Much has been said about how companies like Uber and Lyft are giving the taxi industry a jolt of innovation and competition. However, their blatant disregard for the laws and regulations governing their service is not true competition — it’s anti-competitive and creates an unlevel playing field that hurts consumers and licensed taxi drivers.
Barwood is well-known for its cutting edge technology innovations, which provide our customers greater access to safe and affordable transportation service. Customers can order a cab with a phone call, text message, email, through our website and even from our mobile app. Yes, that’s right — we have a mobile app, too, but we’re still regulated as a taxi company.
Uber falsely claims that regulation stifles innovation. But Barwood’s technology innovations have taken place under stringent state and local regulations governing the for-hire transportation industry. Our vehicles must be inspected multiple times each year. The government decides who is best qualified to drive taxis safely, based on a series of criteria. The fares we charge passengers are regulated and we’re required to carry appropriate levels of commercial liability insurance to protect passengers. These are just some of the rules Uber refuses to follow.
We welcome the competition from Uber. But fair competition is impossible when companies like Uber don’t play by the rules. Just like Barwood, Uber transports passengers for a fee. They are a taxi service.
Look at this way: Two boxers enter the ring for a match, but one has his hands tied behind his back and the other can do whatever he wants, even hitting below the belt. This is exactly the situation with Uber. They have entered the taxi industry with little regard for the existing regulations licensed companies must follow. They break the law every day.
For-hire transportation regulations protect customers and ensure that our drivers, taxicabs, and roads are safe. I applaud the Maryland Public Service Commission’s recent ruling that Uber is indeed a “common carrier.” While this is a step in the right direction, we still have to wait and see how, if at all, the state and local jurisdictions will actually regulate Uber.
In the meantime, Barwood has joined other Maryland taxi companies in a lawsuit against Uber to ensure fair competition and protect the safety of our customers and the livelihoods of our drivers. If Uber and other companies want to operate in this industry, they should have to comply with the same insurance, inspection, and licensing regulations required by the local jurisdictions. Anything less is unfair and unacceptable.
The writer is the president of Barwood Taxi in Kensington