It turns out that no matter how casual you think being a weekend Uber driver is, if you spend even a minute as a ride-share worker you still have to register your car as a commercial vehicle. Yeah, you have to get those special plates like the ones big trucks have.
So says the California DMV in a recent memo. The department reminded Uber, Lyft and other ride-share drivers of a 1935 law that essentially says …
… any passenger vehicle used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit is a commercial vehicle. Even occasional use of a vehicle in this manner requires the vehicle to be registered commercially.
A pair of California Republican legislators recently urged the department to back off. Local assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang of Diamond Bar and Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen of Modesto fired off a letter to DMV director Jean Shiomoto:
Eighty years ago this interpretation was likely sound. In 2015, however, this borders on the nonsensical. It will subject thousands of current and potential ride share operators to increased government red tape and costs. It will also harm an emerging industry that provides tremendous employment and economic opportunity. This is counter-productive. Do we really want to tell entrepreneurs to go stand in line at the DMV?
… California is struggling to retain its rightful place as the home where new ideas become reality because of outdated government thinking. California leaders must be creative and nimble if we are to continue to lead the nation in technology, creativity and innovation.
Commercial vehicle registration costs are higher and they trigger insurance rates that can be as much as three times the amount drivers with everyday personal rides pay.
A spokeswoman for Republican leader Olsen told us:
We stand firm that there’s a middle ground—those who are occasional drivers and not using their cars primarily for driving-for-hire should not be caught in the blanket mandate from the DMV.
The GOP legislators want the DMV to work with the ride-share companies and the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates such transportation, to come up with a solution that doesn't require commercial license plates to be bolted onto the personal cars of Uber, Lyft and Sidecar drivers.