Assembly panel advances bill imposing stricter safety regulations on ride-sharing services

Under a new bill advanced Thursday by the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft would face a stricter set of safety regulations in order to operate in New Jersey.

The measure, sponsored by a slew of Democrats in the Assembly, would require ride-sharing companies to comply with a number of new insurance and safety regulations, such as having the state Motor Vehicle Commission issue an “identifying marker” to every driver that must be displayed when the vehicle is active, requiring all drivers to undergo background checks and mandating that necessary insurance coverage is in place for all working vehicles.

“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,” Assemblyman Joseph Lagana (D-Paramus), a bill sponsor, said.

Also under the bill, drivers may not offer ride-sharing services within three years of a DUI, driving while suspended or reckless driving conviction and will be permanently prohibited from doing so if they have multiple convictions on their record.

“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,” Assemblyman and bill sponsor Troy Singleton (D-Mount Laurel) said. “This legislation is about establishing a sense of accountability so that both passengers and drivers stay safe on the roads.”

According to Uber, hundreds of drivers and riders took to the Statehouse prior to the committee hearing to rally against the bill, which opponents say could drive ride-sharing companies out of the state.

There are currently more than 5,000 Uber drivers operating in New Jersey, the company says.

Uber spokesman Matt Wing issued a statement following the bill’s release.

“While we are disappointed this bill narrowly passed the committee, we will continue to make sure the voices of our over 5,000 Jersey Uber driver partners and over 100,000 Jersey riders are heard,” Wing said in an email.

Other regulations under the bill as provided by Assembly Democrats include:

  • Require drivers to be 21 years of age or older.
  • Require the transportation network company, or 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; an 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 New Jersey. 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 drivers 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 TNCs and require they publish the 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.

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