UberX, taxi drivers have different views on Elgin proposal

  • UberX driver Eli Martin of Elgin believes it's unnecessary to ask drivers to carry commercial insurance because the company already provides it. The Elgin City Council's committee of the whole is scheduled to debate the issue Wednesday.

      UberX driver Eli Martin of Elgin believes it's unnecessary to ask drivers to carry commercial insurance because the company already provides it. The Elgin City Council's committee of the whole is scheduled to debate the issue Wednesday. Elena Ferrarin | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin taxi driver Byron Parker, above, says the ride-share industry should be regulated just like the taxi industry, including requirements to carry commercial insurance. UberX driver Eli Martin, right, of Elgin believes it's unnecessary to ask drivers to carry commercial insurance because the company already provides it.

    Elgin taxi driver Byron Parker, above, says the ride-share industry should be regulated just like the taxi industry, including requirements to carry commercial insurance. UberX driver Eli Martin, right, of Elgin believes it's unnecessary to ask drivers to carry commercial insurance because the company already provides it.

 
 
Updated 12/3/2014 5:15 AM

UberX driver Eli Martin of Elgin has been hoping local residents will embrace the ride-share industry like they have in Chicago, where he does most of his work.

Elgin taxi driver Byron Parker has been watching the competition slowly make its way into the suburbs, bemoaning it's not as heavily regulated as the taxi industry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Elgin City Council's committee of the whole will look at both sides of the issue tonight, when members are expected to consider regulations for the ride-share industry that, if enacted, would be the strictest in the country.

Elgin's proposed requirements for companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar include mandating drivers to carry commercial vehicle liability insurance and go through yearly safety vehicle inspections.

Ordinances enacted in major cities like Chicago, Boston, Seattle and Minneapolis don't mandate commercial insurance, said Jennifer Mullin, spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc.

However, ordinances requiring commercial insurance are being proposed in some smaller cities like Des Moines, she said.

Martin argued it's an unnecessary requirement because Uber covers drivers with commercial insurance from the moment they accept a trip to the trip's conclusion.

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Elgin would be over-regulating his industry, Martin said.

"I have no problem with cabdrivers -- they're just trying to make a living -- but only the taxi industry wants to regulate it (the ride-share industry)," he said. "People who use it have no problems with it."

Parker, who drives his own cab and owns two more, said it's about fair competition and ensuring passengers are fully protected -- without any room for gray areas in case of accidents or injuries.

Commercial insurance costs about $2,900 per year per vehicle, he said.

"I don't want (the city) to shut them down, but I want them to abide by the same rules," he said.

The cab industry is keeping up with ride-share companies with improved technology, Parker said. He pointed to A#1 Cab Dispatch, with whom he works, which launched an app for Android smartphones soon to be available for iPhones.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Parker also pointed to the "fine print" that customers agree to when they use ride-share services.

"People go into the app and don't realize that nobody is responsible for them while they're in the vehicle," he said.

Ride-share passengers accept limitations of Uber's liability, but that is unrelated to whether the driver is liable in an accident, Mullin said. The policy also provides uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage if someone else is at fault, she added.

Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed a bill in August that would have required, among other things, commercial insurance for ride-share drivers.

If Elgin ends up mandating commercial insurance for ride-share drivers, Martin said it would be cost-prohibitive for him. "I probably just wouldn't work in Elgin. It probably depends on what Uber does," he said.

Tonight's committee of the whole will be the first public debate on the issue in Elgin.

Discussions in other cities typically take time and involve working groups and committees, Mullin said.

Elgin police began researching the issue after Jaime Hjelm, owner of A Taxicab Leasing Corp. in South Elgin, contacted the department a few months ago asking for regulations of ride-share companies.

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