Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Florida Senate wants insurance requirements for Uber drivers

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2016 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge uber.png
The Senate rolled out a new set of insurance requirements Tuesday for popular app-based transportation services such as Uber and Lyft.

However, senators are still not on board with a House measure that would prevent local governments from regulating "transportation-network companies."

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee unanimously supported a revised bill (SB 1118) by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, that would set insurance coverage for times when Uber or Lyft drivers have passengers in the vehicles, are traveling to pick up passengers or are logged on to the services while waiting for customers.

But the Senate measure, which must still get through two additional committees, doesn't include provisions in the House proposal that would create statewide regulations for the app-based companies or establish background-check requirements on new drivers.

Simmons said he's willing to "sit down and talk" with his House counterparts to discuss such provisions as long as they create a "level playing field" with traditional cab companies.

"I would be happy to find something that is a fair, across-the-board requirement for taxi cabs, for their background checks, for other items that relate to safety for passenger and pedestrians and of course the drivers themselves," Simmons said.

Simmons replaced a requirement from the initial version of his bill that would have required $1 million in coverage for death and bodily injury when a passenger is in a vehicle. Instead, that coverage is now proposed at $120,000 for death and bodily injury per person, $250,000 for death and bodily injury per incident and $50,000 for property damage.

The coverage numbers are closer to what taxi companies now pay, Simmons said.

Simmons proposal also would establish coverage requirements for when a driver is logged into the service, but not providing a ride or picking up a passenger. That would be at least $25,000 for death and bodily injury per person, $50,000 for death and bodily injury per incident, and $10,000 for property damage.

"This is the beginning of having some decent insurance coverage," Simmons said.

Last week when the House advanced its proposal (HB 509) to the House floor, bill sponsor Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, expressed optimism that the Senate will eventually consider the wider measures in his bill.

Senate President-designate Joe Negron, R-Stuart, called Simmons' proposal a "good start" that improves "legal conditions" for passengers and the drivers.

"I hope as this session unfolds, and in future sessions, that we'll also address some of the barriers to this option of ridesharing being treated equally and fairly and so customers can make an informed decision on whether they want to use traditional services or whether they want to use newly emerging options that are available," Negron said. "I hope that we, long term we'll work at taking down obstacle to competition."

The House proposal, which has been opposed by the Florida Association of Counties, includes preempting local-government rules about the services and would require Uber and other app-based companies to pay annual fees of $5,000 to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Some cab companies pay more than $100,000 annually in fees with cities and counties.


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