When Uber and other Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) disrupted the Los Angeles ground transportation scene a few years ago, the truth is, we at Excelsior Limousine were alarmed. We were very worried about how these new, technology-based, ride-hailing entities might affect our bottom line and we were more than a little ticked off by the unfair playing field that these “disruptors” created. TNCs claimed to be mere technology apps rather than transportation companies. By doing so TNCs conveniently skirted almost all industry regulations and were able to offer rides for a fraction of the cost of properly licensed and insured transportation services.
To our relief we found out that consumers recognize the difference between chauffeured car service and a TNC ride. Apples and oranges. Sadly, the emergence of TNCs crippled the taxi industry but we held our own. End of story? Not quite. We must weigh in on a much more serous worry regarding TNCs. Safety. While Uber is currently fighting nearly 100 different lawsuits, the most scary are the ones involving Uber drivers who have harmed passengers. Yikes! An unfair playing field is one thing. An unsafe playing field is another matter.
“Duty of Care” is at the heart of Excelsior Limousine and any legitimate transportation company. Duty of Care is defined as “the legal obligation of a person or organization to avoid acts or omissions (that can be reasonably foreseen) to be likely to cause harm to others.”
Is Duty of Care at the heart of TNCs? How well, for example, does Uber vet its drivers? Is Uber safe? Uber certainly says so on the front page of it’s website:
Our commitment to riders
Uber is dedicated to keeping people safe on the road. Our technology enables us to focus on rider safety before, during, and after every trip.
Can the technology protect you from a driver that has slipped through the cracks of a loose vetting process? And if that driver harms you, is Uber liable? Well… if you dig deep into the ocean of disclaimers (that all users of this TNC have to agree to before using the service) you’ll find this:
LIMITATION OF LIABILITY.
UBER SHALL NOT BE LIABLE FOR INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, PUNITIVE, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, INCLUDING LOST PROFITS, LOST DATA, PERSONAL INJURY, OR PROPERTY DAMAGE RELATED TO, IN CONNECTION WITH, OR OTHERWISE RESULTING FROM ANY USE OF THE SERVICES, EVEN IF UBER HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES. …
…YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THIRD PARTY TRANSPORTATION PROVIDERS PROVIDING TRANSPORTATION SERVICES REQUESTED THROUGH SOME REQUEST BRANDS MAY OFFER RIDESHARING OR PEER-TO-PEER TRANSPORTATION SERVICES AND MAY NOT BE PROFESSIONALLY LICENSED OR PERMITTED. IN NO EVENT SHALL UBER’S TOTAL LIABILITY TO YOU IN CONNECTION WITH THE SERVICES FOR ALL DAMAGES, LOSSES AND CAUSES OF ACTION EXCEED FIVE HUNDRED U.S. DOLLARS (US $500).
The LA Times published an article on September 1, 2016 with some of the new rules Governor Jerry Brown recently signed, including the rule that “ride hail companies no longer can hire drivers who are registered sex offenders, have been convicted of violent felonies or within the last seven years have a driving-under-the influence problem.”
To inform the public The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) launched a campaign, “Who’s Driving You” to raise public awareness about the safety practices of TNCs. http://whosdrivingyou.org Just take a look. The next time you choose to Uber it, make sure you also Who-ber it.