Regulations for Ride-Hailing Services Await Gov. Christie’s Approval

By Michael Hill

As he sat in the queue outside Penn Station, cab driver Emmanuel Ade said it’s about time lawmakers do something to protect folks who hail Uber and Lyft rides.

“I’m thinking always about them. When they take the Uber, they don’t have coverage. Because it’s my own car, my insurance is with me and my family. It doesn’t cover any passenger,” Ade said.

But, that could change. Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved requiring ride-hail drivers to have insurance to cover passengers and have permits to drive them, but they left it up to the state attorney general to decide how to do background checks.

Mark drives for Uber and would only give his first name.

“I think that it’s a positive thing to have background checks because as a driver I am seeing a lot of parents dropping their kids off with me. There’s a lot of late night rides. Whether it’s a younger person or an older person, or just anyone in general you’re riding alone with a stranger. I think as a rider you want the peace of mind knowing that this person is not a felon, does not have a crazy driving record,” he said.

Both Uber and Lyft say they support the statewide standards.

“We’re thrilled that the legislature passed the legislation that will accomplish a lot of things for New Jersey. We believe that if signed into law, this legislation will enable more modern transportation options like Lyft to be available to residents around New Jersey. It will improve public safety by cutting down on drunk driving and it will provide economic opportunities for the thousands of people in New Jersey who choose to drive with Lyft. So for all those reasons we are thrilled that the legislation was passed. We hope the governor signs it and New Jersey would become the 37th state in the country to have comprehensive ride sharing legislation,” said Lyft Director of Communications Adrian Durbin.

“It’s a good signal to the industry that New Jersey is the kind of place that they should invest in,” said Sen. Joe Kyrillos.

Kyrillos co-sponsored the bill.

“Right now we have a patchwork of potential laws out there. Uber’s left certain locations in the country because of  intransigents, other kids of problems. We want them to stay here, but we also want there to be some degree of oversight,” he said.

The taxi lobby says the absence of equal requirements for ride-hail drivers was steering some cab drivers into bankruptcy. The lobby says it had one goal.

“The playing field was leveled, by making sure that everyone who provides transportation to the citizens and residents of the State of New Jersey were protected not only with their rides, but also as far as insurance and things of that nature and protecting the driver,” said CWA Local 1039 President Lionel Leach.

The taxi industry lobbied hard for lawmakers to require fingerprinting of Uber, Lyft and other car-hail drivers but in the end the issue was punted to the attorney general.

“For the legislature to take that piece of it and side with Uber and said we can use our system, our system is best and not protect the residents of the State of New Jersey, shame on them,” Leach said.

“The security standards for Uber and Lyft are pretty stringent, and as everybody who uses it knows right on your phone you see the driver, you see his face, you see his name,” Kyrillos said.

Does Kyrillos support fingerprinting?

“You know what, I’m not persuaded that it’s necessary,” he said.

“Lyft uses a comprehensive, modern background check process that we check against databases at the federal level, at the state level, at the local level to make sure that the drivers who are coming on to use our platform have a clean history and are going to be safe drivers. We feel very comfortable and confident that we have a good system in place,” Durbin said.

The state attorney general’s office would not comment on the bills. The legislation awaits the governor’s signature or veto.