Alternate Use Vehicles Meet with Resistance


The evolution of alternative fuel and alternative use vehicles is going to force changes in both insurance laws and insurance coverage as evidenced by a case in Portland, Maine involving a young man and his golf cart.

Matt Rand, 19, has been providing rides for people getting off the Peaks Island ferry in exchange for tips for the past two years. The city council now says his golf cart must be licensed as a taxi and that he must carry the same kind of insurance any taxi driver would need. That would cost him about $5,000 a year, money Rand says he doesn’t have.

What’s the more likely reason that the city council has become involved in Rand’s harmless business? The Peaks Island Transportation System, a non-profit group that sunk $20,000 in city money into buying a van for the same purpose, is losing business to Rand.

Rand, quoted in a story by wmtw.com, was stoically philosophical about the situation. “I think the people out here would appreciate it if I did fight it because they like what I’m doing, but for me, I’m just going to move on from this. I’m obviously not liked by the people in power, so I’m not going to keep causing problems this way.”

The new ordinance won’t go into effect for 30 days and Rand leaves for college in two weeks, so until that time it’s business as usual. One would hope it will be a landslide business that makes a real point to the city council. That would be the same council that is:

– Opposing a young man’s entrepreneurial spirit.
– Ignoring the efficiency and environmental soundness of his solution.
– And using insurance as a weapon to protect economic gain.

The last point is the most egregious. More and more golf-cart like vehicles are going to start showing up on American streets. There’s one such “neighborhood vehicle” in my own area that I see frequently at the grocery store. I’ve spoken with the owner, who says the electrical vehicle is perfect for running simple errands, cuts down on wear and tear to the family car, and helps trim the gasoline budget.

And yes, the vehicle has to be insured. A tedious process as reported by this gentleman, one that required him to present copious information on the machine’s capacities as well as to educate his own insurance company about state laws governing the use of such vehicles. (Most are limited to operating on streets with a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or less, although these restrictions vary from state to state.)

Matt Rand’s story and my neighbor’s account illustrate that concepts of personal transportation are changing and that resistance from the “old ways” is inevitable. If you are interested in an alternative fuel, neighborhood vehicle, be prepared to fight for the right to use the machine and to have it insured properly and at a reasonable expense.

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