Assembly Democratic Bill to Ensure Safety in Ride-Sharing Services Industry Advanced by Assembly Pan

March 19, 2015

(TRENTON) - Revised 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).
The bill (A-3765) establishes insurance and safety requirements for companies that use digital network or software application to match passengers with drivers.
"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."
The bill would:
· Require the driver license record check and safety inspection a transportation network company (TNC) must conduct be approved by the MVC.
· Have the MVC issue an identifying marker to every TNC driver, to display whenever the vehicle is logged into a TNC application or digital network.
· Require driver's to be 21 years of age or older.
· Prohibit a person from becoming a TNC driver for three years following a conviction of DUI, driving while suspended, or reckless driving, and to permanently prohibit a person from becoming a TNC driver if they have more than more conviction of these three offenses.
· Require the TNC to conduct a search of the Department of Justice's National Sex Offender Public Website and prohibit any person on the website from being a TNC driver.
· Require the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to determine if TNC drivers are considered employees or independent contractors.
· Require the TNC to ensure the required insurance coverage is in place whenever a TNC driver provides transportation to a passenger.
· Allow that the insurance requirements provided in the bill be satisfied by: an insurance policy obtained by the transportation network company, and insurance policy, rider, or endorsement obtained by the TNC driver; or any combination of the two provided that any policy, rider, or endorsement issued to a TNC driver be placed on file with the TNC.
· Reduce the amount of required insurance coverage required when a passenger is not in the vehicle to $150,000 from $250,000 per incident for liability, property damage, and uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
· Specify that the insurance coverage required by the bill is not dependent on a private passenger automobile insurance company first denying a claim before the insurance coverage required by the bill is to be in effect.
· Allow an eligible surplus lines insurer to provide the insurance policies required in the bill.
· Impose a 10 cent fee on a TNC each time a TNC receives payment from a passenger on a TNC's digital software application provided that the service takes place in NJ. The revenue generated is to be deposited into a "Transportation Network Company Fund" and appropriated to defray the commission's administrative expenses in connection with implementation of the bill's provisions.
· Require all TNC driver's to have background checks completed with State Police fingerprinting.
· Exempt individuals arranging transportation for non-emergency medical transportation for individuals qualifying for Medicaid, Medicare, or workers compensation pursuant to a contract with the State or managed care organization.
· Impose a zero tolerance drug and alcohol policy by all TNC's and to publish policy on their website, digital network, or application.
· Require clear displays of the estimated fare to be assessed, including surge pricing based on demand for TNC drivers in a certain location to a passenger or potential passenger on the digital network or application prior to the passenger entering the TNC vehicle.
Also under the bill, the moment a transportation network driver logs on to the transportation network company's software application until the moment the transportation network driver accepts a request to transport a passenger, or logs off the digital network or software application, whichever is later: the transportation network company must provide coverage in an amount of not less than $150,000 per incident involving a transportation network vehicle for liability, property damage, and uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, and medical payments coverage in an amount not less than $10,000 per person per incident involving a transportation network vehicle.
The transportation network company would be required to maintain records for at least two years of each transportation network trip, the date, time, duration, locations, mileage, and the driver's personal insurance.
Violations of this bill and any regulations adopted would be $1,000 fine for the first offense, and $5,000 for each subsequent offense.
The bill, which was recommitted for amendments, was advanced by the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee, of which Wisniewski is chair.