Comment from Will Brownsberger
Thank you, Andrew for this update. I remain concerned about elements of these bills that would operate to limit the availability of ride-sharing. The notion that taxis and ridesharing services should operate on a “level playing field” is misguided — ridesharing services are a new model that should not be subject to the same rules as taxi services.
As ridesharing continues to grow in popularity, there is an increased interest in regulating this rapidly expanding industry. In Massachusetts, authority to regulate vehicles for hire is granted to the cities and towns. (M.G.L. Ch. 40, Sec. 22) The regulations that exist in different cities and towns across Massachusetts do not contemplate the type of service offered by Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft. The existing TNC business model, does not limit its service within municipal boundaries, but instead offer service to a whole region. TNCs use location based software to connect passengers with drivers. State motor vehicle regulations 540 CMR 2.00, were recently updated to define TNCs as a distinct and new industry, separate from taxi or livery. These regulations also define a “personal transportation network vehicle,” as a private vehicle rather than a commercial vehicle, which has implications regarding liability insurance. Although some TNC products use cars registered as livery vehicles, some drivers use their own personal vehicles to offer this service.
Five bills have been filed in this session relative to TNCs. The different bills offer different flavors of regulation within a few primary areas: state oversight, insurance and public safety. Brief summaries of the bills are below:
This bill grants the Department of Public Utilities oversight of TNCs, funded by an assessment on the industry. It would require all TNC vehicles be registered as livery vehicles, which would require more expensive commercial insurance. TNC drivers are required to have a $1 million liability policy, at all times, even when the vehicle is not in use as a TNC vehicle. It would require extensive background checks, including a fingerprint test submitted checked against an FBI database. Drivers would be required to submit to random and “reasonable suspicion” drug testing. Drivers would have to be at least 21 years of age. All vehicles would be required to be five model years old or newer and externally marked as TNC vehicles. Every driver must have photographic identification displayed in the vehicle available at all times. Surge pricing would be eliminated to keep in line with taxis which are required to charge a fixed fare. TNCs would be required to maintain a 100:1 ratio of vehicles to wheelchair accessible vehicles. TNCs would be barred from operating at the airport unless authorized to do so by the MassPort.
This bill will also grant oversight of the industry to Department of Public Utilities, funded by an assessment on the industry. It requires $1,000,000 of insurance coverage for death or personal injury provided by the TNC or the driver, or some combination thereof, while the driver is “engaged” in a ride. While the driver is logged on to the app, the driver’s personal automobile insurance policy shall not provide any coverage unless the policy expressly provides for it. Drivers must be at least 21 years of age and are subject to comprehensive background checks. Vehicles must registered in the Commonwealth and inspected annually.
This bill grants the Department of Public Utilities oversight of the industry. It requires $1,000,000 of coverage for death or personal injury provided by the TNC, but only while the driver is engaging in “TNC Services” – which starts when a ride is accepted and ends when the passenger exits the vehicle. The driver’s personal automobile insurance policy shall not provide any coverage while the TNC app is on, unless the policy expressly provides for it. This bill requires the TNC drivers be subject to comprehensive background checks. Drivers are required to be at least 19 years of age. Vehicles are required to satisfy the safety and emissions requirements of the state in which the vehicle is registered. If the TNC cannot provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles, the TNC must arrange for alternate transportation for the passenger, if available.
As the title of this bill implies, it focuses on insurance requirements. This bill allows TNC drivers to use personal vehicles. TNCs are required to provide insurance as long as the driver is logged into the app in the amounts of $100,000/$300,000 per person/per accident for bodily injury or death and $50,000 for property damage. While the driver is logged on to the app, the driver’s personal automobile insurance policy shall not provide any coverage unless the policy expressly provides for it. The bill requires that TNCs inform drivers in writing about the limits of the insurance offered by the TNC while the vehicle is being used for TNC services.
This bill creates definitions of TNCs and TNC drivers, who are not considered employees of the TNC. It requires that all TNC cars be registered as livery vehicles, which would require commercial insurance. The bill also imposes a $1 surcharge on every ride originating in Boston or Cambridge to be paid into the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority Fund.
The first four bills listed above were heard by the Joint Committee on Financial Services on September 15th, 2015. The fifth bill is before the Joint Committee on Transportation and has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. To see how some of the proposed regulations on TNCs compare to those for taxis, I have posted the Boston Taxi Regulations and Cambridge Taxi Regulations.
Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger