The city is taking steps to regulate app-based transportation companies such as Uber even as conflicting bills on the issue make their way through the Texas Legislature.
A city administrator presented a proposal to the City Council on Tuesday that includes imposing fees and city-initiated background checks.
“I think what we are trying to do here is level the playing field,” said Mayor Pro Tem Sal Espino. “There is nothing wrong with free-market competition as long as everyone is operating under the same set of rules.”
Unlike taxicabs, limousines, shuttles and even pedicabs and horse-drawn carriages, technology-based car-for-hire companies are not regulated in Fort Worth.
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Gerald Taylor, of the city’s transportation and public works department, said the companies fit best in the limousine category, with proposed rules including:
▪ Requiring vehicle inspections and city-issued decals;
▪ Collecting fees, such as a $150 annual company fee, a $25 per vehicle fee and a $25 decal fee;
▪ Issuing a 2-year driving permit; and
▪ Requiring drivers to pass a criminal history check, drug test and driver record check initiated by city staff.
Another change to the car-for-hire ordinance includes changing insurance requirements for taxis, limos and the app-based companies to create a tiered insurance plan, as opposed to requiring 24/7 coverage.
Requiring commercial insurance for Uber and Lyft drivers was a sticking point when cities like Dallas created their rules for the companies. Since Uber and Lyft drivers use their personal vehicles and use their cars for commercial purposes only when they are connected to the app, having a 24/7 commercial insurance policy is onerous, some say.
The Dallas ordinance requires commercial insurance coverage only when vehicles are carrying passengers or are on their way to pick them up. Less expensive coverage is allowed when the operator is not working. The Dallas ordinance goes into effect April 30.
The regulations proposed Tuesday would also change the age limit for cars-for-hire, which is currently 5 years for sedans, to 7 years.
The proposals will go back to a stakeholder group for input before coming back to the City Council in August for a vote.
An Uber spokeswoman did not return requests for comment about the proposals.
But House Bill 2440, filed by state Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, could derail the city’s effort. The bill would prevent cities from regulating the app-based companies and transfer that oversight to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
In contrast, House Bill 3358, filed by state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, would give cities the same regulatory power over companies such as Uber and Lyft that they have over traditional taxi companies.
Neither bill has been voted out of committee.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984