Feelings still raw six months after Uber's arrival in Mississippi

Feelings still raw six months after Uber's arrival in Mississippi

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It's been almost six months since the state of Mississippi approved companies that use digital networks to connect riders to drivers, like Uber. So far, so good - at least for those involved in this new way of commuting. But the feelings between them and traditional taxi cab drivers are still raw.

It's because cab drivers say the new law favors one side over the other.

Kenneth Quakbush's car has been through about as much as he has. After four years as a taxi cab driver, he decided three weeks ago to make a change. He's now an Uber driver.

"It's been great. It's easy," he said. "The app's real quick. It's a lot easier than being a cab driver, that's for sure."

Uber simply provides the connection between drivers and riders for a fee. Everything else is the driver's responsibility. Applications are taken online, and the company does a background check.

"You can work when you want. It's on your phone so you can sit at home," Quakbush said. "I can watch the football game and get a call. I don't have to be glued to my car like I was in the cab."

He and his friend, Chris Dantoni, quit their cab jobs about the same time when they saw what they said was a downturn in the business. Uber driving is a full-time job for both.

"I'm doing... well, let's put it to you this way," he said. "Instead of the money that I made to give to them, it goes to me now. The person that earned it."

In the meantime, the relationship between Uber and those in the taxi cab service is still sour. In fact, one official said that because of the lack of regulation, Uber could undermine the future of the taxicab industry.

The taxi cab service is tightly regulated by the Motor Vehicle For Hire Authority. But companies like Uber aren't because they don't fit the description of taxicabs.

David Crane is the commission attorney.

"It does undermine the poor cab drivers who are out there working, licensed, paying the fees to be inspected, paying the fees to be drug tested, and paying the fees to have their background checks done," Crane said.

The only state agency over companies like Uber is the State Insurance Commission. But Crane suggested that the agency's enforcement capabilities are suspect.

Dennis Gray has been a taxicab driver for 15 years.

"I don't like how they've seem to have gone around the system that was already in place for at hire," he said. "I don't care how they do it, whether it's through an app or through a dispatch center, you're a cab."

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