Uber is the next innovation in the sharing economy that is taking the world by storm. Not unlike Airbnb or Zipcar, Uber connects drivers, acting as independent contractors, with riders through an app on your smart phone. If you’ve ever found yourself partaking in a few too many of Asheville’s local beers, you might already know the virtues of the easy-to-use, responsive service. If you want to hear all about Uber’s vices, ask a taxi driver.
We know a number of folks from all walks of life who are considering becoming or already are Uber drivers. Approximately 8,000 North Carolinians drive for Uber, and the company seeks to add 5,000 more soon. The flexibility of creating your own schedule while making cash money for driving your own car around a city you love has its appeal. Uber takes a 20% cut on every ride, but the rest belongs to the driver, after gas and other maintenance-related costs. Due in large part to the novelty of the service, Uber drivers had been left largely unregulated here in North Carolina. A new law changes that.
- Obtain a permit to operate, issued by the DMV at an annual cost of $5,000.
- Register with the NC Secretary of State.
- Acquire a registered agent, which accepts service for the company if they are sued.
- Enact a policy that prohibits discrimination based on a customer’s geographic departure or destination points, or the protected classes under NC law: race, color, national origin, religious belief or affiliation, sex, disability, or age.
- Require local and national criminal background checks before allowing a person to act as a driver for their company. A person is prohibited from working as a driver if he or she:
- Has 3 or more moving violations or 1 serious violation in the past 3 years
- Has been convicted in the past 7 years of DWI, fraud, sexual offenses, or a host of other serious crimes enumerated in the statute
- Is a registered sex offender
- Does not have a valid driver’s license;
- Does not have proof of registration of the vehicle he/she will be driving;
- Does not have proof of insurance; or
- Is under the age of 18.
The next round of requirements get interesting for drivers.
1.Insurance. Either Uber or its drivers must have automobile insurance that meets certain requirements. The policy must provide at least $1.5 million for death, injury, or property damage resulting from an accident that occurs while a driver is providing the service. At the moment, it appears Uber will be footing the bill for this. But drivers should beware.
2.Safety. The statute also requires that drivers have their vehicles inspected annually for safety. This is a common-sense measure that drivers should welcome.
3.Online Information. The driver must also provide the following to a customer who requests a ride: a photograph of the driver, his/her license plate, a description of the vehicle, and the location of the vehicle on the map. Most drivers already do this. It’s good business, and it’s a smart safety practice for all involved.
Interestingly, since Uber already checks most of these boxes, the requirements don’t really add much to the equation. The company is valued at an estimated $50 billion and operates worldwide, so an insurance premium requirement in North Carolina is highly unlikely to pose much of a burden for the growing company. Some municipalities have banned Uber outright, so the regulation requirement is actually welcome news for Uber fans.
If you are a driver or thinking about becoming one and want to consult with a lawyer before doing so, give us a ring. We’ll be happy to walk you through the law. If you’re a rider, be smart, as always. And remember that whether you use a taxi or a rideshare service like Uber, it is always cheaper and safer than the expense of driving while impaired, whether you live right here in Asheville or elsewhere. Give us a call today or fill out the contact form below to get in touch with one of our Asheville criminal defense attorneys.