Las Vegas cab company makes an Uber threat

Managers of Southern Nevada’s largest taxi group have posted a memorandum to employees, warning them of the consequences of going to work for mobile application rideshare companies.

Frias Transportation Management, which operates five Southern Nevada taxi companies, posted the one-page unsigned memo in its office last month. The memo says that ridesharing companies Uber, Sidecar and Lyft are seeking to enter the Las Vegas market, and drivers caught picking up passengers using one of their apps could be fined and have their cars impounded.

San Francisco-based Uber has been the most visible prospective entry to the local market after posting online advertisements for drivers. Representatives of Uber called the Frias memo “a scare tactic.”

“It’s not intended to be a threat,” a spokeswoman for Frias said. “It’s more about educating our employees of the potential problems that could occur if they were to work with Uber.”

Uber’s potential entry to the Las Vegas market has in recent months caused a flurry of activity among transportation regulators and cab company owners.

Uber considers itself a technology company that links people in need of rides and people with vehicles. The company doesn’t consider itself to be a transportation provider. Its app is designed for customers who pay for a ride with a credit card or by PayPal.

But that’s not how regulators and established cab companies see it.

The Nevada Taxicab Authority, which regulates Clark County’s 16 cab companies, and the Nevada Transportation Authority, which oversees cabs that operate outside Clark County, buses and limousines, have debated how to handle the potential arrival of Uber.

The Transportation Authority has indicated it would impound unlicensed vehicles used to illegally provide transportation for hire, just as they do whenever they spot unlicensed out-of-state limousines, buses and cars used during major conventions and special events in Las Vegas.

Regulators say no one has attempted to apply for a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the Transportation Authority or a taxi medallion from the Taxicab Authority. Even if they did, an applicant would be hard-pressed to win approval since existing companies have a say in whether a license is granted.

The Frias memo warns drivers of the risks of moonlighting as Uber drivers in their own vehicles.

“Any driver that signs up with Uber, Lyft or Sidecar to pick up ‘for-hire’ passengers is taking a very real and serious personal and financial risk that could harm themselves and their families,” the memo says.

It said drivers could be fined as much as $10,000 for operating an unlicensed vehicle. It also said drivers’ personal vehicles could be impounded until they post a $20,000 bond.

“Any Frias driver that picks up a passenger using an Uber, Lyft or Sidecar application in a Frias taxicab or limousine will be terminated,” the memo says.

The memo also said that the company has set up a confidential email address to report ridesharing company activities to authorities.

The company encourages photographing cars, license plates and drivers of suspected Uber vehicles.

Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow him on Twitter @RickVelotta.