NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The competition between Uber and taxi drivers is reaching a tipping point for one local cab company owner.
Sheree Kerner said she initially welcomed the ride-sharing app to New Orleans, but now realizes the company is playing for the same customers - but with different rules.
"If you look at the requirements for a taxi driver, there's, at a minimum, 67 points of failure and five pages of regulations that we have to follow through, and we don't just go to a state mechanic, we have to go to an inspection station," Kerner said.
Kerner said Uber drivers only have to pass a common state inspection like any other driver on the road and now she thinks the added time and expense for her drivers is costing the industry business.
"We used to get 2,000 calls a week, [last weekend] no one was calling. I saw an email come through from one other company owner, he said he was just going to close. So then I called another one of my competitors and he said, 'it's not just you, my phone is not ringing either and I just laid off dispatchers,'" Kerner said.
She claims her drivers have to sit out days at a time just to pass a bi-yearly inspection, and if they fail, they're expected to pay even more just to have another inspection.
"Anytime you go there, it's a $50 money order. You just have to pay $50, so even if it's a tiny thing that is missing, that $50 is gone. You have to go back, you start again, fresh," cabbie Oluwafemi Ayinde said.
Now Kerner wants the City Council to even the playing field or allow drivers to get by with fewer regulations.
"Had they not done taxi reform, I don't think you'd hear the death cry from the industry because we would have resources to be able to support ourselves through this and be able to innovate and come up with some ideas to offer some fierce competition," Kerner said.
Uber is available in New Orleans and parts of Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes.
Jefferson Parish still has parts that won't allow the service. The parish is seeking an opinion from the Attorney General on whether Uber drivers should be required to have a chauffeur's license and "for hire" license plates.