Broward Commissioners to Discuss Uber Returning; Company Asks Customers to Attend and Voice Opinion

Broward Commissioners to Discuss Uber Returning; Company Asks Customers to Attend and Voice Opinion
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Ride-sharing service Uber suspended operations in Broward County on July 31, citing what it called stringent regulations put in place by county commissioners. The move was twofold: to let the county know that the regulations were too complicated and onerous to allow the company to operate, and to get customers riled up enough to let commissioners know they needed to relax those regulations. Weeks after Uber announced it was leaving the county, commissioners agreed to revisit the issue after their summer break was over.

On Tuesday, Broward County Board of County Commissioners will meet to discuss possibly making changes to accommodate Uber and bring the ride-sharing service back to the county. Uber is calling for customers who want the service back to attend the meeting to make their voices heard.

In an email sent to Broward customers, Uber is asking for help in convincing commissioners how Uber's not being around has personally impacted them.

"More than 40,000 Uber users who tried to request a safe, reliable ride were left stranded [in Broward County]," the email says. "It’s clear that riders rely on this convenient option, and we’re working hard to bring back the Uber you know and love to Broward County."

The email goes on to say: "Your County Commissioners need to hear from you to understand how eliminating access to safe, reliable transportation has impacted you and your family. Join us at the hearing, where you’ll be able to share the challenges you now face without access to safe rides at the touch of a button."

Commissioners placed regulations in April that required potential drivers to submit background checks and fingerprints directly to the county, as well as follow requirements to carry commercial vehicle insurance. But Uber responded to the regulations by saying the new laws forcing drivers to get a county chauffeur registration, a car permit, obtaining commercial insurance, and having to submit background checks directly to the county were too restrictive.

"Broward County officials implemented one of the most onerous regulatory frameworks for ridesharing in the nation," Uber said in a press release at the time. "We have no choice but to suspend operations on July 31. We hope the Board of County Commissioners will revisit the issue when they return from break and work with us to bring Uber back to Broward."

Uber tried to work a compromise with the county and countered the background-check regulations with its own, asking the county to instead allow a third party to conduct background checks rather than the county itself. Uber's argument has been that a third party would be more thorough in making sure no bad seeds got through during background checks. Uber also asked for a third party to conduct vehicle inspections, asking for the commissioners to allow an ASE-certified mechanic to perform inspections, rather than a mechanic from the county.

Uber says it already conducts its own car inspections and background checks and argues that allowing the county to run these things would create bureaucratic entanglements.

The company points out that it already conducts extensive background checks by a firm accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, and that anyone who wants to be a driver is required to provide detailed information, including a copy of their driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance. 

Uber also carries a commercial insurance policy with $1 million of coverage per incident.

"Liability for drivers to third parties is covered from the moment the driver accepts a fare to until the fare ends," Uber spokesman Bill Gibbons tells New Times.

Uber has a rundown of its safety and insurance protocols on its website.

Still, commissioners were unwilling to budge from their regulations or even accept an alternative from Uber and voted 7-2 to begin fining Uber drivers. Fines ranged from $750 to $1,000 for any driver caught doing business within the county. 

Tuesday's meeting will be held at 2 p.m. in the County Commission Chambers, located at 115 S. Andrews Ave., Room 430, in Fort Lauderdale. Uber is asking anyone interested in attending and/or speaking to RSVP here.

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