Before she left the lectern at Tuesday night’s City Council workshop, Sandra James wanted to make one thing clear: It was not all Uber drivers in Killeen she had a problem with. Just those who don’t play by the rules.
“Mayor Segarra says that competition is legal, competition is good,” she said. “But do it the way I have to do it.”
James and Kevin Grimme, of Luxury Cab Co., stood before the council and warned it of potential hazards ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft carry with them. Residents get into a confined space with these drivers, he said, and without any sort of regulation, the company can be a major hazard to public safety.
“How can you trust this company that has no ties to our community?” he said. “This leaves the city with unknown, unpermitted drivers that lack a detailed log of fares.”
Councilman Juan Rivera told both James and Grimme that he himself is an Uber user.
“Let’s not make anyone criminal,” he said.
Ride-sharing companies do have regulations. Uber specifically requires a clean driving record and performs background checks to make sure that the driver candidate has no incidents of driving without insurance or a license, no reckless driving charges, no DUI history and no fatal accidents in his or her past. In order to be hired as an Uber driver, the car intended for use must be newer than 2001, and cannot have any body flaws. It must have four doors and working seat belts, and also pass an inspection from a certified shop.
Among Grimme and James’ major concerns were that Uber drivers were going against typical ride-sharing companies’ regulations. Normally, a driver can pick up a passenger only if the driver is requested using the company’s smartphone app. It is against policy to pick up a passenger and transport them without an electronic request. But the drivers of Luxury Cab claim that Uber and Lyft drivers are camping out by the airport and nightclubs, soliciting potential passengers.
“We’re not saying that Uber shouldn’t be driving, we’re asking that they follow the same rules that we have to follow,” James said.
Councilman Jonathan Okray asked that the issue be brought up again before the formal council.
Area taxi drivers, Grimme said, must have background checks done by local police before they’re allowed to drive a cab.
Back in July, Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra said Uber creates jobs. He didn’t see any safety concerns arise with the service.
“If we saw something that caused safety hazards, we would take a look at it, but we haven’t had a major issue with it (Uber),” Segarra said then. Segarra was on a family trip and not at the council meeting Tuesday.
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