Hoover police Chief Nick Derzis said tonight he’s satisfied with proposed changes in the new ordinance being considered to allow and regulate transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft.
The Hoover City Council tonight gave a “first reading” to the newly revised ordinance that first came up in the council’s Dec. 21 meeting. A second reading, public hearing and vote are now scheduled for Jan. 19.
Transportation network companies are companies that provide rides to people that are arranged through a digital network such as an app on a phone.
Derzis said tonight he has reviewed changes in the ordinance proposed by a representative for Uber and feels comfortable with them in regard to public safety.
“Our main concern was to make sure that people in the city of Hoover that would ride in an Uber car are riding with somebody they should be riding with,” Derzis said. “We know that Uber, to be successful, they need to make sure their drivers are good people and doing exactly what they need to be doing. We just want to make sure our citizens are safe when they accept a ride from an Uber driver.”
To help provide safeguards, Hoover officials wrote into their ordinance a requirement that, once a year, transportation network companies must provide a list of all the identification numbers for drivers who picked customers up in Hoover in the preceding month. The Police Department can select up to five driver identification numbers to make sure those drivers passed criminal background checks and driving record checks and their vehicles passed vehicle inspections.
The revised ordinance also states that transportation network companies that use a third party to conduct background checks on drivers must use a company accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners and must keep records about driver qualifications for at least two years from the time a driver is activated.
No driver could, within the previous seven years, have been convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, fraud, sexual offenses, use of a motor vehicle to commit a felony, a crime involving property damage and/or theft, acts of violence or a felony under the Alabama Anti-Terrorism Act of 2002 or a similar felony offense in another jurisdiction.
People also would not be allowed to operate a transportation network company (TNC) vehicle if they have more than three moving violations or a major driving violation during the previous three years. Drivers also would have to be at least 19 years old and would have to have a valid driver’s license, proof of vehicle registration and automobile liability insurance.
TNC vehicles that operate in Hoover would be required to have at least $1 million in automobile liability insurance, and the companies would have to carry general liability insurance for at least $1 million.
Hoover officials also are considering amendments to their taxi cab ordinance to ensure that taxi cabs and transportation network companies are both treated fairly, said April Danielson, an attorney for the city of Hoover. Hoover’s taxi cab ordinance was written in 1998 and needed updating, she said.
“We just tried to evenly regulate both,” Danielson said.
If the Hoover City Council approves the new ordinance, transportation network companies would have to pay an annual $500 fee to do business in the city. That compares with an $8,000 annual fee in Birmingham, plus a $30 fee that must be paid by each TNC driver in Birmingham, Hoover Councilman John Lyda said.
Hoover Mayor Gary Ivey has said he was satisfied with the transportation network company ordinance as long as the police chief is satisfied.
Councilman Gene Smith tonight said he read a story about a man who hired an Uber driver to take him 20 miles home from a New Year’s Eve celebration in New York City and was charged $500. Smith asked if people accepting rides in Hoover would be protected from that.
Lyda said Uber customers must agree to their fare amount before they ever get in the Uber vehicle so there should be no surprises.
Council President Jack Wright said it’s his understanding that the number of people caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in New Orleans has dropped dramatically since Uber began operating there.
The Jan. 19 Hoover City Council meeting is set for 6 p.m.