For-Hire Vehicle Companies

The City of Seattle passed an ordinance in 2014 regulating the operation of for-hire vehicle companies. Key provisions of the ordinance that apply to for-hire vehicle companies are:

  • For-hire companies must have a valid Seattle business license.
  • For-hire companies must keep and maintain records for two years.
  • For-hire companies must make quarterly reports to the City.
  • For-hire companies must pay 10 cents per trip into the City Wheelchair Accessible Services Fund.

For-hire companies must provide the Director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services with samples of the company's proposed color scheme. The Director may approve or reject color schemes, which must be distinct from those used by taxicabs.

Registered owners of taxicabs and for-hire vehicles must maintain commercial insurance coverage with the following levels of coverage:

  • Bodily injury limits of at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident.
  • At least $25,000 for property damage.
  • Uninsured motorist insurance of at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. 

Policies must name the City of Seattle as an additional insured. The registered owners of vehicles must file evidence of insurance with the Director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services. Taxicab associations and for-hire vehicle companies may purchase and file such evidence on behalf of drivers.

Taxi and for-hire vehicle drivers must keep proof of commercial insurance in their vehicles while operating them.

Online dispatch applications, which are sometimes called mobile apps or online apps, allow people to request dispatch of drivers for trips or to accept payments for trips via the Internet using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

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 dispatch application; taxicab associations and for-hire companies may use them with approval from the Director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services.

If a for-hire vehicle company is using an online dispatch application, the rates must be transparent to the customer.

If a for-hire vehicle company is not using an online dispatch application, the company must file all rates and charges with the Director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services. This includes any rate structures that vary by time of day. All rates and charges, including any adopted senior citizen discount rate, must be conspicuously displayed in the interior of the for-hire vehicle so they can be seen easily by the passenger.

Unless using an online dispatch application, for-hire vehicles must charge for service based on one of the following:

  • Written contract.
  • Flat rate per trip.
  • By zone, with zone boundaries established for all for-hire vehicle companies by the Director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services.
  • By an hourly rate with minimum increments of one half hour.

Charges by zone or hourly rate may vary by time of day. Coupons or discounts are not allowed, unless the for-hire vehicle is using an online dispatch application.

Taxicab associations, for-hire vehicle companies and 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 by each taxi, for-hire vehicle license holder or transportation network company.
  • The type of dispatch for each ride (hail, phone, online app, etc.).
  • 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 telephone or applications but do not happen.
  • 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 the Department of Finance and Administrative Services to ensure compliance.

Records may be maintained electronically.

Data must be reported quarterly to the director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services. 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. The training must include completion of the National Safety Council's Defensive Driving Course and at least one additional driving training program approved by the Director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services.

Taxicab associations, for-hire vehicle companies or 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.

Curriculum for driver training programs must be submitted by the association or company to the Director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services 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 speak and read English well enough to fulfill the duties of a driver.
  • Knowledge of vehicle safety requirements.
  • 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 the Department of Finance and Administrative Services.

All drivers and vehicle owners must consent to criminal background checks. Transportation network companies, for-hire vehicle companies and taxicab associations 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 the Department of Finance and Administrative Services.

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:

  • Fraud
  • Theft
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Assault
  • Sex crimes
  • Alcohol or drug offenses
  • Prostitution

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 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 for-hire company, TNC or taxicab association to require that vehicles pass inspection and to maintain records of vehicle inspections.

Taxi and for-hire regulations and operating standards are enforced by City inspectors. Inspectors ride unannounced in taxis and for-hire vehicles to ensure that operating standards are met. If you have questions about driver or vehicle operating standards, please contact us.

You have 10 days to request a hearing if you receive a violation, suspension or revocation. Instructions for requesting a hearing will be on the reverse side of the Notice of Violation or License Action Form, or you may contact us.

If you receive a Notice of Infraction, you must respond within 15 days. Instructions for responding will be on the reverse side of the Notice of Infraction. Payments or requests for hearings are processed by Seattle Municipal Court.

You must pay any fines within 30 days of the issue date. Failure to pay could result in the loss of your license. This table lists Seattle fines for taxi and for-hire violations:

OffenseClassAmountPoints
1st A $35 2
2nd A $70 3
3rd A $120 4
1st B $70 4
2nd B $175 7
3rd B $300 10
All C $1000 20