Hillsborough regulator puts pressure on Uber drivers, company fights back

Uber
AP file photo

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission refuses to give up its fight against ride-hailing company Uber, and now drivers are in the middle.

PTC Vice Chair David Pogorilich says his group will continue to ticket drivers who agree to work illegally for Uber. They’re setting up stings and issuing $700 tickets. Pogorilich said the PTC wants Uber to put drivers through background checks and finger printing. It also wants the company to agree to other rules.

“We’re trying to protect the public,” Pogorilich said. “I like the Uber service. Uber could be legal tomorrow if they wanted to be.”

But Uber refuses to play by the PTC rules, saying the agency is using public funds to pick on Uber drivers. Uber says the PTC has no right to regulate Uber. Uber even encourages drivers to drive in Hillsborough County anyway, offering to pay their tickets if they get caught in a PTC sting. The company even offers incentive pay to entice drivers to work in Hillsborough.

But that didn’t work out so well for driver Lisa Dupuis. She’s not planning to continue driving for Uber.

“It’s $27 an hour during the day, all day Friday and Saturday, and then after 1 a.m, it’s $30 an hour, so they’re really encouraging drivers to get out there, legal or not,” Dupuis said.

But on a recent Saturday night, Dupuis arrived to pick up a passenger and found an officer. “There was nobody standing around, just a Tampa police officer in his car,” she said.

Dupuis left and said she thought she saved Uber from a fat ticket, but company reps weren’t appreciative.

“They basically said, ‘You should have picked up the driver anyway and explained that it was a police officer,’ but they don’t care.”

On the night Dupuis saw the police car, the PTC issued 30 drivers. The PTC plans to keep up the tickets. If that doesn’t work, the PTC could consider pressing criminal charges.

“All it takes is one bad driver and then everybody is going to be calling foul and they’re going to wonder why the PTC wasn’t doing their job. We’re trying to do our jobs,”Pogorilich said.

Uber Spokesman Bill Gibbons said the company does not believe it is doing anything wrong and said the PTC is harassing drivers, even though they are providing a “valuable service in their communities.”

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