It might be labeled “The Uber Effect” at some point, but for those who compete in the livery market there are other, less pleasant names used to refer to the ride sharing app that is quickly becoming the major disruptive force for the licensed, regulated taxi and limo drivers. The same is happening in the hospitality field with AirBNB.

POB has provided a platform for some of the voices who are expressing serious concerns that the land surveying profession will gradually be deregulated as various states begin reducing requirement for a surveyor’s seal on documents or they begin to phase out requirements for those documents. Where things differ for the land surveying profession is, this is not the rapid rise of a disruptive start-up company or concept, it is a slow and steady erosion. All we have to do is sit quietly and let it happen.

The jury is still out on the impact Uber and AirBNB are having on public safety and welfare. But there’s a reason why drivers are regulated, and it is not only the revenue local governments get for licenses. If you get into a vehicle operated by a livery driver, you are putting your well being in the hands of a stranger. The only assurance you have that this individual has the right training and skills and knowledge to perform his or her job safely is that license posted on the dashboard or visor.

I watched commercial transportation go through the process of economic deregulation. Airlines were first, followed by trucking and railroads. The free-market arguments suggested lower costs for consumers, more and better service, and new entrants bringing more jobs to the country. One thing that was very clear during that process was that the government mandate to ensure public safety was not only not going away as the government stepped back from those businesses, it was being strengthened.

Transportation deregulation was a hard-fought battle. Debates at association conferences and conventions across the country were lively and often loud. A steady stream of expert witnesses testified to Congress on the merits of their position either for or against deregulation. There was no way this issue was sneaking up on anyone. But, for land surveyors today, the “Uber” that may turn the surveyor’s license into an interesting artifact (if we let it) is not a market force or an organized movement. It is a small piece here and another small piece there.

The public is not aware of the value land surveyors bring to them or the protections they offer.

You can see elements of the debate in this issue of POB and online at The public is not aware of the value land surveyors bring to them or the protections they offer. The difficulty we have bringing new, young surveyors into the field is a symptom. We’ll continue the debate here. It may help to frame the discussion that is needed elsewhere. Eventually, that debate will need to occur outside the profession. Real estate professionals, lenders and property owners need a better awareness of the important role the land surveyor plays. I may take it for granted when I get into a taxi that that driver’s license represents training and insurance and a commitment to my safety, but when I see it there, I know that is what it is supposed to mean. The public needs to look for that symbol of trust in the form of the land surveyor’s license and know their property rights will be protected. So, let’s make sure we tell them what they are getting if they don’t ask and let’s be pleased when they do ask.