Bill ends safety checks for Uber vehicles here

A requirement for regular safety inspections of rideshare vehicles could soon be a thing of the past.

A measure headed to Gov. Doug Ducey would carve out an exception from existing laws that require anyone driving for a “transportation network company’’ to get their brakes and tires inspected at least once a year.

HB 2273 says that would no longer apply to vehicles that are less than 10 years old. Instead, it would be replaced by the owner simply attesting once a year that the vehicle meets safety standards.

The proposal would affect all companies that have online platforms linking vehicle owners with riders. But the measure, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Weninger, R-Chandler, is being pushed solely by Uber.

At a hearing in February, company lobbyist Shaun Rieve told lawmakers that the cost of having a mechanic check the brakes or tire tread could deter some people from signing up to become Uber drivers.

“The cumbersome TNC (transportation network company) inspection requirements are cumbersome and create bottlenecks for Arizonans who want to earn more money on Uber’s platform,’’ he said. Rieve said that Uber has fewer drivers on the road in comparison to states “without such onerous requirements.’’

Not everyone was convinced that scrapping the annual checks was the best thing for safety.

“We have bad ideas, very bad ideas, and Uber-bad ideas,’’ said Rep. Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe, during floor debate when the House gave the measure final approval earlier this week. “I worry very much about the safety of consumers.’’

Rieve said it’s not like it would just be the vehicle owners who would be saying the car is safe.

He pointed out that the app gives customers the option to comment on the ride, including not just the driver but also the vehicle. And Rieve said if someone reports an unsafe condition, the company will take that vehicle out of rotation for new riders.

Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley, scoffed at the idea that was a substitute for inspections by a mechanic.

“I want you to picture yourself leaving a bar at night,’’ she told colleagues.

“How many of you walk all the way around the car, check all the tires, make sure there’s enough tread,’’ Butler continued. “You don’t know anything about the brakes till you’re in the car and they’re not stopping.’’

That sentiment was echoed by Aaron Flannery who said he has driven for Uber for seven years. He told lawmakers that in all those years no customer has checked the tread on the tires of his vehicle, the one visible thing they could see.

Flannery said the need for annual safety checks is important, given the wear-and-tear on these vehicles.

He told lawmakers he averages about 50,000 miles a year driving for Uber, more than three times what a typical motorist will rack up. Rieve told lawmakers there appears to be no difference in accident rates between states like Arizona with annual inspection requirements and those which do not have them.

Rieve put the figure at anywhere between $50 and $150. But Flannery said it costs him about $30 to take the vehicle to a mechanic to have the safety check performed.

But he also said – and Rieve did not dispute – that once people are driving for Uber they can get the annual check performed for free by the company.

Flannery also worried that if a driver does a self-certification and then the brakes or tires fail, that would shift the liability for an accident from the company to the vehicle owner. Rieve, however, said the insurance coverage that Uber has for its drivers remains the same.