There are three rideshare companies in Arizona, not just two.
This point seems to have been lost in the current discussion over how to properly insure vehicles to protect the public. One rideshare company, Total Transit – homegrown in Arizona – has been providing rideshare services since 2014, in full compliance with state laws on insurance. The other two have not.
Which leads to the point that there has always been only one vital issue present in this debate: the proper and legal manner in which to regulate for-hire transportation vehicles, including rideshare vehicles, so that the public is protected and costs are not shifted onto other businesses and individuals.
As the president of Total Transit, I feel compelled not only to set the record straight, but also to emphasize that we bear no ill will toward the other ride-share companies. In fact, Total Transit has an app of our own, and already has more than 200 rideshare drivers on Valley streets. We believe in rideshare, and invested a great deal in furtherance of that belief.
Total Transit’s rideshare business follows Arizona’s current law to the letter.
Not only do we background check and drug test our operators, and comply with Weights and Measures vehicle inspections, but each of our rideshare drivers carries the same primary commercial insurance policy on the vehicle that our taxi drivers must carry under Arizona law.
This primary commercial policy covers the vehicle at all times, and protects the general public and our passengers in the event of an accident. Unlike the insurance provided by others – gaps in commercial coverage, inappropriate reliance on drivers’ personal insurance backed by a narrow, inexpensive contingency policy – our business model leaves absolutely zero gaps in coverage, no matter what a ride-share vehicle is doing.
As we see it, requiring primary commercial insurance on all for-hire vehicles during commercial activity is the only responsible way for Arizona to embrace innovation, make the best use of new technology and continue to ensure public safety. I hope that is exactly what the Legislature has in mind and what Gov. Doug Ducey will work toward during this legislative session.
Our direct competitors want to make this a political fight. After all, the Legislature is inherently a political body. But our elected officials and the public at large suffer when empty sound bites carry the debate. We badly need to have a fact-driven conversation about how Arizona can get rideshare insurance right, or we run the risk of becoming another California, which recently passed a loophole-filled law leaving the public in jeopardy when rideshare drivers speed their way to a fare, or pick up a fare without the use of the app.
Our competitors seem to believe the only activities they should be required to insure involves a dispatch being accepted and a passenger in the car. As a rideshare operator, I know that there’s more to our industry than that.
Drivers must drive their vehicles into position near potential passengers to get offered fares from the app. That’s how an app works. As independent contractors, drivers must also be allowed to build their own book of personal customers and generate income from any legal source they choose. That’s a true free market.
Accidents can and do happen in all of these circumstances, and the innocent victims of these accidents should be covered by proper insurance. Current Arizona law takes all that into account by mandating that every for-hire vehicle be covered by gap-free, primary commercial insurance.
Total Transit rideshare drivers have it. And more than 1,000 Arizona mom-and-pop, one-or-two-vehicle livery businesses have that same coverage – despite the fact that they aren’t multi-billion-dollar corporations. They drive legally, every day.
To refuse to insure these accident possibilities during commercial activity isn’t a matter of a market innovator standing on some business principle. The refusal to insure these basic scenarios has the impact of passing the cost of risk, one of the basic expenses of running any for-hire transportation business, along to the general public, small businesses and anyone else who must purchase insurance.
That’s wrong. It’s anti-free market and against the competitive model Arizona’s deregulated for-hire transportation market has cultivated for decades.
For-hire transportation companies and fellow rideshare operators like Total Transit aren’t against competition. We simply believe in the fundamental premise of keeping the public safe by ensuring the same levels of insurance cover every for-hire vehicle. We pledge to continue to fight for these principles and to keep the driving and pedestrian public as safe as possible.
Our Legislature and governor have the chance to make Arizona the model for the nation in this area. Let’s hope facts and true free-market principles lead the coming debate.
– Mike Pinckard is president of Total Transit, parent company of Discount Cab.