Broward County Commissioners will be voting today on imposing new regulations on ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. Among them, having more thorough background checks for potential drivers, including fingerprints, and inspections for vehicles. The ordinance also includes having Uber and Lyft obtain commercial vehicle licenses, meaning divers would have to register as a chauffeur and each car would equire a permit.
In theory, that sounds good. But Uber says the new regulations will seriously stifle the way the ride-sharing company conducts business in a community that has embraced it.
"The ordinance is very detrimental to our ability to continue providing safe, reliable rides and economic opportunity the residents of Broward County have come to expect," Uber spokesperson Kaitlin Durkosh tells New Times.
Uber has put out a petition asking customers for support and saying that since August of last year, its service has brought safer streets, economic growth, and less traffic to Broward and that the commissioners' ordinance would "take us in the opposite direction and undo this progress."
The county has been limited to statewide criminal checks every two years, but the ordinance would require local, state, and national criminal records of anyone applying for an Uber or Lyft driver job. At issue, however, is that Uber already has its own method of conducting background checks and inspections. The company says the new rules would simply create more hurdles to get the service out to customers.
For its part, Uber has offered an amendment to the ordinance. For example, Uber would like the ordinance to allow a third party to conduct background checks rather than the county. The concern here is that red tape can stall things if the county conducts the background checks, whereas a nationally accredited third party could get things moving along. Uber says a third party would also be more thorough in making sure no bad seeds get through. Another area Uber wants a third party is in vehicle inspections. The company is calling for the ordinance to allow an ASE-certified mechanic to perform inspections, rather than a mechanic from the county.
Another part of Uber's amendment package includes permits for having the ride-sharing format. Again, this would make things go smoother for drivers, the company says. This includes a reciprocity amendment, allowing driver-partners to freely operate throughout Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade counties.
"We're hopeful that an amendment package will be put forth that recognizes the unique nature of ridesharing services, better protects consumer safety through more stringent background checks, and delivers more consumer choice and convenience," Durkosh says.
Uber's main concern has always been having to adhere to individual county requirements. A bill proposed by Matt Gaetz, along with a Senate bill filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, propose statewide requirements for Uber and Lyft, including background checks. Gaetz's bill would also have drivers with a DUI conviction within the past seven years to be banned from driving for these and any other ride-sharing companies.
The requirements in Gaetz's bill are similar to Uber's own background check requirements, though it does not include fingerprinting.
Gaetz's bill, however, also requires Uber and Lyft to pay an annual $5,000 permit fee and to disclose their insurance info on their websites.
Back in December, Broward County sent Uber and Lyft a letter ordering them to comply with county driver and chauffeur laws, such as having their drivers obtain chauffeur licenses, permits, and decals. There are also requirements for a separate set of decals to be allowed to transport customers to and from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport as well as Port Everglades.
While the county has fined Uber for not complying with its letter, the two sides have constantly said they'll work together to find a resolution. Still, the county has issued fines to Uber drivers. The company has said it would pick up the tab for any of its drivers who get fined.