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Uber should pay for full cost of its risk

February 10th, 2016
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Recently, Uber sent out an alert urging the Legislature to act so it could do business in Florida.

What? Last time I checked, the Uber app was live from Key West to Pensacola.

In fact, most localities now allow “transportation network companies.” Dade and Broward counties made changes for Uber. Sarasota deleted all regulations, even background checks, at Uber’s behest. And Orlando offered a deal to allow Uber to operate, including access for its limousine service at the airport.

Still Uber wants a statewide law, written by Uber, to operate any way it pleases. This despite the fact that cities have already stripped away virtually all regulations related to permits, fees, fares, the Americans with Disabilities Act and so on.

But Uber needs another fix: insurance. In addition to being exempt from all local regulations in the future, Uber wants the state to endorse its insurance model as sufficient. The problem is, it’s not.

Roger Chapin is vice president of public affairs for Mears Transportation.

In fact, Florida’s insurance commissioner warned of gaps in coverage for TNCs, stating, “I don’t think people are aware of the limitations that are on the coverage, and it’s not the same if they were in a taxicab.”

Uber likes to point out it has a national agreement with four insurance companies. And it argues the insurance is sufficient.

Well, surprise, surprise! Uber agrees to a plan that reduces its costs and insurance companies agree to a plan that limits their exposure.

Here is where the rubber meets the road. Uber states that when its drivers are cruising around with the app on, but with no passengers, they should not be required to carry the same amount of insurance as other vehicles for hire, like taxis. Even though current law says they should.

So what type of activity is it? Judge for yourself. Open your Uber app right now. Move the pin over to Disney, Universal, International Drive or just outside the airport. What do you see?

You see Uber drivers cruising for business, jockeying for position for their next fare. Why? Because this is where the trips are. Taxis stage in the same areas.

The difference is that taxis are required to have 24-7 commercial insurance covering the added risk associated with commercial activity. The more you drive, the more likely you are to be in an accident. In fact, taxis have more accidents without passengers than they do with passengers. And I’ll bet Uber drivers do, too.

Why does Uber want to avoid added insurance requirements? Simple. Money.

If the Legislature wants to ensure local governments are pre-empted from regulating TNCs, that’s one thing. But the Legislature should ensure appropriate insurance levels are required to protect the public and keep Uber from unfairly sharing its risk with the rest of us.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-uber-insurance-myword-021016-20160209-story.html

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