Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft have gained a groundswell of popularity in Florida and across the country, where deal-seeking customers praise the app’s ease of use and accessibility.
But Florida lawmakers say passengers are at risk when drivers aren’t required to carry the same level of insurance coverage as more traditional ride services, like taxis and limousines. Issues of coverage can get even more complicated when taxi drivers join Uber as a way to get more fares.
Two bills have been introduced, taking aim at the newer technology, though one is actually backed by the ride-share industry, while the other is firmly opposed.
One of those measures is SB 1118, introduced by Sent. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. That measure would mandate drivers who work for ride-hailing companies to carry the exact same amount of insurance coverage as taxis and limo drivers, from the moment they log on to the service.
Industry advocates for commercial ride companies support the bill, as do several municipalities. Local governments have been grappling with the issue of how best to wrangle some regulatory control over these services and keep passengers safe.
However, the insurance companies as well as Uber and Lyft are (predictably) opposed to the measure. A spokesman for Uber said 28 other states have adopted the Transportation Network Company insurance guidelines these companies normally use. The spokesman called Simmons’ measure “red tape” that will deprive those in Florida of “economic opportunity” that ride-sharing affords.
Instead, those entities are in support of the HB 509, recently introduced by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-4th District). This measure has significant bipartisan support, and passed with a supermajority vote – 108-10.
HB 509 follows the recommendations of the insurers as well a the transportation network companies, who reached an accord of years of fighting with each other. The bill would only address statewide insurance standards, and it would not stop local governments from passing their own licensing or permitting requirements.
Some cities have had varying approaches to the issue. For example in Lee County, commissioners have applied county regulations to Lyft and the others. Meanwhile, in Orlando, a city ordinance requires drivers with all ride-hailing companies to be permitted. Only 15 drivers were ticketed for the offense in the first month.
A petition has been launched by Uber to sway Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and others to pass legislation that is “modern” and “sensible.”
Simmons’ bill would require drivers of all ride-hailing services to maintain personal liability insurance that would cover a minimum of:
- $125,000 for death and bodily injury per person;
- $250,000 per incident;
- $50,000 in property damage.
These amounts seem reasonable considering Florida’s personal rates for vehicles are extremely low, and usually fail to cover the full extent of damages and losses to others when the insured causes an auto accident.
One point of Simmons’ proposal with which the ride-share services take issue is that drivers not logged into the service would be required to keep a minimum $25,000 per person, $50,000 per incident and $10,000 for property damage. That’s more than state law requires for all drivers, and Uber and others say it’s punishing drivers for their occupation.
Meanwhile, Gaetz’s bill doesn’t have any minimum insurance requirements for those drivers who aren’t logged into the app, but he would require 20/100/50 for those who are. When a driver picks up a passenger, the insurance would go up to $1 million for death, bodily injury and property damage – that’s the amount Uber and Lyft currently cover.
Both bills also would mandate drivers carry PIP coverage – something Florida law doesn’t require of cab and limo drivers.
Gaetz’s bill does not require uninsured motorist coverage to for ride-sharing drivers, whereas Simmons’ bill does.
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Lawmakers take aim at Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing companies in competing bills, Feb. 8, 2016, By Jeff Schweers, Naples Daily News
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