Broward County’s proposed changes to its motor vehicle laws, which come up for a vote on Thursday, were designed to be more “Uber friendly” and pave the way for the ride-hailing service to return to the county. But, the amendments appear to be contrary to Florida law, unconstitutional and put Uber’s economic interests ahead of public safety.
Right now, Broward’s ordinance requires Uber and other transportation network companies to have the type of insurance required by Florida law for for-hire vehicles. If a for-hire vehicle does not carry the right insurance, it cannot operate. That type of policy is more expensive than other types of motor vehicle insurance.
Broward is trying to sidestep the law. Under the proposed changes, if it determines that a TNC does not have the state-mandated insurance, the county can still issue the TNC a six-month temporary operating permit as long as the TNC tells the county that it thinks it has the right insurance. That’s like saying although state law requires a person to have a driver’s license to drive a car, Broward will allow someone to drive even if they do not have a valid driver’s license, but they swear that they do.
Also, under the latest proposed amendments, the county will not issue chauffeur’s licenses for TNC drivers, or conduct background checks. the county will not know who is driving for a TNC, and therefore will have no way of knowing whether those drivers are properly insured.
That’s important, because under Florida law (but not Broward’s ordinance), a personal vehicle cannot be used commercially. If a personal vehicle is used for for-hire activities, then it must be a for-hire vehicle. For-hire vehicle owners or operators must show proof of having the requisite insurance coverage.
Florida law does not allow the insurance to only be in place when for-hire activities are performed. And, most insurance policies issued for personal vehicles will not cover a driver using that vehicle for for-hire activities.
This puts the public at a heightened risk. If a TNC gets into an accident while transporting passengers, there may not be adequate insurance coverage. Some county commissioners have taken the position that a passenger who gets into a TNC vehicle assumes the risk. Maybe, but the county’s residents and visitors who will share the roads with TNC vehicles do not assume, but will be subject to, that increased risk.
A local ordinance that is inconsistent with, and cannot coexist with, Florida law is unconstitutional. Allowing TNC drivers to maintain insurance that does not meet Florida law, even on a 6-month basis, is inconsistent with and cannot coexist with Florida law.
Unfortunately, the state has not stepped in and helped dictate the legal landscape for TNCs. Until it does, however, the county is obligated to follow the law, and safeguard the public.
Mark J. Stempler, a shareholder with the law firm Becker & Poliakoff, is the attorney for Yellow Cab and Go Airport Shuttle. firstname.lastname@example.org