TAMPA (FOX 13) - The legal battles and PR wars have been going on for years, but there may finally be an end in sight for the standoff between Hillsborough County and ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.
Both sides say they're close to a deal that would put drivers on the road legally, but there's still one huge roadblock.
The county wants drivers of transportation network companies to undergo Level II background checks, which require drivers to submit their fingerprints as part of a criminal screening. Uber and Lyft both say that's asking for too much.
"It only confirms their identity and we believe the processes we have in place are enough," says Uber senior public policy manager Stephanie Smith. "The [Public Transportation Commission] is trying to shoehorn our business into an antiquated taxi model."
Smith believes Uber and the county are close to compromises on former sticking points like mechanical inspections and insurance. But she says Uber, which hires a third party service to run background checks on potential drivers using their social security information, is already adequately vetting its drivers. Smith also says avoiding piecemeal deals with different municipalities across the county is essential to the company's success.
"Unfortunately, what they've proposed with the Level II background checks hinders our business and our ability to get people on the app quickly to meet demand here in Hillsborough County," said Smith.
Uber and Lyft have been operating in Hillsborough County for years, but PTC chair Victor Crist says they've been doing so illegally. Last week the county resumed its policy of ticketing drivers, who they say aren't following taxi rules. The ride-sharing companies say they cover the fines, a whopping $700 a pop, for their drivers.
Crist says unless an agreement is reached, the county will continue to ticket Uber and Lyft drivers. He's hopeful, however, the two sides will soon reach an agreement on how to regulate this 21st century service.
"The public has clearly stated that they want ride sharing. That they want companies like Uber and Lyft and they want them now," said Crist. "We're trying to open the doors so that these ride sharing companies can come in and open up shop and set up now, but we want to make sure the drivers are safe, the vehicles are safe and basic adequate insurance is there in the event somebody gets hurt."