As one who makes his living as a taxicab operator, I have been following with great interest the controversy over "ride sharing" companies being allowed to work at Kern County's Meadows Field airport.
The public needs to understand that Uber and Lyft are not ride share services. They provide door to door service in a private car for a rate based on distance traveled. That is a taxi service, pure and simple.
The public loves the cheap rides offered by Uber and Lyft but Uber and Lyft essentially operate mostly without regulation. If the public knew more about the Uber and Lyft rate structure and the compensation for their "contractors," they would not be so anxious to support these companies.
But that is not the issue I am addressing today.
Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors. They are responsible for providing the vehicle, fueling the vehicle, maintaining the vehicle and insuring the vehicle.
Personal insurance does not cover when the vehicle is being used to take passengers for hire. Commercial liability insurance is required by law. Every taxi and limousine has to have this insurance and there are enforcement mechanisms in place to make sure that we do.
Though Uber and Lyft drivers are, by law, required to have this coverage, many if not most do not. Up to this point the companies have not rigorously enforced this requirement as their drivers are not employees but "contractors."
There is no one enforcing the simple insurance regulations that the state requires for Uber and Lyft drivers.
If the airport allows these services to operate, the liability for an accident involving an improperly insured Uber/Lyft driver picking up at the airport will fall on the airport and ultimately the taxpayers who fund the airport and county operations in general.
As a taxi operator who often works Meadows Field, I carry vehicle commercial liability as well as general liability that insures the designated taxi zone where we are allowed to operate as well as concession fees to the airport -- as do all vendors who work there, including news stands and rental car counters.
Most airports that allow Uber and Lyft do get concession fees from them and make sure that those picking up there have the right coverages. The public deserves and expects this.
Up to this point, the "ride sharing" companies have managed to avoid most regulation and continue to allow drivers without proper insurance to work. Many people are demanding cheap rides out of the airport but need to recognize that the providers of these rides have to play by the rules, especially when it comes to insurance protection for the public.
Before you scream about the airport's "mismanagement" you need to take a closer look at Uber and Lyft. They use independent contractors. These contractors are responsible for the insurance, not Uber or Lyft.
The sad fact that Uber has persuaded their drivers to accept rates so low that there is little compensation for the work they do should not free them from the simple obligation of protecting their passengers or paying the same fees that every other business working at the airport must pay.
Jeffrey Russinsky, who works for Blue Star Taxi, is a native of Richmond, Va., and has lived in Bakersfield for 36 years — of which he has worked 17 years in the taxi business. He is married with two daughters. The views expressed are his own.