Popular new network transportation services such as Uber and Lyft now face state regulations for the first time, which backers say will provide protection for drivers and passengers alike.
Under a new law that went into effect January 1st, the companies will have new requirements for insurance, background checks, and zero tolerance for drug and alcohol use.
Acting Department of Transportation Director Mark Lowe says Lowe says typically a driver’s private insurance is not in effect if the vehicle is being used for a commercial purpose.
“If I get in this car I might not be covered if this car has an accident, or if the car hits another motorist,”Lowe says, “or even to the protection of the driver itself who might be unaware that although they had insurance it wouldn't be available.”
Under the law, Uber and the other companies will no longer have to negotiate standards with every city or town that signs up for the service.
"Uber and the other transportation companies are probably pleased that they now have an assured way of doing business in Iowa," Lowe said. “It eliminated the city's right under their home rule authority to independently regulate transportation network companies.”
However, cities will retain the right to regulate the network-based services at or near an airport.
The new transportation option uses a smart phone app to connect riders to a taxi-like service.
Under the new law, cities can still regulate taxis but they can’t require tougher standards for drivers than the new Uber standards.
The law mandates certain equipment on each vehicle and bans discrimination against riders.
According to the company’s website, Uber currently operates in Des Moines, Ames, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and the Quad Cities.
Uber’s primary competitor is Lyft. According to the company’s website, Lyft is not currently operating in any Iowa communities.