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by Senator Terry Moulton
You may have heard of companies like Uber and Lyft in the news recently. These companies have created apps that can be downloaded onto smartphones allowing people to request a ride through the app for less money than a traditional taxi ride. These companies differ from traditional taxi companies because their drivers are independent contractors who are not hired directly by the company, use their personal vehicle, and set their own work schedule. The drivers are typically working for these companies to gain some additional income, not as a full-time position.
Over the past few years, Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft have popped up throughout the country. When a passenger is looking for a ride, they simply open the app on their phone, tablet, or other wireless device, input their pickup and drop-off information, and the app connects them with the closest driver. As with all new technologies, existing regulations may need changes to ensure that TNCs and their drivers conduct business in a way that protects consumers.
Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of legislators in Madison introduced a bill aimed at dealing with this new technology. The bill would require TNCs to be licensed by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. This licensure program would include background checks for all drivers that drive for the TNC and includes a zero-tolerance policy for intoxicated driving. The bill also seeks to protect passengers by requiring all drivers to be fully insured, requiring each TNC to disclose their fare information, and prohibiting drivers from discriminating against passengers. The goal of this legislation is to ensure that passengers using TNC services receive the same legal protections as users of traditional taxi and limousine services.
Traditional taxi and for-hire car services are regulated at the municipal level and regulations are often so burdensome and complicated that there is little room for competition. The legislators who authored this bill decided to create a statewide bill addressing TNCs in order to increase free market competition and to ensure that passengers throughout the state have an equal opportunity to use these new rideshare services. Additionally, this bill would prevent municipalities from creating burdensome standards for TNCs and their drivers. By limiting local governments from making additional regulations, TNCs may operate throughout the state, without worries about changing regulations as they cross municipal lines. Typically, a taxi ride is regulated by the municipality in which the ride begins. Taxi and TNC drivers may find that they are beginning rides in multiple municipalities; instead of worrying about the differing regulations as drivers pass these lines, this bill will create a uniform set of rules across the entire state.
New legislation is frequently proposed in response to our ever-changing society. Who could have ever imagined ordering a ride with just the tap of a screen? I’m interested to see what happens with this bill. As new technologies emerge, it is important to ensure that users are protected without creating too much red tape in the regulatory process, allowing new businesses to grow in Wisconsin.
If you have questions or comments regarding any state-related issues, you can contact me at Sen.Moulton@legis.wisconsin.gov or (888) 437-9436.