FORT LAUDERDALE – Ride-sharing service Uber has cleared the last hurdle and is officially licensed to operate in Broward County.
The company had been operating under a provisional license since late last year while details about insurance coverage were worked out. As of the end of May, Broward County had issued a license to Uber, Leonard Vialpando, environmental licensing and building permitting director for the county, said.
“An amendment (to the county’s transportation network company ordinance) late last year allowed for provisional licenses,” Vialpando told the Florida Record. “It said if you comply with the ordinance and certify that your insurance meets the requirements of state law, you could operate for six months.”
That gap was designed to help Uber, along with Lyft and other ride-sharing companies, to work with the state to determine what insurance was required of drivers.
“State law sets out the amount of insurance required,” Vialpando said.
Vehicles that are “for hire” are required to carry insurance policies with limits of at least $10,000 to cover the injury or death of one person, $20,000 for the injury or death of two people, and $10,000 to cover property damage. Taxicabs, on the other hand, are required to have limits of $125,000, $250,000 and $50,000, respectively.
The Broward County Attorney’s Office issued a memo last month confirming that because drivers who pick up passengers using the Uber smartphone app are covered by the company’s insurance policies while carrying passengers, the company meets the state’s insurance requirements. The county’s policy comes directly from the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which first took the position as part of a lawsuit filed by Broward’s Yellow Cab.
Broward was the first county in Florida to try to regulate ride-sharing services such as Uber. As part of the county’s ordinance, drivers either have to obtain a chauffeur's registration, which requires a criminal background check, or the company they drive for has to certify that it has performed a background check that complies with the county’s standards. The county also laid out a list of criminal offenses that may affect a driver’s ability to operate, including fraud, theft, sex crimes, alcohol and drug offenses, and criminal traffic offenses.
The county is able to audit each transportation network company up to twice every year, and the companies are required to keep records for at least three years. All vehicles driven for a company have to pass state inspections, and the companies also have to operate an office in Broward County. Also included in the ordinance are strict non-discrimination requirements for drivers. Uber and any other transportation network company has to comply with the regulations each year in order to renew its license, Vailpando said.
“We’ve issued Uber what we call an initial license,” he said. “In the coming years, they’ll get a renewed license.”