Monday, November 24, 2014 - 2:16pm

El Paso cab drivers accuse new car service "Uber" of operating illegally

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 9:58pm

It's a battle at the curb for a ride.

But many taxi drivers in El Paso are accusing another transportation company of competing unfairly and operating illegally.

"I think they're doing the same kind of work that I'm doing as a cab driver but paying less amount of money," said Alfonso Roldan, a driver with Border Cab in El Paso.

In order to charge people for a ride in El Paso, the El Paso Police Department (EPPD) requires transportation companies or drivers to submit an application, pass a background check, pay for permits and licenses, get their vehicles inspected, and have commercial insurance, among several other rules.

"Your car insurance, your own personal vehicle insurance will not cover you, if you're transporting people," said Daniel Fuentes, the supervisor for the "Vehicle for Hire" sector with EPPD.

EPPD is in charge of regulating the system and says on average, the process to get approval to run your transportation service business takes about a month.

If a person or company charges passengers without completing the required steps, EPPD says they would be in violation of the city's ordinance.

"If we can prove that he's operating without a permit, and he is transporting people, and the person says 'Yes, I just gave him a dollar,' we give them a ticket for a Class A Misdemeanor," said Fuentes.

But a new car service in El Paso called 'Uber' is running its business without the required city permits and licenses, and EPPD isn't penalizing them for it.

The company does run a background check on its drivers and requires them to have a 4-door car in excellent condition, and personal car insurance. Local cab drivers argue that isn't enough to ensure passenger safety.

"Uber is taking a very lenient approach as far as not having to go through all the paperwork," said Shawn, an El Paso Uber driver.

But that's exactly why local cab drivers are upset.

"I'm a driver for 14 years. I've been paying my business taxes, taxes for the vehicle, I've been paying for my chauffeur license, my taxi permit," said Roldan.

Uber argues that its business is a "ride-sharing program," and not a taxi service.

EPPD says it is still too early for them to tell if Uber is breaking the law.

"This is very new to us. We're starting to look into this and see where it takes us from this point," said Fuentes.

El Paso city council will ultimately decide if and how to regulate Uber.

Meanwhile, more than 30 cab companies in Maryland are suing Uber for the same reasons that are making El Paso cabbies frustrated with the service.

Drivers in cities as far away as Barcelona are on strike because they say Uber is destroying their business.

For more information on El Paso's "Vehicle for Hire" policies, visit http://home.elpasotexas.gov/police-department/taxi-detail.php

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