How are uber and lyft drivers vetted?
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Uber and Lyft command a large share of the U.S. rideshare market. Known for the easy manner in which they connect customers with drivers and provide them with a quick ride to their next destination, both companies have seen enormous growth over the past decade.
To put their popularity into perspective, Uber commands 68% of the rideshare market, while Lyft maintains 32%. At the end of 2021, Uber had 118 million active platform consumers. During the fourth quarter of 2021, nearly 1.8 billion rides were completed by drivers working for Uber. Clearly, there is a big demand for rideshare services in the United States.
However, there are concerns about the safety of passengers using these companies. There have been many sexual assault and sexual violence cases related to drivers of Uber and Lyft. These cases have put pressure on the companies to conduct a stronger vetting process on their drivers and to provide more preventative safety features for passengers.
Uber has introduced a number of new features designed to improve safety. These include an In-App Emergency button and more rigorous background checks for its drivers. However, critics believe both companies could still do more to limit the potential for sexual assault by improving the vetting process for their drivers.
Criticism of vetting process for Uber and Lyft drivers
There are a number of existing claims against Uber and Lyft for their driver-vetting process. For example, a 2016 lawsuit indicated that both companies used low-cost background checking services to perform due diligence on their drivers. The background check companies failed to access databases with complete criminal histories during the vetting process, leading to 25 drivers being hired who had prior arrest records.
Often, the background checks performed don’t require fingerprinting to verify a driver’s identity. Laws for background checks also vary across locations, leading to lower standards in certain states.
Sexual assault claims have continued to mount over the years for Uber and Lyft. In California, one woman was assaulted on an empty beach, while another was attacked in an alley behind a bar in Colorado. A woman in Georgia was raped and beaten and then stalked for months to prevent her from reporting the assault.
Despite these cases, both Uber and Lyft have held back on making significant changes to their business operations, such as requiring that cars be equipped with cameras, audio equipment, and an emergency button similar to those used by New York City taxis.
In one extreme case, an accused terrorist passed a background check for both Uber and Lyft, allowing him to make over 1,500 trips using their services. He had received traffic citations in the past, but they were not disqualifying based on the criteria used by either rideshare company or by the local and state laws of New Jersey. He allegedly killed 8 people by intentionally driving a rented pickup truck down a busy bike path in Manhattan.
There are a lot of valid safety concerns voiced by critics of the rideshare companies. With so many customers, there should be a system to ensure that drivers pass proper background checks. In addition, forward-thinking safety features should continually be added to the app and monitored for their effectiveness.
What are the requirements to be an Uber driver?
Uber has put into place a number of requirements to become a driver on its rideshare platform. The criteria were established to help Uber weed out drivers with criminal histories or significant moving vehicle infractions. Requirements to become an Uber driver include:
Driver Must Be Over 21
Uber requires its drivers to be over the age of 21. If the driver is 25 years old or younger, they must have at least three years of driving experience in the U.S. This requirement was enacted to help ensure drivers have the experience necessary to operate their vehicles safely.
Pass Background Checks
Those who apply to be a driver must pass an initial vehicle and criminal background screening. These checks ensure that drivers do not have significant moving violations, impaired driving, or charges for violent crime on their record. An ongoing criminal background and driving history check are maintained while the driver is active on the platform.
Annual Driving and Background Check
In addition to the initial and ongoing background checks performed, each driver is subject to a more thorough screening process annually. Uber requires an updated criminal history check and driving infraction review. This ensures drivers remain compliant as they continue to offer rideshare services.
Random Identity Checks
Uber asks drivers to perform random identity checks when operating their vehicles. These checks require independent contractors to take a photograph of themselves while offering their services. The photographs are run against a database to ensure the driver is the same individual who initially signed up to drive with Uber.
Enforced Community Guidelines
Each driver must abide by the community guidelines established by Uber. These guidelines ensure that local, state, and federal laws are followed. They promote safety and positive interactions between drivers and their passengers.
Safe Vehicle Policies
The company follows local guidelines to ensure its vehicles meet legal regulations. Common local laws may include regular vehicle inspections to ensure the vehicle is operating safely. Uber doesn’t interview drivers before they’re hired.
Both drivers and passengers are encouraged to provide feedback on their trip experience. This allows Uber to review comments and follow up when negative comments are submitted. If ratings drop below a certain average, a driver may be banned from using the platform.
What are the requirements to be a Lyft driver?
Similar to Uber, Lyft has a set of criteria that it uses to verify drivers before allowing them on the platform. Each of these requirements was designed to help keep the platform safe. Criteria include:
Minimum Driver Age of 21
The minimum age that a driver may sign up with the Lyft platform is 21 years old. However, the minimum age to become a driver differs by region. In some cases, drivers must be at least 25 years old.
Pass a Background Check
Lyft conducts a criminal background check as part of the application process. To perform the check, drivers must provide their Social Security number. To pass the screening, drivers must not have been convicted of a violent crime or be listed on the National Sex Offender Registry database.
Undergo a DMV Check
All Lyft drivers must pass a DMV screening. The check is run by a third-party company, Safety Holdings Inc. Any applicants who have serious driving or drug-related infractions will be disqualified from driving on the Lyft platform.
Lyft drivers must have a current and valid driver’s license as well as license plates with current registration. A valid insurance policy in the name of the driver must be provided. If the policy is in someone else’s name, a declaration from the insurance company will be required.
What disqualifies someone from being an Uber or Lyft driver?
Both Uber and Lyft disqualify drivers who do not meet their criminal background check standards. These standards are in place to ensure that drivers are safe and don’t have a history of criminal activities or poor driving records.
While the checks can help ensure that drivers meet specific standards, critics still believe more could be done by both companies to improve passenger safety.
Disqualifications for Uber drivers include:
- Major driving violations
- Multiple minor driving violations
- Sexual assault
- Terrorism-related offenses
- Registered sex offender status
- Violent crimes
- Sexual offenses
Any pending charges on a criminal or driving record related to the above will prevent a potential driver from registering on the platform until the case is resolved, and in some cases, permanently.
Similar to Uber, Lyft also has a list of disqualifications that prevent drivers from registering on the platform. These include:
- Registered sex offender status
- Disqualifying violent crime
- Sexual offense
- Act of terror
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in the past seven years
- Fraud-related offenses
- Drug-related offenses
- Theft or property damage offense in the past seven years
- Major driving infractions, such as DUI, hit-and-run, or felony involving a vehicle
If a driver has any of these items on their criminal background check, they will not be able to drive for Lyft.
How comprehensive are background checks?
Both Uber and Lyft use a third-party background check company, Checkr, Inc. However, despite the efforts of both companies, there have been instances where the checks have not caught prior offenders. Lawsuits have been initiated against both companies for incorrect background checks.
In some cases, individuals were refused from the platform because the background check picked up incorrect information showing they had been convicted for crimes committed by other individuals. In other cases, the background check completely missed driving infractions or arrest records.
The vetting process for both companies must be improved to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. Rideshare companies have a duty to protect customers from drivers with criminal or poor driving histories. Both Uber and Lyft should review their policies and implement new practices to protect their clients.