Ride-hailing companies Uber, Lyft get permits to operate in Nevada

Uber and Lyft were granted state permits Monday in a major milestone for ride-hailing in Nevada, although neither company has said exactly when its service will be available.

The Nevada Transportation Authority voted to approve applications from both companies after grilling their representatives about drug testing policies, insurance coverage and background checks. Taxi companies have repeatedly raised those concerns in their opposition to the companies, which allow people to hail a ride in someone's personal car using a smartphone.

Officials from Uber and Lyft said they'd each pre-approved more than 1,000 drivers so far, but neither has set a launch date. The companies face uncertainty over a proposed local business license ordinance in Clark County, something that could take weeks to finalize and affects Las Vegas, where the bulk of ride-hailing activity is expected to take place.

Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson said the company wanted to be respectful of Clark County's process but also believes the law requires ride-hailing companies to be up and running by Oct. 15. She said the company was in ongoing discussions with the county about the proposed ordinance.

Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend said the company believes it's in full compliance with existing rules but is actively working with officials in the Las Vegas area, especially in regards to a permit that would allow Uber to pick up passengers at McCarran international Airport. She said the company plans to launch "very soon" and will do so simultaneously in northern and southern Nevada.

Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin didn't have immediate comment Monday on the talks with ride-hailing companies.

Uber briefly operated in Nevada last fall, but a judge ultimately ordered it to stop because it wasn't abiding by the laws governing taxis and limos.

Lawmakers passed two hard-fought bills this spring that authorized the companies to operate in the state and imposed a 3 percent fare tax for taxi and ride-hailing companies.

The Nevada Transportation Authority then drafted detailed rules specific to ride-hailing companies. Among other things, the regulations that were adopted Friday call for an administrative fee to fund regulators and enforcement staff, and require a decal on cars working for ride-hailing companies.

Taxi and limo interests have fought against the new legal framework for ride-hailing companies. Among other complaints, they say the setup endangers passengers because it doesn't require Uber or Lyft drivers to undergo the pre-employment drug screening that applies to taxi drivers.

Ride-hailing companies instead have a "zero-tolerance" drug and alcohol policy and say they suspend drivers in real-time when a passenger reports a driver who might be under the influence.

They argued that with the in-app review function, every ride serves as a sobriety test of sorts.