Media Muddles The TNC Regulatory Debate

Posted on August 20, 2014 by - Also by this author

Town Cars, taxis and TNCs: Time to figure it out and get it right.
Town Cars, taxis and TNCs: Time to figure it out and get it right.

The Los Angeles/Orange County Register newspaper opinion pages are missing a key point in their libertarian support of Uber. A Sunday, Aug. 17 column by opinion editor Brian Calle — while making a solid defense of entrepreneurial freedom and valid critique of excessive government regulation — was the most recent example of how TNC defenders sometimes misrepresent the controversy over TNCs. That followed another column by a contributor on Aug. 14.

Brian Calle Sunday column here [Unavailable online so scroll through digital version of newspaper]

Ben Everard Aug. 14 column here

I’ll look at this strictly from the standpoint of the private sector chauffeured transportation industry, which simply says, either regulate TNCs like for-hire, charter-party limousine companies at the state level, or regulate TNCs like taxicabs at the municipal level.

Bottom line: Either regulate everyone the same, or de-regulate everyone the same, whether it applies to insurance coverage, criminal and medical background checks, wage and labor laws, vehicle inspections, airport and state licensing fees and rules, etc.

The Register article and much of its coverage omits mention of limousine vehicles and charter-party carriers, a distinct category separate from taxicabs and TNCs. And limousine operators certainly do not deserve to be lumped in as “entrenched interests” in the legislative debate over AB2293. This measure, if passed by the California Legislature, would require Uber to carry the same insurance coverage as limousines and charter-party carriers. And why not? They are using limo vehicles and behaving like a charter-party carrier, unless they want to consider themselves taxicabs. Or both. [See my blog post: Uber Suffers Identity Crisis]

If Uber, TNCs, and their supporters at the Register don’t like the insurance rules, then they should advocate for deregulation of or parity among all ground transportation carriers. A five-star restaurant does not abide by laxer health and safety rules than a fast food restaurant simply because it has a different food service business model.

Another nuance the Register should understand:

  • Taxicabs reflect more of a public-private partnership between local governments and privately owned companies. In many jurisdictions, there are a limited number licenses available for operations and stricter rules. Taxicabs are a quasi-public service, not fully like public transit, but not fully charter-party either.
  • Limousine companies are very much privately-held, Main Street America, small businesses whose owners generally favor fewer regulations and less involvement with the government. They don’t want to strangle TNCs. They are just asking state legislators and the California Public Utilities Commission to either treat TNCs the same as limo companies, or allow limo companies to run like TNCs.

The real culprits worthy of blame here are not the taxicab, limousine companies or even TNCs: It is government at all levels excessively and inconsistently regulating all transportation, coupled with haphazard enforcement, thereby creating too many disparities and inflaming all the ground transportation sectors into regulatory fights. That attracts lobbyists and the quest for loopholes, which results in crony capitalism.

Dumbing the TNC debate in California down to one of entrenched interests versus enterprising entrepreneurs avoids the crux of the issue and plays into the public relations deceptions of TNCs and their lobbyists. Just like any NFL season, World Series, World Cup or Olympics, the rules of the ground transportation game must apply the same to all players at all times.

As the freedom theorists/opinion writers at the Register should well know, free markets only thrive based on ordered liberty, and ordered liberty is predicated on equality under the law. That creates American equality of opportunity. Now let’s make that a reality for limos, taxis and TNCs.

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