Thursday, October 9, 2014

Drive for Uber, go to jail in one Alabama city

By   /   October 9, 2014  /  Uber photo

Uber photo
STALLED: Uber has experienced a rough ride into Alabama, with Tuscaloosa officials threatening to jail drivers.
By Johnny Kampis |
CULLMAN, Ala. — Tuscaloosa residents who offer rides to others through the ridesharing service Uber soon could find themselves in handcuffs.
A Tuscaloosa city spokeswoman confirmed to on Wednesday the city will follow through on an ultimatum issued last week — drivers could be put behind bars for violating Tuscaloosa’s vehicle-for-hire ordinance, a misdemeanor.
“The city has decided to step up and possibly arrest drivers,” spokeswoman Deidre Stalnaker said. “We could have done that from the start.”
The start she references is shortly after Uber began operations in the home of the University of Alabama on Aug. 28, when Tuscaloosa police officers began issuing warnings to Uber drivers that they could be violating the city’s vehicle-for-hire law.
Unlike hailing a cab from the street or calling a limo service and setting up an appointment, ridesharing companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar work strictly through the free smartphone apps they offer to customers.
The app allows potential passengers to find the location of nearby drivers, track the length of the trip in distance and time and calculate the cost of a ride. Since the app transfers the fee from the user’s credit card, no cash changes hands.
The drivers are independent contractors and set their own work hours. The companies get paid by getting a percentage of the fares.
But cab companies — and city regulators in Tuscaloosa — say these are all distinctions without a difference.