Drivers with Uber and any other ride-sharing services that come to Lafayette are now subject to requirements similar to those of taxicab drivers under regulations approved Tuesday by the City-Parish Council.
Uber, which connects riders with contract drivers through a smartphone app, has been operating in a legal gray area since launching here in January.
The regulations approved Tuesday require Uber and similar services to inspect vehicles, set up a system to handle customer complaints, and check criminal background, driving record and sex offender registry on drivers every six months.
The companies are required to suspend drivers charged with serious offenses and terminate drivers if they are convicted.
The requirements are similar to what’s already in place for taxicab companies, but in most cases the ride-sharing companies are tasked with policing their own drivers while city-parish government oversees background checks and vehicle inspections for taxi operations.
City-parish officials have warmly welcomed Uber to Lafayette, citing a need for quality alternatives to existing taxi services.
City-Parish President Joey Durel stated early on that his administration would allow the company to operate outside of local law until new regulations could be crafted.
No representatives from any local taxi service or from Uber spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, but Durel said Uber officials had input on the new regulations.
“Uber came to us with a lot of this,” he said.
City-Parish Councilman Jared Bellard said the only concern he heard from constituents was that the new requirements not drive Uber out of town.
Jason El Koubi, president and CEO of the regional economic development group One Acadiana, offered the sole public comment on the measure.
He didn’t directly address existing taxi services in Lafayette but said the ride a tourist or business traveler takes to and from the airport plays a critical role in economic development, offering the first and final impression of a visit to Acadiana.
“It’s also an issue that in many ways defines our quality and attractiveness as a business destination,” El Koubi said.
The council approved the new regulations with minor changes, removing a requirement that taxi companies operate 24 hours a day and lowering the age limit for drivers of taxis and ride-sharing services from 21 to 18.
The council also removed a local insurance requirement for ride-sharing services, citing a recently passed state law requiring drivers to carry a $1 million minimum insurance policy when shuttling passengers.
Uber, a rapidly expanding global operation, also is available in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Safety regulations for the new service have been a key concern here and elsewhere.