Virginia DMV Tells Uber, Lyft to Cease ‘Illegal Operations’, Suggests They Focus on Lobbying

By: Josh Wolford - June 6, 2014

The state of Virginia is none too happy at on-demand car services Uber and Lyft operating, in its mind, outside the framework of its passenger carrier laws.

The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has sent out two cease and desist letters, one to Uber and one to Lyft, demanding that both companies stop operating in the commonwealth of Virginia until they “obtain proper authority.”

The DMV is threatening to fine Uber and Lyft drivers. It wouldn’t be the first fines the Virginia DMV has handed Uber or Lyft, as they assessed civil penalties earlier this year. Uber and Lyft, naturally, contend that they are not taxi services, but ride-sharing companies.

“Virginia law requires for-hire passenger carriers to have proper operating authority. Although certain types of passenger carrier arrangements are excluded from this requirement, none of those exclusions applies to Lyft’s operations. For example, Va. Code 46.2-2000.1 contains an exclusion for ride-sharing arrangements; however, a separate statute sets out the requirements for ride-sharing arrangements. This statute defines ride-sharing arrangements as those which do not involve transporting passengers for profit. See Va. Code 46.2-1400, et seq. Lyft’s operations are not ridesharing arrangements as defined in Virginia law because Lyft receives compensation for its services.

The letter sent to Uber says the exact same thing.

A spokesperson for Uber calls the Virginia DMV’s actions “shocking and unexpected.”

“The DMV’s actions today are shocking and unexpected. Uber has been providing Virginians with safe, affordable and reliable transportation options for months and has continued to work in good faith with the DMV to create a regulatory framework for ridesharing. The DMV decision today hurts thousands of small business entrepreneurs who rely on the Uber platform to make a living, create new jobs and contribute to the economy – and it hurts the countless residents who rely on Uber to connect them with affordable, safe and reliable transportation alternatives. We look forward to continuing to work with the Virginia DMV to find a permanent home for ridesharing in the Commonwealth,” says Uber’s Natalia Montalvo.

A Lyft spokesperson echoed Uber’s sentiments on safety.

“The current regulations surrounding taxis and limos were created before something like Lyft was even imagined,” a Lyft spokesperson told WVEC. “Lyft’s peer-to-peer business model does not easily fit into the current framework, but we have made safety a top priority from the beginning by putting forth strict safety measures that go beyond what is required for existing transportation providers.”

At the end of the letters to both Uber and Lyft, the Virginia DMV makes a suggestion to the companies:

“As you know, DMV is actively studying Virginia’s passenger carrier laws and business models such as Uber/Lyft. DMV has invited Uber/Lyft and other stakeholders to participate in this study and will produce a final report before the next legislative session. I strongly suggest that Uber/Lyft focus its resources on participation in this study rather than continue illegal operations in the meantime.

In other words, get your lobbying pants on boys, and head to Richmond.

Here’s the most telling aspect of this story, via Watchdog.org:

Sunni Blevins Brown, spokeswoman for the Virginia DMV, confirmed that a “number of transportation companies, including taxis, have contacted DMV regarding this matter.

Of course they have.

Lord knows ride-sharing companies, especially Uber, have a lot of ‘splainin to do in other areas of their business model, but it’s hard to look at the DMV’s action as anything but a transparent move to protect the old guard.

Image via Lyft, Twitter

Josh Wolford

About the Author

Josh WolfordJosh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer. Follow him on Twitter: @joshgwolf Instagram: @joshgwolf Google+: Joshua Wolford StumbleUpon: joshgwolf

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  • Public protector

    I drove for Uber for slightly under two months and here’s what I found………….Uber is dangerous for public safety and must be shut down . Having to tap a small icon on the Uber device ( phone ) to accept, cancel, arriving, etc., and more takes your eyes completely off of the road . You are oblivious to traffic for those few seconds your looking at your Uber device which can easily cause head – on collisions resulting in immediate death & injury . Even if you, yourself cancels you must proceed with why you are canceling to the little icons on your Uber device and doing so makes you oblivious to traffic and the road ahead of you while driving . There are 6 icons on your Uber device stated on you why your cancelling & you must select one by tapping on one of the little icons . This is frequently done while driving diverting your eyes off the road ahead of you . You are not paying attention to traffic while your concentrating on these little icons on your Uber phone. When driving to get to the the client ( this happened frequently for me ) the client cancels for one reason or another . Because your on the way to pick up your client you receive the cancellation notice while your driving and while your driving your eyes are taken off the road so you can respond to the beeping sound coming from your Uber device . This beeping sound indicates that the client has cancelled the fare . While driving, searching then tapping the icons is more dangerous then texting . Furthermore, there is no time limit to driving . Unlike Taxi drivers who are limited to a ten hour driving period in, San Francisco an Uber driver can drive for 20 hours straight or more . Too much driving creates fatigue often leading to confusion, , falling asleep, hallucinations, dozing off and considerably more inattentiveness which can cause accidents resulting in injury and even death . Being an Uber driver means you must do illegal or unlawful things such as take 8 passengers in your car when there are just 4 seat belts . In my case I was required to take 9 passengers, including myself which would have been 10 people all in a mini van . The weight itself is enough to cause my tires to rub against the wheel wells of my van creating sparks from stones trapped in the threading of my tires which could ignite the fuel tank causing an explosion even killing all those passengers that are trapped inside my mini Van . Another example : That much weight often causes unintentional swerving resulting in an accident .
    After I complained to my Uber representatives via email numerous times about having to take too many passengers creating unsafe driving conditions i received absolutely no response and getting zero response from other Uber drivers complaints may encourage these drivers to do unlawful and dangerous things . If you refuse to take all 9 people when there are only 6 seat belts the clients ( in my case were upset ) gave me a “ one “ rating and if your rating is too low you will be blocked from driving which is what happened in my case . You must also drop drivers off at the designated location the client(s) request creating the impeding of traffic & the sudden slamming of your brakes so you won’t miss the client(s) destination . Again if you don’t you will be graded on your performance from 1 to 5 and in most all cases you will be given the lowest rating such as a “ one “ and you will be blocked from driving . So, refusing to take all nine passengers ( 10 including myself ) because it is unlawful , dangerous and of a safety concern to your passengers and yourself is a reason your account will be terminated bu Uber as is what happened to me .
    There are no vehicle inspections required by Uber drivers meaning if your car’s brakes are failing or wipers not working it’s still OK to drive in the rain . Does Uber care your brakes are failing or wipers aren’t working ? Probally not . They just want their 20% share of your fare and will probally claim no responsibility if your involved in an accident, your brakes fail and wipers don’t work while driving in the rain . In the eyes of Uber you are an independent driver . It is illegal to use your vehicle commercially unless you get commercial registration and insurance . Uber drivers do not have commercial insurance and probally most don’t get commercial registration for their vehicles or the proper insurances so driving commercially for Uber is technically illegal .