RDU says Uber and Lyft drivers breaking airport taxi rules

akenney@newsobserver.comJuly 11, 2014 

— Drivers for the much-hyped ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft have run afoul of the rules at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

The services, which connect passengers with private drivers, are barred from doing business at RDU because they have not applied for permits to conduct business there, according to Mindy Hamlin, spokeswoman for the airport authority.

Both Uber and Lyft operate nationally and launched here during the spring. Uber promises its passengers fares that are 30 percent cheaper than a traditional taxi.

Their drivers have been appearing at RDU for several months, and RDU police have issued warnings to some, according to Hamlin.

“The goal of the permits is to ensure the companies have the adequate insurance needed to safeguard our passengers and also have safe vehicles and are commercial drivers,” Hamlin said.

It’s not clear yet whether individual drivers or the services themselves would need permits, or whether the services would even qualify for permits, Hamlin said.

Rachel Holt, regional general manager for Uber East, said in April that the company interviews all its drivers in person. She said they must be insured in North Carolina for up to $1.5 million.

“These drivers are undergoing requirements that are at the highest end of what we see across … any city for taxis, limos, etc.” Holt said at the time.

Lyft touts its own safety measures, including requiring drivers to have a commercial liability insurance policy in excess of $1 million.

It may be difficult for RDU police to spot drivers with the service, as most of the business is conducted by phone and cars often are unmarked, Hamlin said. However, Lyft cars often wear giant pink mustaches.

Taxi permits at RDU cost $100 each, while the fine for operating without one is $50 per citation.

Uber will pay the fines and legal costs for any of its “driver partners” cited at the airport, a spokesman wrote in an email.

The company also “will work with airport authorities to find the best permitting process,” Taylor Bennett wrote. He declined to disclose the number of drivers working with Uber in the area.

A spokeswoman for Lyft didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

The city of Raleigh apparently sees the services differently than the airport authority. Jim Sughrue, a Raleigh police spokesman, said neither Uber nor Lyft must abide by the same city regulations and restrictions as taxis.

Kenney: 919-829-4870; Twitter: @KenneyNC

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