TNC overview and application process
Transportation network company (TNC) application process
"Transportation network company" is defined in King County Regulations as a company that provides application dispatch services via an application dispatch system to connect drivers with passengers for the transportation of passengers for fares. King County passed an ordinance in 2014 regulating transportation network companies (TNCs).
King County and the City of Seattle partner to regulate the King County For Hire Industry under the terms of an interlocal agreement whereby King County manages all for-hire driver licensing functions for both jurisdictions while Seattle manages all for-hire vehicle licensing functions for both jurisdictions.
TNC regulations vary slightly between jurisdictions and what follows is an informational summary that is intended to inform the industry of some of the primary requirements for operating as a TNC in King County. City of Seattle TNC regulations vary slightly, for a complete version of each set of regulations please visit:
Key provisions of the ordinance that apply to TNCs are:
- Companies must have a valid TNC license and renew it annually.
- Vehicles must meet insurance standards.
- TNCs must keep and maintain records for two years.
TNCs must have a valid Seattle business license. In addition, TNCs must hold a valid TNC license.
TNCs must pay a fee of $0.23 per-trip fee (for all trips originating outside the City of Seattle) and $0.14 per-trip fee (for all trips originating in the City of Seattle). These fees are collected by the TNC and submitted quarterly. This fee will cover the costs of enforcement and regulation of TNC licensing, vehicle endorsements and driver licensing. In addition, the TNCs must pay $0.10 per-trip for the Wheelchair Accessible Services Fund.
Transportation Network Companies must meet certain minimum operating responsibilities. TNCs must:
- Maintain an office that is open and staffed from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on all business days.
- Maintain a mailing address and toll-free business and customer complaint telephone numbers that are answered during hours of operation.
- Provides a system by which passengers can retrieve lost items.
- Maintain all required records for two years and make quarterly reports to the Director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services with the City of Seattle.
- Require its drivers’ vehicles to be insured.
- Require its drivers to meet the vehicle markings (Trade Dress) of the TNC while in service.
- Ensure that the drivers comply with all rules and operating standards.
- Forward correspondence from the Director of King County Records and Licensing Services.
- Require that passengers can view a TNC driver’s photo and the vehicle’s license plate number on the device used to connect with the dispatch application before the trip is initiated.
- Maintain a non-discrimination policy that complies fully with all applicable federal, state and local laws that prohibit discrimination.
- Allow the passenger to indicate the need for a wheelchair accessible vehicle and connect the passenger to an accessible vehicle service via and internet link, application or telephone number.
- Maintain insurance and proof of insurance.
- Notify the Director of the King County Records and Licensing Services when drivers or licensees are convicted of serious criminal offenses that have a bearing on their ability or fitness to operate a taxicab. Such offenses may include: theft, fraud, robbery, burglary, assault, sex crimes, alcohol, drugs or prostitution.
- Notify the Director of the King County Records and Licensing Services if a TNC driver is involved in a traffic accident, has a driver license suspended or for-hire or TNC endorsements revoked.
- Employ a zero tolerance drug and alcohol policy with respect to TNC drivers.
- Review and maintain records of criminal background checks and driving records of TNC drivers. Drivers convicted within the last seven years for any alcohol or drug related offense, reckless driving, hit and run or driving with a suspended or revoked license are not permitted to provide TNC services.
- Require a safety inspection by an approved mechanic of affiliated TNC vehicles before they provide services and annually thereafter.
- Pay any penalties imposed by the Director of King County Records and Licensing Services.
- Report assaults or robberies of TNC drivers if they have not reported these crimes themselves.
Transportation network companies must maintain commercial insurance coverage for all TNC-affiliated vehicles at any time they are active on a TNC online dispatch application. The insurance coverage must include:
- Evidence of minimum insurance for each affiliated vehicle while on the application dispatch system (ADS) but before a passenger accepts a requested ride in an amount no less than required by RCW 46.72.050 and minimum underinsured motorist coverage of $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident/$30,000 property damage (ESSB 5550).
- Insurance (liability and UIM) during a "prearranged ride" as defined by State Bill ESSB 5550 with a combined single limit liability coverage of $1,000,000; and underinsured motorist coverage of $1,000,000.
- Policy issued by a Washington Admitted Carrier with AM Best rating of not less than B+ VII OR better OR Surplus Lines Insurer with AM Best rating not less than B+ VII with evidence that an exemption has been met allowing use of a surplus lines insurer
Policies must name King County as an additional insured. Transportation network companies must file evidence of insurance with the Director of King County Records and Licensing.
Drivers must keep proof of commercial insurance in their vehicles while operating them. If you are a TNC driver, you must also maintain your own auto insurance policy to provide coverage when your vehicle is not being used to transport passengers.
Transportation network companies must provide a written insurance disclosure to TNC drivers that includes the following language:
"[insert full corporate name and designation of TNC] confirms, in accordance with KCC 6.64.211 that while driver [insert driver's full name] is active on its TNC dispatch system as defined by KCC 6.64.010 A., the driver's vehicle is insured as required by RCW 46.72.050."
