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N.J. limo drivers: Without any regulation, Uber scoffs at public safety | Opinion

By Jeffrey M. Shanker

Two of our main transportation hubs, Newark Airport and Newark Penn Station, have been in the news recently, but not because of the air or train travel of its passengers.

The issue: Uber — and other transportation network companies (TNC) — continue to reject city ordinances and are not regulated like other for-hire transportation companies.

Unfortunately, so-called ride-sharing companies like Uber have resisted the common sense regulations that taxi and limousine companies have abided by for decades. Even after a directive for Uber to cease operations at Newark Airport and Newark Penn Station, the company has encouraged drivers to continue illegally picking up passengers and has even promised to reimburse drivers for any towing fees or penalties they incur while in violation of the directive from city officials.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has urged the state to step in and pass legislation to regulate TNCs and I could not agree any more.

RELATED: Agencies won’t uphold ban on Uber, Lyft at Newark airport

A new way of requesting a ride cannot undermine the importance of public safety. The laws our legislators established have affirmed the importance of public safety. Why would New Jersey want to lower the standards that protect its citizens?

TNCs are actually more like a limousine service than a taxi company. A taxi has municipal operating authority only, meaning a taxi can pick up in Town A and drop off in Town B, but must return to Town A before they can pick up another fare.  But a limousine has statewide operating authority, and can pick up passengers anywhere in New Jersey.

These TNC’s collect fares, solicit rides from corporate clients and market themselves on the ease of use and quick service. Their own comments reflect that they are not in “ride-share” business, but in the for profit business of for-hire passenger ground transportation — an industry professionally run and regulated for public safety by The State of New Jersey.

In New York City, these TNCs already operate under the jurisdictional control of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, one of the most stringent and well enforced programs in the country, and there is no reason that companies like Uber should not be regulated in New Jersey with the same common sense rules of all other for-hire transportation companies.

The requirements of the New Jersey Limousine Law remain very simple:

  • Have a fingerprinted background check, conducted by the New Jersey State Police. This ensures the person chauffeuring you doesn’t have a criminal record and your information is safe.
  • Have a medical fitness test (physical) every 2 years to ensure the person operating the vehicle is healthy and fit to drive for a profit.
  • Test for controlled dangerous substances.
  • Operate a commercial vehicle, which is clearly marked as such.
  • Obtain and maintain commercial vehicle insurance in the amount prescribed by statute to provide fiscal responsibly.
  • Obtain municipal authority to operate.
  • Pay taxes to the State of New Jersey for payroll purposes and sales tax on service.
  • Provide Workers Compensation Insurance for the protection of the employees working for a TNC.

RELATED: For safety alone, Uber must be regulated just like N.J. taxis are | Opinion

An important step forward in this process has been the introduction of Assembly Bill A-609. We applaud its sponsors for introducing legislation that would help implement much-needed passenger safety protections; it would also create a more level playing field for all for-hire passenger ground transportation companies.

For decades, New Jersey’s limousine companies have played by the rules and transported residents safely.  All we ask is that the same set of safety rules and business requirements apply to everyone whether a ride is hailed, called, or contacted via an app.

Jeffrey M. Shanker is President of the Limousine Association of New Jersey.

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