Since ride-sharing services have officially been legalized on Long Island, local cab company owners and drivers, as well as some legislators, have raised concerns. Their main issue is that the faulty Uber background check process fails to prevent criminals from getting behind the wheel, directly jeopardizing the safety of riders.
What does the Uber Background Check Process Entail?
Uber drivers do not receive as thorough of background checks as taxicab drivers. To be clear: Uber drivers do receive background checks, they’re just different. And way more prone to errors.
Taxicab companies are mandated by law to conduct governmental, fingerprint-based background checks of everyone who applies as a driver in most major cities. Fingerprinting makes use of FBI records to reveal all relevant information of an applicant’s life: birth date, name, address, employment records and entire arrest record, including criminal charges and convictions.
Through the exploitation of legal loopholes, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft have masqueraded as transportation network companies (TNCs), which are basically tech firms, rather than being classified as taxicab companies. As a result, they’re able to opt-out of conducting the same governmental background checks that cab companies perform.
The Uber background check procedure relies on name-based background checks, which usually only dig seven years into an applicant’s criminal history. Not only that, but the FBI estimates that name-based checks have a staggering 43 percent error rate.
Uber Packs Up and Leaves
In places where Uber and Lyft are required to comply with local laws and conduct the same in-depth background checks as cab companies, they’ll often refuse to cooperate and stop doing business in the area.
An example is the city of Austin. In 2016, the city voted for ride-sharing drivers to undergo mandatory, fingerprint-based background checks. Uber and Lyft decided to leave.
The reason for their departure boils down to profit. It costs about $40 more to fingerprint a driver than it does to conduct a name-based check. Clearly, saving a few dollars is far more important than public safety in their opinion.
Note: new state legislation was recently introduced in Texas that does not bind ride-sharing services to local law. Uber and Lyft have returned to Austin since they no longer have to fingerprint their drivers.
Over 8,000 Drivers Disqualified in Massachusetts
In a rare gesture of collaboration, Uber and Lyft agreed to submit their drivers to more thorough, Massachusetts state-conducted background checks. The result was that 8,206 of nearly 71,000 drivers who had previously passed Uber and Lyft’s vetting procedures were pulled off the road. That’s about 11 percent.
So, approximately 1 in 10 drivers in the state had past infractions for offenses ranging from violent crimes and sexual assaults to suspended licenses and reckless driving charges.
Criminals Behind the Wheel
There are also numerous instances of convicted criminals driving for Uber and Lyft, and later harming passengers. For example, a recent lawsuit alleges that a driver previously convicted of first-degree murder passed the Uber background check using an alias, then raped an intoxicated passenger.
All of this is not to say that taxi drivers are perfect and that none of them ever have or ever will commit a crime. However, the vetting procedures for cab companies are for more likely to stop criminals from driving our citizens.