As Broward works to get Uber operating within the county again, the focus now shifts to Palm Beach, whose commissioners must also decide if they want to institute regulations on ride-sharing companies or have the popular Uber suspend operations there as well. Palm Beach County commissioners will be meeting Tuesday to decide if Uber must abide by certain regulations such as having drivers submit background checks with fingerprints and have them meet specific insurance standards.
Much like in Broward, Palm Beach is pondering having Uber and other ride-share drivers submit a fingerprinted background check directly to the county, which would then run through state and FBI criminal databases. For their part, Uber runs security checks on drivers on their own, but commissioners are concerned that it's not adequate enough. And while Uber offers its own insurance coverage for drivers, commissioners would prefer the company taking up a more thorough insurance standard.
But, like it did with Broward, Uber could suspend operations outright in Palm Beach if the regulations are implemented.
"Uber will not be able to continue operations if the proposed ordinance in Palm Beach County is fully implemented as written," Uber spokesman Bill Gibbons said on Monday.
And the fact that Uber made the same claim and then followed through in Broward — until commissioners there were forced to reevaluate their stance — might help Palm Beach commissioners with their decision Tuesday night. Moreover, the county's chamber of commerce has also made it clear that commissioners should work with Uber in order not to lose what is apparently a very popular service with Palm Beach residents.
In March, Dennis Grady, CEO of the Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce, sent Commissioner Steve Abrams a letter asking the commissioners to find a solution and negotiate with Uber.
In his letter, Grady cites the financial gain that the county has seen over Uber operating there, as well as the ride-sharing service's popularity with residents.
"[Uber] has connected hundreds of thousands of local people residing in and visiting our community with safe and reliable rides," part of the letter reads.
For their part, Uber has argued that getting extra insurance and running background checks the way the county wants them to would deter drivers from joining up. The company says its insurance is just fine, and implementing these regulations are an unnecessary burden.
"Liability for drivers to third parties is covered for a $1 million from the moment the driver accepts a fare to until the fare ends," Gibbons tells New Times.
The county, however, wants Uber to implement insurance standards that cover their drivers 24 hours a day.
Meanwhile, cab drivers in Palm Beach have complained that the county has gone above and beyond trying to appease Uber while leaving them by the wayside. Cab companies want Uber to adhere to the same exact standards as they're held to and see Uber as a major threat to their industry.
Those who side with the cab industry say it's a safety issue.
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"Uber is largely operating without regulations designed to keep consumers safe," Walter Dartland, executive director of the Consumer Federation of the Southeast, told New Times in May, after a number of cab companies sued the county to stop them from allowing Uber to run unregulated on a temporary basis.. "Such regulations as background checks, insurance coverage, and vehicle maintenance requirements aren't unnecessary red tape — they are practical policies designed first and foremost to keep the public safe."
Mostly, cab drivers want to see Uber regulated like they are, rather than be allowed to police itself.
“Uber continues to behave like an undisciplined 5-year-old throwing temper tantrums and threatening to take their toys and go home,” Palm Beach's Polo Cab driver Jennifer Condie tells New Times. “If the vehicles-for-hire industry disappeared today, the county would still hold us drivers accountable with a background check, and we are fine with that.”
Much like in Broward last week, Tuesday's Palm Beach meeting is expected to draw visitors from both sides. And, much like in Broward, commissioners say they've been inundated with emails from residents demanding that a solution be found. While Tuesday's meeting may not completely decide the issue, it is expected that the commissioners will vote on moving forward with a definitive plan on regulations. Those plans may very well decide whether or not Uber packs its bags.