The San Francisco ridesharing technology company that’s trying to get a foothold in the Southern Nevada transportation market says memoranda circulated by Las Vegas taxi companies are inaccurate in their depiction of how the company fails to stand behind its drivers on legal matters.
“Uber is proud that our technology platform is connecting riders and drivers in a way that lawmakers had never imagined,” said Eva Behrend, a spokeswoman for Uber in San Francisco. “Millions of riders and drivers are embracing this innovation across the globe and we are working with legislators all over the country to ensure sensible policies that address this emerging market.”
Meanwhile, more cab companies in Southern Nevada are adopting the stance taken by Frias Transportation Management, the largest group of companies operating in Southern Nevada, to discourage their drivers from defecting to Uber or using their own personal vehicles to moonlight as Uber drivers.
Even the union that represents hundreds of local cab drivers is backing local taxi companies in their efforts to discourage drivers from working for Uber.
Last month, Frias posted a memorandum warning drivers that they risk being cited and having their cars impounded if transportation regulators catch them providing rides for hire without a license.
The memo said drivers could be fined up to $10,000 for operating an unlicensed vehicle. It also said drivers’ personal vehicles could be impounded and released after posting a bond of $20,000.
CONSIDERS ITSELF A TECHNOLOGY COMPANY
Uber considers itself a technology company that brings people in need of rides together with people with vehicles. The company doesn’t consider itself to be a transportation provider, but the app it has developed is designed to locate a driver willing to give a passenger a ride who pays for it by a stored credit card or PayPal account.
Uber officials say that in every city they’ve launched they pay fines and tickets of drivers who have been cited and work with local municipalities to address any issues before it comes to citations and fines.
Uber officials called the Frias memo “a blatant scare tactic.”
Uber drivers are required to drive a 2008 or newer vehicle and undergo a vehicle inspection. Company officials say many taxis currently on the road would not pass Uber’s strict standards — an accusation cab companies scoff at since they normally replace their vehicles at least every two years and have teams of mechanics that keep their vehicles in shape as required by the Nevada Taxicab Authority.
After Frias acknowledged posting the memorandum, other cab companies said similar memos were presented to their drivers.
Yellow Checker Star, the second-largest family of cab companies operating in Southern Nevada, had a short message posted to drivers.
“Any driver found participating in ride-sharing activities by management or the Taxicab Authority will face immediate termination,” the note said. “Drivers charged by the Taxi Authority will also risk impounding of their vehicle, a fine of up to $5,000 for each violation and be required to post a $20,000 bond. Nevada state law strictly forbids unlicensed non-regulated private vehicles to act as common carriers.”
A LOOK AT LEGAL CASES
Meanwhile, a local representative of the Industrial Technical Professional Employees Union, which represents cab drivers, wrote an article in Trip Sheet magazine, a trade publication for drivers, about legal cases involving Uber drivers and whether the company backed them up.
The article by Theatla “Ruthie” Jones said a wrongful death lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court alleges that a contracted Uber driver logged onto the Uber app was waiting to receive a ride request when he struck and killed a 6-year-old girl crossing a street in a crosswalk on a San Francisco street. The company reportedly defended itself by stating it was not liable because the driver was between rides.
Jones also questioned the thoroughness of driver background checks Uber undertakes.
“Uber offers incredible economic opportunity for driver partners — including former taxi drivers — and a superior experience for riders,” Behrend said. “In the markets that we operate, we have worked with entrepreneurs who have experienced first-hand the way they can grow their own small business, work a flexible schedule and increase their earning potential. It is shameful that a megataxi company is using scare tactics to intimidate their drivers into maintaining the status quo.
“Clearly, the system is broken,” she said. “We have heard first-hand from Las Vegas residents that they cannot find reliable, safe and convenient transportation around their community.”
Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at email@example.com or 702-477-3893. Follow him on Twitter @RickVelotta.