Oregon Legislature Considering Bills to Mandate Insurance for Uber and Lyft

Cab companies backing the legislation; Uber wants lawmakers to wait

The Portland cab industry's fight with ride app Uber is driving to Salem.

An alliance of taxi companies is backing a bill in the Oregon Legislature that would require transportation companies like Uber and Lyft to carry commercial insurance at all times of operation.

The insurance industry has proposed a similar bill, which will likely mandate that the companies' drivers carry such insurance.

Cab companies, which are fighting Mayor Charlie Hales' deal to allow Uber to operate in Portland starting in April, say the insurance requirements would level the playing field.

"It's proper for protecting the public," says Stephen Kafoury, a lobbyist for Broadway Cab. "I've talked to a lot of legislators about this, and I don't think anybody disagrees with me."

The bills have garnered broad support in the legislature: the cabs' proposal, House Bill 2995, is sponsored by Rep. Margaret Doherty (D-Portland) and eight co-sponsors, while the insurer-backed bill, House Bill 2237, has seven sponsors.

Uber is urging lawmakers to wait until the city rules are written.

"We think the Portland process is going very well," says Uber regional manager Brooke Steger, "and could be a model for the state."

Both legislative bills require the insurance to cover not only times when drivers are ferrying customers, but times when they are waiting for fares or driving to pick up passengers.

These periods have been the subject of safety worries and court battles—including in San Francisco, where an Uber driver struck and killed a 6-year-old girl as she crossed the street on New Year's Eve in 2013.

The girl's family sued Uber for wrongful death. But the company says its insurance doesn't cover the killing—because the driver is an independent contractor and wasn't carrying or picking up an Uber customer at the time.