New insurance requirements are heading in the direction of app-connected for-hire drivers.
And Uber and Lyft, leaders among the growing transportation-network companies, want to put the brakes on some legislation.
The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Monday supported a measure (SB 1298) by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, that would create insurance requirements for the companies that connect motorists with passengers through cell-phone apps.
The proposal, which must still clear two additional committees and has yet to be heard in the House, would establish coverage requirements for when a customer is in a vehicle and during an "on call" period, considered a coverage "gap," between when a driver is notified about a customer to pick up and the time the passenger gets in the vehicle.
Lobbyists for the companies have argued that the "on-call" coverage will require them to increase costs, which are now typically lower than standard taxicab company rates.
"We don't believe that is a gap," Cesar Fernandez, representing Uber, said Monday. "We believe that is an individual driving their own personal vehicle with the insurance required by state law."
Simmons said the proposal is necessary to protect people who might be harmed by transportation-network drivers who are on the way to collect fares, and all those motorists now must have is the state minimum of personal-injury protection insurance.
"It is a total joke as to the required coverage that presently exists for a person that is driving around providing services for individuals who are riders," Simmons said.
PIP covers drivers injured in crashes and requires them to seek treatment within 14 days. Medical benefits are capped at $10,000, with a $2,500 cap on non-emergency treatments.
Simmons also said the proposed changes could protect the companies if drivers seek to bypass app-services by informing customers they are available directly for future rides.
"Uber isn't going to want to cover that situation," Simmons said. "And you know that is going to happen more and more and more. There is going to have to be something that they do in order to protect themselves from individuals who start their private cab companies."
The proposal comes as insurance-industry groups such as the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, which includes Allstate and Castle Key Insurance Company, the Progressive Group of Insurance Companies and State Farm Insurance Companies, call for the state to clarify insurance requirements for the "for hire" transportation industry.
Under Simmons' proposal, which must still get through the Senate Judiciary and Appropriations committees, the driver or company would be required to have liability coverage of at least $125,000 for death and bodily injury, at least $50,000 for property damage, and at least $250,000 in uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
When a passenger is in the vehicle —- the ride-acceptance period —- the coverage would need to be at $1 million for death, bodily injury and property damage, and $1 million in uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, under Simmons' bill.
Currently, the majority of taxi and limousine regulation in Florida is controlled by local governments.
Florida law requires limousines and taxis to maintain motor-vehicle liability policies with minimum limits of $125,000 per person for bodily injury, up to $250,000 per incident for bodily injury and $50,000 for property damage.