Florida City Looking to Bring Uber Back, Despite Background Check Disagreements

By Michael Klazema on 10/31/2016

Uber suspended its operations in Bay County, Florida in March 2015 after an Uber driver was arrested for not maintaining a proper vehicle inspection proof. The arrest caused a spat between Uber and the county, culminating in Uber's decision to terminate operations in the area. Now, Panama City Beach—one of the cities located in Bay County—is looking for ways to bring Uber back to the area.

Per a report from the Panama City News Herald, Mario Gisbert, the City Manager of Panama City Beach, is currently in talks with nearby cities to see what they are doing to bring Uber back. The other cities on the list include Lynn Haven and Panama City, both affected when Uber suspended operations in March 2015. Lynn Haven is looking at options for allowing Uber to operate within city limits and the City Council of Panama City Beach has followed suit.

To bring Uber back to the area, reports argue, Panama City Beach might have to relax its regulations on driver background checks and vehicle inspections. The reason Uber left Bay County was a dispute over whether the company's "ride sharing" operations qualified as traditional taxed services. In Panama City Beach, all taxi drivers must submit their vehicles for inspection through the police department. If a car passes the inspection, the driver is given inspection tags to display. The driver who was arrested in early 2015 did not have these necessary proofs of inspection.

At the time, Uber argued that it was not a taxi or limo company and should therefore not be beholden to the same set of rules. Uber claimed that since its drivers weren't employees and were using their own vehicles, the regulations should be different. Gisbert and Panama City Beach Mayor Gayle Oberst wouldn't acquiesce to Uber's argument so the ride-sharing service left the county.

In Lynn Haven, there is a new ordinance that would allow the service to operate within city limits. Per reports, Lynn Haven wants fingerprint background checks for Uber drivers. Uber has traditionally fought against fingerprint background check requirements in other cities, stating that its existing background check policies are more than adequate.

Per reports, officials in Bay County are primarily reconsidering their relationship with Uber because of demand from residents. Based on previous engagements between Uber and local townships, the service might not be willing to return without compromises from the city and county on both driver background checks and car inspections.



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