New Bills Could Put Uber, TNCs In Their Place

Posted on June 18, 2014 by - Also by this author

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Watch out. Uber has hired five lobbying firms to prowl the halls of the state Capitol in Sacramento to try to influence the outcome on two powerful bills regulating TNCs. Will they be any match for the California bear?
Watch out. Uber has hired five lobbying firms to prowl the halls of the state Capitol in Sacramento to try to influence the outcome on two powerful bills regulating TNCs. Will they be any match for the California bear?

[Note To Readers: This article is an update online version of one that ran in the June issue of LCT Magazine. Last updated 6:18 p.m. PT, 6/17/14].

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Two powerful measures that would put Transportation Network Companies such as Uber, Sidecar and Lyft on the same level as limousine services could finally deliver the long-sought solution to properly regulating TNCs.

The bills — AB612 and AB2293 — go where no state measure has before and could set a precedent for similar legislation nationwide. The bills carry the same clout as former bill AB2068, which since being reported about for the June issue of LCT Magazine, died in committee and was replaced by AB612 and AB2293.

“What these do for our industry is level the playing field for all for-hire transportation companies,” Rich Azzolino, President of the Greater California Livery Association (GCLA), said Tuesday morning. "That's all we are asking for. It would put safety in front of everything else."

The bills still face a labyrinth of committee deliberations, possible changes, and then later floor votes in both houses set to unfold during the summer months. Both bills were passed out of the Senate Energy, Communications and Utilities Commission on June 17. The measures will be heard by the Senate Insurance Committee on June 25.The earliest they could become law would be Sept. 1 when the California Legislature adjourns its sessions and the Governor then has 30 days to sign or veto the bills.

Gregg Cook of Government Affairs Consulting in Sacramento, a lobbying firm that represents the GCLA, said AB612, sponsored by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-46th District, has four key provisions. The bill is also supported by the Taxi Paratransit Association of California:

No. 1: Require all charter party carriers, including those on apps, to do Department of Justice background checks on all drivers. The GCLA agreed to that although no operators use DOJ because such checks need statutory authority. Any employee hired after Jan. 1, 2015 needs to be checked before employment. Any employee hired before Jan. 1, 2015, would have to be DOJ-checked by Jan. 1, 2016. The advantage of DOJ-background checks is they are generally cheaper, at about $40 to $50, Cook said.

No. 2: Require that TNC drivers be identified to the California Public Utilities Commission so that they can participate in DMV pull notice program. The program automatically notifies the CPUC and the employing transportation program of any driving violation by a chauffeur or driver.

No. 3: Require all TNC drivers to undergo drug and alcohol testing like chauffeurs.

No. 4: Every vehicle operating under a TNC would be in a database of the TNC and the CPUC, and every vehicle would have to bear a decal marking it as a TNC vehicle. Details of the type of decal and its position on the vehicle still need to be worked out. The GCLA had wanted TNC vehicles to bear TCP numbers, like charter-party carriers, but most committee members objected to that. The decals would help airport officials and law enforcement identify legitimate TNC vehicles, which they are unable to now, Cook said.

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