Uber is staying in South Carolina. After the transportation network company (TNC) was halted by the state’s Public Service Commission in January and then granted a temporary license through June 30, South Carolina lawmakers introduced legislation allowing TNCs to operate in the state with updated insurance requirements, among other stipulations.
Debate on the bill extended into the special session after the House refused to accept the Senate’s changes to the bill during the regular session. When the legislature reconvened June 16, lawmakers agreed on a compromise by a six-member legislative committee that addressed how much insurance Uber drivers must hold, according to the Associated Press.
The new law requires TNC drivers, or TNCs on the driver’s behalf, to maintain primary auto insurance that recognizes that the driver is a TNC driver or otherwise uses a personal vehicle to transport riders for compensation. The insurance must cover the driver while the driver is logged on the TNC’s digital network and while the driver is engaged in a prearranged ride.
The coverage requirements when the TNC driver is logged onto the TNC’s digital network and is available to receive transportation requests but is not engaged in a prearranged ride include: primary auto liability of at least $50,000 for death and bodily injury per person; $150,000 for death and bodily injury per incident; and $25,000 for property damage.
When a driver is on a prearranged ride, primary auto coverage with at least $1 million for death, bodily injury and property damage is required. Uninsured motorist coverage is required in both scenarios. The bill states the coverage requirements may be satisfied by auto insurance maintained by the TNC driver, by the TNC itself, or both.
The compromise between lawmakers also added language that specified TNC cars must meet a 19-point safety inspection and have a removable emblem to identify their vehicles when they’re available to riders, the AP reported.
The Senate approved the bill in its revised form and it was signed by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley June 24, officially making it law.
The Property Casualty Insurances Association of America (PCI) commended the legislature and Gov. Haley for passing the bill and said it uses a “common sense approach” to regulating transportation companies, protecting the safety of rideshare drivers and the public while still allowing for innovation.
“This legislation, crafted by the Legislature and signed by the governor is designed to make sure the people of South Carolina are protected in a variety of ways including by closing the insurance gaps that existed for rideshare drivers,” said Oyango Snell, PCI’s Regional Manager. “Closing the insurance gaps the entire time a rideshare driver is involved in rideshare activities was our top priority and this new law will ensure the public is protected with appropriate insurance coverage. The insurance language in this bill brings clarity and consistency to rideshare insurance laws and enhances consumer choice and protections.”
However, not all industry groups agree that the new regulations will solve the TNC insurance issues in the state.
“Although we now have some legislation in SC for TNCs, most of our agents are still concerned about possible issues with TNC insurance coverage – we have not seen many independent agent companies step up to offer TNC coverage for individual driver/owners,” G. Frank Sheppard, president of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of South Carolina wrote in an e-mail to Insurance Journal. “We are also concerned that TNC drivers will not be communicating with their insurance agent or company – and could open themselves up to coverage gaps. Still lots of questions.”
Rideshare companies like Uber first entered the South Carolina market last year. South Carolina is the latest state to enact legislation addressing the insurance issues. Currently 24 states and the District of Columbia have enacted this type of legislation.
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