Bipartisan Bill to Ensure Safety in Ride-Sharing Services Industry Advanced by Assembly Panel

Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joseph Lagana, Troy Singleton, Charles Mainor, L. Grace Spencer, Raj Mukherji, John McKeon, Carmelo G. Garcia, Angelica Jimenez, Craig Coughlin and John Wisniewski aimed at protecting the safety of passengers who use Uber and similar ride-sharing services was advanced Thursday by an Assembly panel.

“We have a duty to ensure that everyone who travels on our roads can do so safely, regardless of the type of car service they may choose,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic).

Originally proposed as seven separate bills (A-3765-3586-3401-3755-3751-3906-3854), the committee merged the measures to form a single comprehensive bill (A-3765) that would require ride-sharing companies to secure a permit from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and ensure that their drivers meet certain requirements.

To complete the permit application, each company would have to submit proof that it is licensed to conduct business in New Jersey and proof of adequate insurance.

Under the bill, from the moment a driver logs on to the company’s app until the moment he or she accepts a passenger’s request, and from the moment the passenger has exited the vehicle until the moment the driver either accepts another request or logs off the app, whichever is later, the company must provide coverage in the amount of at least $250,000 per incident for liability, property damage and uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, and medical payments coverage in an amount of at least $10,000 per person per incident involving a transportation network vehicle.

From the moment a driver accepts a request until the moment all passengers have exited the vehicle, the company must provide coverage in an amount of at least $1.5 million per incident for liability, property damage, and uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, and medical payments coverage in an amount of at least $10,000 per person per incident involving a transportation network vehicle.

Currently, “livery exclusions” written into personal automobile insurance policies allow insurance companies to deny coverage for claims related to accidents that occur while a driver is using his or her vehicle for commercial purposes, Lagana noted.

As such, the bill’s provisions call for the company’s insurance to be effective during the aforementioned periods and denote that a driver’s personal insurance would be ineffective during those periods. However, each driver would be required to maintain a copy of proof of his or her personal insurance as well as a copy of proof of the company’s insurance in the vehicle at all times.

The legislation would also require individual drivers to have an MVC license endorsement, to be issued after the company has:

· ensured that the driver has a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration and auto insurance;
· checked the driver’s license record, verifying that the driver has not incurred any disqualifying violations, such as reckless driving, driving while intoxicated or driving with a suspended or revoked license;
· checked the driver’s criminal history, verifying that the driver has not incurred any disqualifying convictions, such as aggravated assault, sexual assault, homicide, kidnapping or the unlawful use, possession or sale of a controlled dangerous substance; and
· inspected the driver’s vehicle, verifying that it meets state safety standards.

All applicants who meet the aforementioned requirements and become drivers for the company would be subject to license, registration and insurance checks annually, vehicle inspections once every other year and driving record and criminal background checks once every three years.

“Companies like Uber and Lyft certainly can make life more convenient for people who may not have access to personal vehicles of their own, but we have to make safety the top priority,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “This legislation is about establishing a sense of accountability so that both passengers and drivers stay safe on the roads.”

“This bill is a safety precaution to make sure that all passengers can rest assured that they will travel in a vehicle that is properly insured and is operated by a licensed, qualified driver,” said Mainor (D-Hudson). “Given the growing popularity of this type of service, it would be irresponsible not to take the action necessary to safeguard passengers’ wellbeing.”

“Ride-hailing services clearly provide a service that people need, but at present, when passengers get into the car, they essentially consent to being at the mercy of a complete stranger whose records haven’t been screened by any independent authority,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “These basic widely-accepted regulations are designed to protect consumers.”

“This bill will bring our laws into the 21st century,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “It will enable users of Uber, Lyft and similar services to continue enjoying the conveniences resulting from technology and market competition while ensuring the same types of regulation associated with every other mode of transit in New Jersey that exist to keep the public safe.”

“The emergence of transportation network companies is a prime example of how new technology can be used to connect people and make life easier,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “These car services are resources that residents of New Jersey – whether they’re drivers or passengers – should be able to enjoy, and having regulations in place will advance that objective, not obstruct it.”

“It’s clear that there’s a demand for ride-sharing services, and if residents who own cars wish to work with them to boost their incomes – particularly in this still-sluggish job market – they ought to be able to pursue that,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “This legislation simply acknowledges that any company in the business of providing a service has to abide by rules that advance public safety.”

“Above all else, the priority here should be making sure that anyone who chooses to drive for a ride-sharing service and anyone who chooses to be a passenger with a ride-sharing service will be safe,” said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson). “Having regulations in place to protect the people of New Jersey will only improve the quality of these services for all parties involved.”

“By definition, no one ever expects an accident, which is why it’s so important to have the proper insurance regulations in place beforehand,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex), chair of the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee. “This legislation is about keeping our residents safe and making sure that ride-sharing drivers and their customers alike can travel with peace of mind.”

“After observing the problems associated with unsafe jitney buses, particularly in some North Jersey areas, we would be remiss not to make sure that ride-sharing companies meet basic standards,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). “Requiring adequate insurance coverage and licensing and criminal background checks is not too much to ask as we work to ensure the safety of New Jersey residents.”

Under the bill, each company would be required to maintain a record of each trip – detailing the date, time, duration, locations traveled, mileage and the driver’s personal insurance information – for at least two years.

The bill also calls for a drug and alcohol policy that would prohibit drivers from consuming or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while providing a trip. All applicants would have to pass a drug test prior to driving for the company.

A company that violates the bill’s provisions would be subject to a civil penalty of $1,000 for the first offense, per driver, and up to $5,000 for each subsequent offense, per driver.

The bill was advanced by the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee, of which Wisniewski is chair.