Michigan lawmakers push for stricter Uber regulations

Posted at 5:34 PM, Mar 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-20 08:31:32-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Whether you have taken a ride yet or not, it seems like everyone has an opinion on the smartphone app ride service, Uber. According to Michigan Department of Transportation officials, Uber is operating illegally in Michigan. Some lawmakers are writing legislation to enforce stricter regulations on Uber drivers.

Adam Javor is a new Uber driver. He told FOX 17 the hardest part about signing up was waiting one week for his background check to come back.

“They made it easy: you just take a picture of your license, take a picture of your insurance, your registration,” said Javor.

Then, just like that, he is working when he wants, making some side cash.

Javor said he has always had full insurance coverage, and no one inspected his vehicle in-person before he hit the road with passengers. The 5-star Uber driver-passenger rating system, he said, is his incentive to keeping his car in good shape.

Yet, if signing up to become an Uber driver took any more time or money, Javor said he would not be a part of it.

“MDOT has told Uber that, ‘you are not licensed to operate in the state, that you are violating the law, and you need to stop all operations immediately; you may not resume them,’” said Senator Rick Jones.

Senator Jones spearheaded Senate Bill 184 to regulate Uber drivers under an amended Limousine Transportation Act. Jones is pushing for the same insurance and safety inspections for Uber drivers as limousine and taxi drivers.

Another Senate Bill 188 would require Uber drivers to carry a chauffeur’s license.

“Uber can spend a lot of time in court fighting this, but I would like to get some simple legislation, with Uber’s help, to simply have a little regulation, make sure they have the appropriate insurance, that our passengers are all protected like they are in a cab, and they can do business and hopefully prosper,” said Senator Jones.

During FOX 17’s afternoon Uber ride, the price broke down like this: $1.50 base fare, plus $0.20 per minute, plus $1 per mile. Simple.

However, another point of contention is Uber’s “surge pricing.”

“Hey there’s 10 Uber people here that need to get picked up and there’s only two drivers, guys get in line we need you, get out there make some money,” explained Javor.

“That’s all it is: it’s more of an incentive to get me out there. Granted, it’s crappy (passengers) have to pay a little more, but isn’t that just supply and demand and capitalism at its best?”

Passengers can always check their fare estimate on their Uber app.

As for Senator Jones, he thinks Uber could be a positive thing, when it is further regulated and legal.

“I think Uber could be very positive, I think it could be a very successful business, and I hope Michiganders make a lot of money off their driving people around, but they just need to come in compliance with Michigan law,” said Senator Jones. “It should be quite simple.”

Uber officials released this statement to FOX 17:

"Uber is not a limousine company, let alone a transportation company, and so these bills reflect a misunderstanding of our business model.

Uber is a technology company that created an app that connects riders and drivers. Drivers who use the Uber app must pass local, state and federal background checks and are covered by a $1 million insurance policy.

Applying an antiquated regulatory framework to this new industry is a backward-looking approach and will stifle innovation and economic growth in Michigan."