Online dispatch applications, which are sometimes called mobile apps or online apps, allow people to request dispatch of drivers for trips or to submit payments for trips via the Internet using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Drivers for transportation network companies may only accept payment for fares through an online Application Dispatch System; they may not accept cash fares.
Online dispatch applications must make the rate structure transparent, including any variable fees or possible surcharges, before the customer confirms the ride.
Transportation network companies must use an online Application Dispatch System approved by the Director of King County Records and Licensing.
The Application Dispatch System used by transportation network companies must include a telephone number, website link and email through which passengers can register complaints about drivers including those suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The application also must include the King County Consumer complaint Hotline phone number and Web site for reporting such complaints.
Application dispatch system rates must be transparent to customers in the online app when they request service and before they confirm the ride. The total fare, a fare range or a rate by distance or time must be displayed clearly on the application dispatch system. The system must also clearly display, before the ride is confirmed, any variables that may result in higher rates or fares, including tips, waiting time, demand pricing or any other surcharges.
Transportation network companies must compile accurate and complete operational records and keep these records for two years. The records must include:
- The total number of rides provided
- The percentage or number of rides picked up in each ZIP code.
- The pick up and drop off ZIP codes of each ride.
- The percentage by ZIP code of rides that are requested by the application dispatch system but are not provided.
- The number of collisions, including the name and number of the affiliated driver, collision fault, injuries and estimated damage.
- The number of rides when an accessible vehicle was requested.
- Reports of crimes against drivers.
- Records of passenger complaints.
- Any other data identified by the director of King County Records and Licensing to ensure compliance.
Records may be maintained electronically.
Data must be reported quarterly to the director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services with the City of Seattle. Reports are to be made electronically on forms provided by the director.
Drivers must complete driver's education and be tested in order to be licensed. King County code requires that all drivers complete the Defensive Driver Training provided by the National Safety Council specifically. The 4 hour online course must be completed within 60 days of the driver application submittal. It is strongly recommended that this requirement take place as early in the process as possible and companies are urged to consider building this requirement into the on boarding process to ensure the highest potential for compliance and accountability. In addition to the NSC's training, one additional driver training program must be approved by the Director of King County Records and Licensing and completed by the drivers.
Transportation network companies may provide driver training programs. Such programs must include:
- Information about defensive driving.
- Instruction on use of emergency equipment and procedures for driver safety.
- Information about risk factors for crimes against drivers.
- Training in passenger relations.
- Information about standards of professional conduct and communication skills
Curriculum for driver training programs must be submitted by the company to the Director of King County Records and Licensing for approval each year.
Drivers must pass an examination in order to be licensed. The test may be administered by the City of Seattle, by the City jointly with King County, or by an approved taxicab association, for-hire vehicle company, transportation network company or third-party vendor. Examinations must test the driver's:
- Knowledge of requirements and laws for operating taxicabs, for-hire vehicles or transportation network company vehicles.
- Ability to understand oral and written directions in the English language.
- Knowledge of vehicle safety requirements.
- Knowledge of TNC vehicle endorsement and driver regulations.
- Knowledge of the geography of Seattle, King County and the surrounding region.
- Knowledge of local public and tourist destinations and attractions.
- Knowledge of risk factors for crimes against drivers, of emergency procedures and of personal safety equipment.
Exam procedures and content must be approved by the Director of King County Records and Licensing.
All drivers and vehicle owners must consent to criminal background checks. Transportation network companies must review the background checks and maintain records of them.
The background checks may be conducted by fingerprinting the driver, with prints forwarded to the FBI or Washington State Patrol for investigation. They may also be conducted by a third-party vendor approved by the Director of King County Records and Licensing. Companies also must report criminal offenses by drivers that have bearing on the driver's fitness to operate a taxicab, transportation network company vehicle or for-hire vehicle. These criminal offenses include but are not limited to:
- Sex crimes
- Alcohol or drug offenses
All for-hire vehicles, transportation network company vehicles and taxicabs must undergo a uniform vehicle safety inspection before they can be used to provide services. This inspection covers all major components of the vehicle, as well as vehicle features that aid the driver and keep the passenger comfortable. Inspections certify that the vehicle is mechanically sound and fit for driving and will note that all plates, decals and notices required and supplied by the County and/or City are legible and properly displayed. The inspection must be done by a mechanic approved by the Director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services. See the list of City-approved vehicle safety inspection mechanics
It is the responsibility of the TNC to require that vehicles pass inspection and to maintain records of vehicle inspections.
Taxi, for-hire and TNC regulations and operating standards are enforced by County and City inspectors. For Hire License inspectors ride unannounced in taxis, for-hire and TNC vehicles to ensure that operating standards are met.
The director of King County Records and Licensing may assess monetary civil penalties as allowed under King County Code 6.64.800.