San Francisco Taxi Drivers Head to Sacramento to Protest Proposed Ridesharing Regulations

Taxi drivers from several San Francisco cab companies are in Sacramento to protest a proposal to regulate ridesharing services – like Uber and Lyft – throughout the state that’s up for a key vote in Sacramento Wednesday afternoon.

Members of the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association and taxi drivers from other Northern California cities will be participating in a rally at the state Capitol in protest of Assembly Bill 2293, which will heard by the state Senate Insurance Committee.

The taxis and ridesharing services are usually on opposite sides on issues, but not this time. Neither side wants AB 2293 to pass, but for different reasons.

A caravan of cabs departed from DeSoto’s Cab Company’s yard about 9 a.m. Wednesday morning. They were headed to Sacramento to rally outside the capitol before the hearing begins later in the day.

The bill introduced by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, would require TNCs to expand insurance coverage for drivers. The taxi drivers say the legislation would allow insurance companies to cash in on the unfair competition between them and the TNCs.

AB 2293 requires that Uber, Lyft and drivers of similar services be covered with commercial insurance when their app is on telling passengers they are available, not covered when their app is off and their personal car insurance kicks in.

The proposal comes after 6-year-old Sofia Liu was struck and killed by an Uber-contracted driver whose app was on by not transporting anyone at the time. Uber denied responsibility.

In a statement released Wednesday, Uber spokesperson Eva Behrend said "there is no insurance gap. Uber supports requiring insurance coverage while a driver is engaged in ridesharing (‘App On’ to ‘App Off’) as outlined in AB 2293 - but the legislation must recognize the flexibility afforded by innovation.

“Colorado found a solution that adequately protects riders and drivers without ignoring the distinctions of ridesharing technology,” Behrend said in the statement. “The Senate Insurance Committee proposal would add unnecessary state insurance requirements to the bill over and above what is currently required for any car on the road, including most taxis, during the period when no rider is in the car and no commercial activity is taking place."

The taxi cab drivers say the ridesharing services cut into profits and are not as regulated as they are. They believe AB 2293 would just make things worse for them.

“It would legitimize them and it sends a message that they don’t have to be regulated,” DeSoto cab driver Beth Powder said. “Thus, telling us we’ve completely wasted our time getting background checks, getting licensed and having full commercial insurance.”

Uber also opposes the bill, telling the San Franciscso Business Times: “AB 2293 is an attack on innovation and the technology industry. The bill only serves to help the insurance industry and will increase litigation by trial attorneys.”

But, supporters like Sofia Liu’s parents, consumers groups and the insurance industry say the bill is need to protect passengers.

The Senate Insurance Committee will likely set the amount of commercial insurance needed. The recommendation will be $750,000.

Taxi cabs need to carry a $1 million policy.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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