City to ride-share companies: comply with law before police take action

City to ride-share companies: comply with law before police take action

The City of Charleston issued a warning to new ride-share companies in the area: comply with the law voluntarily before Charleston police begin "taking enforcement action."

A release issued Tuesday by the city does not identify any specific companies by name, but says new ride-share companies utilizing smart phone apps and providing transportation service in the area do not have licenses from the State of South Carolina and the City of Charleston to operate.

State and city regulations, according to the release, require:

  1. Drivers must obtain a chauffeur's license requiring a criminal background check and driver history report.
  2. The company must provide confirmation of commercial liability insurance which would cover the rider in the vehicle.
  3. Vehicles for hire must display the appropriate license plate which conveys that the vehicle is a vehicle for hire.
  4. Vehicles for hire must undergo a current vehicle inspection.
  5. Companies must comply with a regulated fee structure. On the City of Charleston peninsula, that includes a $5 charge for any licensed vehicle ride.

"We are currently conducting a public education campaign to ensure that everyone is aware of the current ordinances and information," Charleston Police spokesman Charles Francis said. The campaign will run for 30 days.

"No person shall operate a limousine or taxicab until such vehicle has been registered in accordance with all of the requirements of the state and until all proper licenses, including a City of Charleston business license, if applicable, shall have been obtained therefore," laws state. "Additionally, No person shall drive a taxicab or limousine within the city without first having obtained a chauffeur's license from the police department in accordance with Chapter 31, Article 4, Division 4, sections 31-122 through 31-129."

Violating one of these laws is a fine up to $1097.00 and/or 30 days in jail, according to city spokesperson Barbara Vaughn.

The ride-sharing service Uber began service in four Palmetto State cities, including Charleston, on July 10. The service offers riders to book a car via a smart phone app and prepay by credit card.

The company also allows residents to sign up to be drivers, using their personal vehicles. A spokesman for Uber said the company runs "a very detailed and extensive" background check and driving records check and that every trip is insured up to $1 million per incident, "which is well in excess of what is required of taxis."

Uber said there are hundreds of drivers already signed up in South Carolina. The company also began operating in Columbia, Greenville and Myrtle Beach the same day Charleston service began.

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