Overview of New Rideshare Legislation in Massachusetts
The ride-sharing industry has boomed tremendously in recent years, and many people are enjoying an alternative to traditional taxis and public transportation. Just last year, our firm even purchased Lyft credit in order to help get Bostonians home safely on New Years using the new services. However, there have been several important legal concerns surrounding ride-for-hire services such as Lyft and Uber, namely, legislation that dictates liability in case of collisions and the insurance coverage requirements for drivers.
The new legislation from the Senate also aims to protect these ridesharing companies from undue litigation and offer more protection for those entering the industry as drivers for hire. However, the new legislation is meeting harsh criticism from traditional livery companies for being too liberal and endangering a longstanding industry. Previously, the House issued a bill concerning the burgeoning industry that met with division, and the new bill aims to reach a middle ground. Here’s what you should know about the new legislation and how it may affect you.
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Companies like Lyft and Uber are required to perform background checks on drivers to ensure they have clear driving records. State-run background checks are not as necessary as they were according to the House’s bill. Ride-sharing companies also must provide commercial insurance coverage while drivers are working rather than requiring full-time insurance coverage.
Airport and Convention Center Access
Previously, the House bill prohibited Uber and Lyft drivers from picking up passengers at Logan Airport and the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. This essentially gave taxis, limousines, and other licensed passenger services exclusive access to these sites. The Senate’s new bill does not include these restrictions. Ride-share drivers can now pick up passengers at the convention center, but such is not the case at Logan Airport, which will require the airport to change its regulations.
Fees for Service
Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing companies must now pay a 10-cent fee to the origin city or town of every ride. The city can spend the money only on transportation-related costs. The ride-sharing companies are also required to add a tipping function to their customer apps. Uber recently updated its terms of service to allow its drivers to let their passengers know that tipping in cash is acceptable.
One of the biggest areas of controversy surrounding the ride-sharing industry has been the concept of surge pricing, which means inflating prices during heavy travel times, such as during festivals, conventions, and other events. The new bill states that surge pricing cannot take place during states of emergency.
The House and Senate Bills Must Meet
The House bill and the Senate bill must reconcile with one another. Both versions require drivers to apply decals to their vehicles while carrying passengers. Both bills also require the ride-sharing industry to fall under the oversight of the Department of Public Utilities (DPU). The new division within the DPU must ensure that disabled riders have fair accommodations and the ride-sharing companies do not impose additional fees on disabled riders.
Taxi and Limo Companies Aren’t Happy
The livery industry has been furious about these new laws, as many believe it endangers a longstanding industry and thousands of jobs. Critics of the ride-sharing industry complain that it is regulated too loosely and endangers an important part of the economy. Many companies are arguing that Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing company drivers should follow the same standards as taxi and limo drivers, since they essentially provide the same services.
You may wonder what these new laws mean for you, as either a driver for a ride-share company or a passenger that frequently relies on them for transportation. Once the Senate finalizes the legislation, we will hopefully see a burgeoning industry and reasonable regulations that provide safe and effective service to communities across the country.