Dale Evans operates Charley's Taxi, the oldest taxi company with the second largest fleet on Oahu
Dale Evans operates Charley's Taxi, the oldest taxi company with the second largest fleet on Oahu
Dale Evans operates Charley’s Taxi, the oldest taxi company with the second largest fleet on Oahu (photo by Mel Ah Ching)

BY DALE EVANS – As leaders in the commercial transportation industry, it’s our job to do everything in our power to protect passengers and drivers.

That’s why we feel it necessary to speak out about two new transportation alternatives that are not complying with existing regulations. There are now hundreds of these drivers who may be making our roads less safe.

The business of carrying passengers for hire is fraught with potential pitfalls. So over the years, government has developed common-sense regulations, for good reason. These include requirements such as:

» To not use a smartphone while driving.

» To provide documented proof of financial responsibility, i.e., commercial automobile liability insurance.

» To have a properly regulated and certified meter and/or to be properly permitted by the state Public Utilities Commission and/or Honolulu Department of Customer Services, Taxi Control.

» To obtain proper permits to serve the airport and other high-security areas.

» To not engage in price-gouging and other anti-consumer behaviors.

In regard to the above rules and many more, new transportation network companies (TNCs) are out of compliance.

First off, Uber and Lyft are using private drivers and some licensed limousine and taxi operators, powered by the use of smartphones. Smartphones operate as the sole dispatch, way-finding and billing systems for both. This is not only dangerous, it is illegal according to Hawaii state law. The consequences can be tragic. On New Year’s Eve 2013, a distracted Uber driver struck and killed a 6-year-old girl and injured her mother and 4-year-old sister in San Francisco.

Lyft and Uber drivers use their personal automobiles and do not provide insurance coverage for commercial transportation activities. TNCs claim to insure their drivers, but have not filed the evidence of such insurance with the PUC pursuant to motor carrier law and taxicab ordinances, which requires “evidence of financial responsibility.”

As a result, hundreds of drivers with uncertain coverage are on our roads.

Consumer protection laws also are being flouted. Taximeters — like other commercial measurement devices — are regulated and annually inspect- ed for good reason. By using a smartphone’s only somewhat accurate GPS system as the basis for calculating charges, Lyft and Uber are using an illegal and inaccurate commercial measurement device with no oversight or transparency.

Uber also uses something called “surge pricing” to escalate fares during peak hours or other high demand periods. Fares that go from $13 to $77, even fares jacked up as much as 800 percent, have been reported. This is directly counter to Hawaii’s anti-price-gouging laws.

With their surge pricing and by requiring customers to register a credit card to even create an account, TNCs discriminate against those with poor or no credit history who have no other mobility options and would otherwise pay cash for a taxi ride.

Finally, companies in the business of carrying passengers for hire must be properly permitted with the Public Utilities Commission and/or the city’s Department of Customer Services. Neither Uber nor Lyft have applied for or received such permits, despite being in operation here since 2013.

Companies like Uber and Lyft flout these laws because they claim their business is technology — developing apps and software — not operating a transportation company. But where the rubber meets the road the result is unregulated, poorly trained and potentially distracted drivers carrying passengers for hire with questionable insurance coverage.

While we welcome competition, these businesses are operating illegally in violation of all the above regulations and more.

We encourage the public to contact lawmakers to request that TNCs be made to comply with Hawaii’s laws to protect consumers and make the roads safer for us all.