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Aug. 7, 2014 7:10 am

Not waiting for appeal, regulator rules Uber a ‘common carrier’

The order will force Uber to apply for a taxi license for its UberBlack and SUV services, and directs regulators to come up with new rules for ridesharing companies.

Uber has operated in Baltimore since 2013. It later added service in Annapolis.

(Photo by Flickr user Joakim Formo, used under a Creative Commons license)

Enforcing an administrative law judge’s decision, Maryland Public Service Commission officials told staff to treat Uber as a “common carrier.”

The order asks staff to draft new regulations for services like Uber in the next 90 days, and gives Uber 60 days to apply for a motor carrier permit for UberBlack and SUV services.

Uber and other industry players (like Lyft) will be allowed input on the new regulations.

“[T]he undisputed facts and circumstances in this case make it clear that Uber is engaged in the public transportation of persons for hire. Thus, Uber is a common carrier and a public service company over whom the Commission has jurisdiction,” commissioners wrote in a decision quoted in a commission release.

Officials went on to say that Uber has “branded, marketed and advertised” its ridesharing services, and that drivers sign agreements with Uber, which inspects their vehicles and sets rates. Uber has long contended that its drivers are independent contractors.

“While the people of Maryland and their elected leaders support innovation and choice, Maryland’s PSC is stuck in the days of the horse and buggy,” Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said in a statement. “The PSC’s attempt to take choice and competition away from Maryland residents to protect big taxi will not stand.”

In June, Uber appealed the ruling by Judge Terry Romine. No court date has yet been set.

The ruling does not specifically impact Lyft and Uber’s UberX service. Earlier this week, Maryland People’s Counsel Paula Carmody sent letters to the commission taking issue with insurance requirements and licensing of UberX drivers.

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Tyler Waldman

Tyler Waldman is lead reporter for Technical.ly Baltimore. A Towson University graduate and former local editor for Patch.com, Tyler has also written and photographed for publications including the Baltimore Brew, Howard County Times and Towson Times. He lives in Charles Village.

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