Los Angeles International Airport police have made catching UberX and Lyft drivers a priority but only because most of the drivers are not in compliance with the law, according to a phone call I received this morning from an airport police officer familiar with operations.
The officer has been reading this blog and saw my report — complete with a picture of the ticket — earlier this week about an UberX driver who was cited after making a drop-off for not having proper commercial insurance. The officer thinks I’ve been unfair to LAX police, who are just enforcing the law. The officer, not surprisingly, has asked to remain anonymous, and I have decided not to quote the officer here, even though I did take notes on our conversation.
The officer says nearly all drivers from UberX and Lyft are not in compliance with California Vehicle Code 260, which deals with “Commercial Vehicles.” The officer has been citing the drivers for not having proper commercial insurance and not having cars registered as commercial vehicles.
UberX drivers say the insurance issue is a major problem. While they can buy it, many drivers say if they are forced to do so they will no longer be able to afford to drive for the ride-service. Commercial insurance is expensive.
But the commercial vehicle issue is not unique to the airport. I asked the officer why enforcement is so robust at LAX when I rarely hear of LAPD officers making similar traffic stops elsewhere in the city. He said that LAX police are one of the few police agencies enforcing the law because the airport — with its own special police force — has the resources for it. The airport also gets a disproportionate number of ride-share cars.
The officer said police have been trying to only make stops when there is no passenger in the car. But this enforcement action is still likely to impact LAX ride-share services, as some drivers have told me they prefer not to serve the airport.
As I reported in January, UberX has already stopped facilitating LAX pickups. The reason for that decision was different and not related to insurance. LAX has its own rules about which type of car services can legally make airport pickups, and most UberX drivers lack the proper permits. Lyft drivers have the same problem, but the Lyft app will still let you summon a car at LAX. (I wouldn’t recommend it, though, as the chances your driver will be ticketed are reasonably high.)
I told the officer that many of my readers are upset that the airport has taken a tougher stance on ride-sharing drivers than other police agencies. The officer said he felt for the passengers, but said police have to enforce the law.
What do you think? Is this enforcement action a good thing? Or should police look the other way?