Washington is on the verge of establishing statewide laws for transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft.
With a 43-5 vote, SB 5550 was approved by the Washington Senate on Thursday and now only needs a signature from Gov. Jay Inslee before it officially becomes law.
SB 5550, sponsored by Sen. Cyrus Habib (D-Kirkland), primarily focuses on insurance rules. Drivers of transportation network companies (TNCs) would need to carry at least $1 million in liability and underinsured motorist coverage when a passenger is in the vehicle. The TNCs must also provide insurance — $50,000 per person for bodily injury, $100,000 per accident for bodily injury of all persons, $30,000 for property damage — when a driver is logged into the network but has yet to accept a ride.
TNCs would also be required to conduct driver background checks, pay for annual permits, and, “if achievable, make its digital network or software application accessible to persons with disabilities.”
In addition, the regulations establish modern insurance options for TNC drivers, including liability and uninsured motorist coverage.
“I’m tremendously excited about the expansion of ride sharing services in communities across the state, and this legislation will ensure that drivers can take advantage of insurance options for their own safety, and that of passengers and the public as well,” Habib said in a statement. “I appreciate the work done by Uber, Lyft, taxicab drivers, and the insurance industry to find solutions that work for all parties involved. This is a day to celebrate the power of innovation.”
TNCs would also be required to provide data related to number of drivers, number of rides, total hours spent driving passengers, and would need to report any accidents. Companies would be prevented from requiring drivers to sign non-compete agreements.
Alex Bond, a spokesman for Sen. Habib, said that the new laws would not interfere with regulations that Washington cities like Seattle have already established. This past July, the Seattle City Council enacted its own legislation for the TNCs after they had previously operated without regulation in the city.
“As passed, 5550 no longer addresses regulation of TNCs other than establishing insurance requirements and workers compensation for for hire drivers,” said Denise Movius, Deputy Director of Finance and Administrative Service for the City of Seattle. “While we are concerned that the levels of coverage are too low, it is our understanding that we are not preempted from establishing higher minimums to ensure that the public is protected.”
Uber is operating in Seattle — the company launched there four years ago, its third city ever — Tacoma, Spokane, and Vancouver.
“We are thrilled that the Washington State Legislature has taken a stance in support of innovation and the economic benefits that come with ridesharing,” Uber’s Northwest General Manager Brooke Steger said in a statement. “By voting for SB 5550, state leaders have brought Washington one step closer to making sure folks all across the state have access to safe, reliable rides by establishing statewide insurance standards for ridesharing across the state.”
Lyft, meanwhile, is in Seattle and Spokane.
“From Seattle to Spokane, Washington State residents have embraced ridesharing and we applaud state leaders for finding a way forward that allows innovative transportation options to thrive,” the company said in a statement. “We’d like to thank Senators Fain, Habib and Representative Kirby for their commitment to preserving a future for Lyft’s safe, reliable rides and flexible economic opportunity.”
You can see the new laws below: