A cab company in disguise

May 20, 2013

While what Uber Technologies says is essentially true that they own no vehicles and do not have drivers, they are clearly providing transportation through their app ("PSC to decide if Uber must comply with taxi rules," May 16).

Any driver who owns a car can sign up with Uber, and Uber will refer people requesting transportation to them. It is essentially the same as picking up the phone and calling a taxicab. The real issue is the safety of the riding public.

A taxicab in Baltimore must meet a number of stringent rules and regulations. The Maryland Public Service Commission requires that the vehicles be inspected on a regular basis both by the commission and by a Maryland State Vehicle Inspection facility. The vehicles are limited in the age they may be when placed in service as a taxicab and by the length of time they may be kept in service. The insurance requirements are far more stringent and the limits far higher than those of a passenger car and are strictly enforced by the PSC.

A taxicab driver is specifically licensed by either the PSC (Baltimore City cabs) or Baltimore County (Baltimore County cabs). In order to be licensed, a driver must pass a criminal background check, have a physical examination and submit a driving record exhibiting that he or she has a safe driving history. These licenses must be renewed on a regular basis, each time going through the same procedure.

Taxicab fleet operators also perform their own safety inspections on vehicles, and regulate the drivers within their fleet. Taxicab permit holders within the fleets also supervise closely their drivers and vehicles.

A driver contracted with Uber has none of these requirements. All he has to have is a vehicle. He is not required by Uber to have the proper insurance, have his vehicle inspected or have the proper license. He could be carrying the bare minimum insurance, or even have none at all. His vehicle could be anything from a brand new car to a 25 year old ex-taxicab.

Clearly, the Public Service Commission must require Uber to comply with the same safety, licensing and insurance regulations as traditional taxi companies. To do otherwise would constitute an extreme danger to the riding public.

Clay Seeley, Pikesville

The writer is president of Reisterstown Cab, Inc. and operations director of the Valley Cab Association, Inc.

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