Uber and Lyft allowed to operate in Virginia

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Virginia has come up with a temporary agreement that allows Uber and Lyft to operate in the state, Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office announced Wednesday. The San Francisco-based companies connect riders to background-checked drivers through their applications.

Uber and Lyft have come under fire from taxi companies for having little to no regulations. “They play by different rules and it is hurting the taxi drivers' livelihoods,” says a statement on the Washington, D.C. Taxi Operators Association’s website about Uber.

In June, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, issued cease and desist letters to the companies saying they must stop operating in the state until they obtain proper authority. “Virginia law requires for-hire passenger carriers to have proper operating authority,” the letters stated.

"These companies offer services that Virginians want, but it just wasn't acceptable for them to operate without complying with regulations or other measures to help ensure the safety of passengers and motorists,” Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement. “I'm proud that we were able to get folks back to the table and get them talking again, and now we've shown that Virginia can be responsive to innovative businesses while promoting public safety and the rule of law.”

Uber and Lyft’s applications for transportation broker's licenses and temporary operating authority have been granted by the DMV, the news release says. If the companies don’t comply with certain conditions, DMV can take away their temporary right to operate.

The terms include:

• Extensive background checks of drivers, with immediate disqualifiers including convictions for any felony, fraud, sexual offenses, or violent crimes, or registration as a sex offender.

• A review of driving history, with disqualification for drivers convicted of three or more moving violations in the last three years, DUI, underage drinking, refusal to submit to a breathalyzer, hit and run, or eluding law-enforcement, or a revocation of a driver's license.

• Zero tolerance for the use of drugs or alcohol by any drivers, and a suspension pending investigation of any driver accused of violating the zero tolerance policy.

• Only employing drivers who are properly licensed and over 21, and vehicles that carry a maximum of seven passengers and are properly registered and inspected for safety and emissions, where applicable.

• Rigorous insurance requirements, including requiring drivers to maintain automobile liability insurance, maintaining on behalf of all drivers an additional $1 million of coverage from the moment a driver accepts a trip request until the passenger leaves the vehicle, and liability insurance for drivers who are logged onto the companies' software but not providing services.

• Maintaining documentation for each driver of his or her background check, sex offender registry check, driving record, proof of insurance, valid driver's license, Social Security number, vehicle registration, and proof of vehicle safety inspection. Documentation must be available to DMV on demand to investigate any complaints, and must be available for periodic audits to ensure compliance.

• Paying any previously assessed civil penalties for noncompliance and dropping any appeals, which both companies have already done.

• Features to help customers identify their driver and vehicle, including from the outside of the vehicle.

• Drivers notifying the companies of any change in their license status, vehicle registration, insurance, or any arrest for a crime that would disqualify them from being a driver.

• Rate transparency and documentation.

• Companies advising drivers of their need to comply with applicable tax laws.

• Only accepting rides booked through the companies’ mobile device apps, not street hails.

• Companies maintaining a Virginia transportation broker's license.

The DMV is leading a study to develop a long-term solution that addresses services provided by ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, while ensuring a level playing field for taxicabs and other passenger transportation services. The study is scheduled to be completed by the 2015 legislative session.

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