City threatening fines, arrests for Uber and Lyft drivers caught on the road

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The laws don't scare them, and Uber and Lyft drivers tell WREG they are staying on the road.

The city said it is issuing cease and desist order on rideshare companies.

Taxi companies say the city needs to back up their threat with action.

Ham Smythe said, "It is a violation of the law. And either the laws mean something, or they don't."

Smythe owns the Yellow and Checkered Cab Company.

His drivers are losing hundreds of dollars a day competing with these car services,  but he says the competition isn't the problem.

Smythe said it's the unfair playing field that is the problem.

Taxis have to pay for permits, and get detailed background checks.

He told us rideshare companies need to go through the same process.

Because rideshare customers are making a donation rather than paying a fee, they say they do not have to follow the same rules.

Aubrey Howard is the head of the Memphis Permits department, "We are not attempting to curtail commerce. What we want is if they are going to do business here they have to follow the rules."

Howard says if the companies are willing to pay the cost of permits and car inspections, they are welcome to stay.

Until that happens, he said the city is planning to send Memphis police officers after rideshare drivers, "We think sending out a task force will make these companies move a little faster."

Howard says the main focus is passenger safety.

The city needs to know the people driving these cars can pass a background test with the FBI and pay the permit fees to be on the road.

Smythe says these companies are being arrogant and cheap, and their actions are speak volumes, "We are glad the city is finally doing it's job, but we'll see."

All in all, the permitting process costs the driver about $200.

The company would pay for annual car inspections.

Howard says many of the companies require this already, they just need to submit the paperwork to the city to prove it.

Howard admits evolving industries like this require evolving laws.

Lyft provided the following information about its safety policies and insurance:

• Lyft has a $1,000,000 commercial liability insurance policy that protects drivers and passengers while they’re matched on the app.
• Lyft’s $1M coverage vastly outpaces that of a Memphis taxi, which is only required to carry a $50K combined single limit policy. Lyft’s coverage is 20 times greater than a Memphis taxi.
• This excess liability policy was specially designed to drop down to the first dollar in the event a driver’s personal policy isn’t collectible.
• Lyft also provides uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage up to $1,000,000.



  • MTown Vet

    Yeah Yellow/Checkered/Premiere is the biggest racket in this city. Tried getting a job there and they want $100 a day. So you know they are behind getting the Uber and Lyft business put to an end. I guess Premiere has the right person in their pocket. This city always trying to hold a person down trying to make a few extra dollars. With the lack of jobs in this area I see why crime is so high. You cant side hustle anywhere without the city wanting their cut. Ac Wharton just pimping the taxpayers. But guess what ni66a you still aint white no matter what part of the city you live in or how many white folks you surround yourself with.

    • Matt Stone

      MTown Vet
      AC Wharton is corrupt as they come but don’t be racist. It makes you sound like an idiot.

  • Redblur63

    There are so many issues this city needs to address. Rideshare services really isn’t one of them. If Ham Smythe and his companies want to compete in an open market, they need to make their prices competitive with what Lyft and Uber are getting, and up their insurance coverage. Sounds to me like someone can’t take the heat of ingenuity and initiative. Lyft and Uber are a boost to the local economy because they offer a needed service at an affordable rate, and offer employment opportunities as well. Their lower costs make more of a passenger’s money available for other things — like rent, groceries, utilities, etc. Traditional taxicab service in Memphis is at best, a joke — overpriced, unreliable, and rude, and has been for decades. I work with guests to Memphis from out of town, and their number one complaint about visiting Memphis is the awful taxi service.

  • canadianwhiskeygirl

    Not to mention the somewhat out of the way routes taxis take just because that’s how they’re told to go…..for that meter to run up more of a tab. Glad I don’t have to use here. Heard good about Huber and lyft but just the sight of that huge PINK moustache on the grill, in those pictures,is such a turnoff for me. My least fav color! Lol

  • canadianwhiskeygirl

    They probably could have tried that before TBI stepped in but now yesterday is dead and gone. Tomorrow’s out of sight. They’re probably saying help us make it thru this ordeal.

  • jeremy

    last time I was downtown I went out drinking, heavily. I ended up needing a ride as the party wound down. I called three different cab companies to pick me up and waited outside the double j bar for well over an hour and a half. I had to run to a cab somebody else called and bribe the cabbie a hundred bucks to take me just a few miles up the road. I felt terrible for buying the cab out from under someone, but hell I was beyond ready to get home. So do not get mad that the public explored other options like lyft. at least their employees speak English, are polite and have a vehicle that doesn’t smell like bigfoot’s a$$.If the city wants to do anything it needs to work with our cab companies on quality control. ecpecially with the fare prices the cab companies charge

  • Curtis B Cranford

    well for the taxis driver information when i got hired by lyft I had to had a back ground check my car had to pass inspection and plus the rider like us because are cars are kept spotless and we are a whole lot friendly than the cab drivers and we are more dependable than a cab plus several people have told how bad the cab smells and how dirty they are and sometimes they don’t even show up leaving people stranding so I ask would u rather depended on a good friendly person with a clean car and that smell good than stink cab that might not even show up for u

  • Sheryl

    There are so many things wrong with this that I don’t even know where to start. First of all, taxi availability in Memphis is not like in other cities where taxis are more commonplace. There have been several times that I have called for a taxi and they never arrived. When they did, the cost was so outrageous that I was discouraged from using their service again. Not to mention that I didn’t really feel safe in the taxi due to the condition of the car and unfriendliness of the driver. So, in my opinion, rideshare services like Lyft and Uber are a needed and WELCOME addition to the city. If the taxi companies are not happy with the competition, then they need to learn to adapt to the changing entrepreneurial landscape, just like any other business in any other industry throughout history. Second, I can think of a million other things that the city needs to invest in besides sicking a task force on people who are providing a service based on public demand. What about the health insurance cuts to our public responders? What about the reduced operating hours at Memphis Animal Services? I just can’t believe that our city would prioritize rideshare services over much more important issues.

  • BellRinger

    So you’re telling me that Uber and Lyft (which are both glorified carpoolers) made the news bc, they don’t have permits? Get real! Can we get some real news, please? leave the carpooling companies alone! Dang!

    • Matt Stone

      This needs to be bigger news. Memphis has a wide metro area and shitty expensive cab service.

  • Tom

    Every rider I have had appreciated the clean car, friendly driver, and not having to take a taxi. Some said that they would rather take the chance of driving impaired than ride in one of those hell wagons. Just saying!

  • Chris Faulkner

    Adapt or die you stupid cab companies!!! Going to the government and whining about how your BS business model is now failing? Great job. Grow up and provide a real service that doesn’t gouge your customers.

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