,” noted Rutter.

The panelists also agreed that  if the taxi industry goes by the wayside because of rogue apps, then who is there to serve people who historically rely on taxis to serve them—the poor, elderly, handicapped, and others who don’t have credit cards, or can’t afford a Uber ride when “surge pricing” kicks in at their whim?

Safety? Insurance? Driver screening? All of these issues are ammo for the industry to lobby politicians to enforce Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to get religion when it comes to rules and regulations.

Discussing the big picture of rogue app companies, panel members stressed that as negative incidents and lawsuits begin to pile up in the future regarding the lack of proper insurance, driver qualifications, and vehicle safety, more scrutiny will be directed on their operational model.

“I never thought the government would allow these companies to operate with commercial insurance policies,” said Robert Werth. “These companies will look you in the eye and lie (about their operations) and they haven’t come forward to be fully transparent … we have to get the facts out there,” he added.

 I’m sure that last comment was duly noted by the Uber guys …












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