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Legislators want to regulate Uber

Uber AppBy The Iowa Statesman

 

When the popular ride-share business Uber moved into Des Moines last fall, it created quite a bit of controversy, because it does not employ licensed taxi-cab drivers, as is currently required by city regulations.

A bill offered yesterday in the Iowa House of Representatives is meant to address the licensing and regulation issue on a statewide basis. House Study Bill 117, offered by the House Committee on Commerce, chaired by state Rep. Peter Cownie (R-West Des Moines), is a comprehensive bill.

Almost all of the nearly 10 pages – if you don’t include the bill’s explanatory statement – in the proposed legislation would create new sections in the Iowa Code meant to regulate “transportation network companies” like Uber. Cownie has not yet responded to a request to comment on the bill.

HSB 117 defines a transportation network company as “an entity that uses a digital network or software application service to connect passengers to drivers providing transportation network company services. The bill provides that a transportation network company is not required to own, control, operate, or manage the motor vehicles used by its drivers, and stipulates that the services provided are not to be equated as those provided by motor carriers, private carriers, charter carriers, common carriers, or taxi-cab services.

The proposed legislation does require transportation network companies from obtaining permits from the Iowa Department of Transportation, and to meet certain requirements for the permits. Each permit requires a $5,000 annual fee, which is used by IDOT to administer the provisions of the bill.

It also requires transportation network companies to maintain an “agent” in the state, and provide passengers with an image of the driver, the license plate number of the driver, the calculation method for the fare, the option of receiving an estimated fare, and an electronic receipt. Further, they are required to maintain certain forms of insurance coverage.

HSB 117 also requires transportation network companies to adopt a policy prohibiting the use of drugs or alcohol by a driver while the driver is providing services, or is logged on to the company’s digital network and available to receive requests from potential drivers.

“The policy must include a procedure by which a passenger can submit a complaint against a driver with whom the passenger was matched by the company if the passenger reasonably suspects the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol while providing services to the passenger,” the bill’s explanatory statement says. “Upon receipt of a passenger complaint alleging a violation of the drug and alcohol policy, the company shall immediately suspend the driver’s access to the company’s digital network or software application service and shall conduct an investigation into the reported incident.”

The bill requires the following from transportation network company drivers:

  • must possess a valid Iowa driver’s license,
  • must possess a valid proof of Iowa vehicle registration,
  • must possess proof of financial liability coverage, and
  • must not have been convicted of certain moving violations or other crimes within certain periods of time before applying to be a transportation network company driver.

HSB 117 also prohibits drivers from soliciting or accepting passengers hailing the driver from the street, and from accepting cash payments from passengers. The bill further prohibits discrimination against passengers and potential passengers, and requires drivers to comply with all laws relating to accommodation of service dogs and assistive animals, and prohibits drivers from imposing additional charges for providing services to a passenger with a physical disability.

“The bill provides that a TNC shall provide a passenger the opportunity to indicate whether the passenger requires a wheelchair-accessible motor vehicle as part of the passenger’s request for transportation,” the bill’s explanatory statement says. “If the company cannot, under any circumstances, arrange a wheelchair-accessible motor vehicle to provide the passenger with services, the company shall provide the contact information of an alternate provider of wheelchair-accessible transportation, if available.”

The proposed legislation also provides for the retention of certain records, and prohibits the release of personal information, except under limited circumstances. It gives IDOT sole administrative oversight of transportation network companies, and prohibits local governments – cities and counties – from imposing requirements on the companies or their drivers.

Uber Technologies’ lobbyist in Des Moines, Michael Triplett has indicated the company is “undecided” on HSB 117. The company has not yet responded to requests for comment from The Iowa Statesman regarding the proposed legislation.

 

The Iowa Statesman will update this article as warranted.