Regulations

California Operators Speak Out at Public TNC Hearing

Posted on October 24, 2014 by

The Public Participation Hearing was held at the Torrance, Calif., City Council Chambers.
The Public Participation Hearing was held at the Torrance, Calif., City Council Chambers.

TORRANCE, Calif.— On Thursday, Oct. 23rd, the California Public Utilities Commission held an open Public Participation Hearing to gather comments from the public about issues and concerns regarding Transportation Network Companies (TNCs).

The speakers commented on a list of topics written by the CPUC in a published agenda, covering the TNCs’ ability to service people with disabilities, service all zip codes, comply with airport rules, maintain proper insurance coverage, and provide safe and reliable transportation to the public.

In attendance were TNC drivers and riders, city officials, advocacy groups, limo operators and association members, who all voiced their positions and beliefs on the current state of TNC operating procedures in the state of California.

Jonna Sabroff, president of ITS in Los Angeles, and former executive vice president & legislative chair of the GCLA spoke about the concern for public safety when riding in TNCs. She cited Uber’s past invocations of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to extricate itself from liability when violent incidents occur. Uber has released statements after accidents and claims before, identifying itself as a technology company and not a transportation provider and therefore not liable for damages, with the most recent example being the Sept. 23rd hammer attack of Roberto Chicas in San Francisco.

Jonna Sabroff, president of ITS in Los Angeles, and former executive vice president & legislative chair of the GCLA.
Jonna Sabroff, president of ITS in Los Angeles, and former executive vice president & legislative chair of the GCLA.

She also quoted a portion of Uber’s current terms of service contract stating that as a customer “you expressly waive and release the company from any and all liability, claims or damages arising from or in any way related to the third party transportation provider.” She stated to the CPUC, “Bottom line, the consumer rides at their own risk."

Perry Barin, affiliate manager at Music Express and GCLA board director, brought up the concerns of the Airports Council International, which recently published a list of recommendations regarding TNC operations at airports. Barin stated that San Francisco International Airport has had a TNC permit program in place since April of 2013, but that TNCs like Sidecar, Lyft, and Uber have only recently worked out an agreement for operating in compliance with airport authorities.

Barin stated the position of the GCLA as supportive of any airport TNC permit program, as long as it insures a level playing field for all other ground transportation companies servicing the airport. This includes parities in requirements for insurance, drug screening, background checks, and more.

Kevin Illingsworth, current vice president of the GCLA, spoke of the National Limousine Association’s (NLA) recent written position statement on TNCs. The paper was available for all in attendance at the hearing. He said the GCLA is not opposed to competition, but feels that TNCs are not providing the requisite “Duty of Care” that companies must be responsible for when servicing the public. These include actions like independently verifying criminal background checks, proper licensing, and operating in compliance with both federal and state regulators.

Kevin Illingsworth, current vice president of the GCLA.
Kevin Illingsworth, current vice president of the GCLA.

The hearing also had many voices in favor of TNCs, with drivers saying it provides new employment opportunities, and riders saying the service improves their ability to move around the city. TNC customer Mike Konowitz called Lyft “a godsend,” for its ability to provide people with disabilities an easy, affordable, and in his experience safe mode of transportation.

Matt Strack, of Strack Transportation, brought up concerns with insurance. The passage of AB 2293 illustrates that the insurance policies TNCs operate under, (with drivers only needing a personal insurance policy to operate), will not be enough to properly cover damages in the event of an accident. He noted how the GCLA’s recent collaborations with the California Insurance Commission, resulted in Commissioner Dave Jones offering a recommendation to the CPUC, saying, “Drivers’ existing personal automobile insurance does not cover TNC-related driving, and auto insurers are not planning to offer coverage on this risk in the near future if ever.”

These problems, said Strack, leave the driver, the passenger, and the greater public at risk in the event of an accident, and victims may not be recompensed even if found not at fault. An example given was the pending Lawrence V. Uber Technologies case, where a San Francisco bicyclist was struck by the door of an Uber driver and is now filing suit against the driver, Uber, and also the vehicle passenger.

The next event for the CPUC on TNCs will be on Nov. 4, 2014, in San Francisco, which will be an en banc session on new rule proposals for TNCs. For more information, go to www.cpuc.ca.gov/puc.

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