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PUC grants Uber ride-sharing company experimental, conditional license |

PUC grants Uber ride-sharing company experimental, conditional license

Uber drivers appear to be on the verge of getting a two-year extension because the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission voted Thursday to grant the ride-share company an experimental license.

The commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of allowing the company to operate, but the commissioners warned the company that the license would be revoked if specific conditions are not met. The two-year license is conditional on Uber’s meeting four pages worth of safety and insurance requirements within 30 days.

Among them: Uber must provide primary insurance coverage for its drivers during trips, cars more than eight years old are prohibited, certain trip data must be turned over to the PUC, and drivers must notify their insurance companies that they are using their vehicles to transport passengers for money.

“Subject to certain conditions, we believe that this new type of transportation service can be of great benefit to the traveling public,” PUC Chairman Robert Powelson said. “If (Uber) rejects these conditions it … shall no longer be authorized to provide service.”

Vice Chairman John Coleman voted against approval, saying safety concerns are paramount.

“I’m skeptical the applicant will satisfy these conditions,” Coleman said.

Uber, known as UberX in Pittsburgh, and rival ride-share company Lyft have been battling with state regulators since they started operating in Pittsburgh early this year. Lyft is in the process of asking for its experimental license.

“The PUC confirmed today that Uber provides the safe and reliable rides that Pennsylvanians need and deserve,” said Uber spokesperson Taylor Bennett. “We look forward to working with the PUC and the state legislature to get the details right so we can establish a permanent home for UberX ride-sharing in all of Pennsylvania.”

The PUC granted temporary authority for both companies to operate for 60 days, earlier this year. The Legislature is considering a bill that would carve out a niche in the law for the companies, which allow users to hail a ride via a smartphone application.

Some traditional taxi companies have objected to the approval, saying it makes an unfair playing field because they are subject to extensive PUC regulations.

Ronald Winkelvoss, president of several Philadelphia-area taxi companies, told PUC administrative law judges in August that Uber and Lyft “don’t have to put the same expenses out — inspections, oil changes; they don’t have to buy decals. I have to do all of this; they don’t. … It’s unfair competition.”

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or [email protected].

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