- Ben Wear American-Statesman Staff
Checking out drivers
Uber and Lyft currently hire third-party companies to vet their potential drivers using name-based background checks. Here’s how that method compares to the fingerprint-based background checks that taxi drivers currently face, as well as the proposal coming before the Austin City Council that would create the same rules for all drivers-for-hire:
UBER AND LYFT
How the checks work: Both companies require applicants to provide a full name, date of birth, Social Security number, a copy of their driver’s license, vehicle registration, auto insurance and proof of a completed state vehicle inspection. Outside security companies search national, state and local databases for criminal and driving violations over the past seven years, and follow up with courthouse searches at the counties where the applicant lived in that period. Lyft includes an in-person interview to, among other things, match the person with the driver’s license picture.
Who gets disqualified: Applicants are out if they have convictions for any of the following offenses within the past seven years: alcohol- or drug-related driving infractions; fraud or theft; reckless driving; hit-and-run wrecks; violent crimes; sexual offenses; acts of terror; property damage crimes; fatal accidents; resisting or evading arrest; kidnapping, embezzlement or other felonies. Applicants are also rejected if their record includes driving with a suspended, revoked or invalid driver’s license or insurance.
How the checks work: City regulations require drivers to undergo a fingerprint background check in order to drive a taxi, limo or shuttle in Austin.
Who gets disqualified: Applicants convicted of certain offences — homicide, fraud or theft, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, prostitution or promoting of it, sexual assault, abuse or indecency, firearms violations, violence to a person, drug offenses and driving while intoxicated — are out, unless they have served their sentence and “maintained a record of good conduct and steady employment” since their release.
How the checks would work: All drivers for transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft, would have to be at least 21, with a valid driver’s license, auto insurance, proof of car registration and valid inspection. Starting Feb. 1, prospective TNC drivers would have to pass a fingerprint-based national criminal background check and submit the results of a driver history check, with the goal of getting virtually all TNC drivers checked within a year.
Who would be disqualified: Applicants would be out if they have at least three moving violations within the past three years, or if they have been charged with driving without insurance or a suspended license in the last three years. A separate ordinance would spell out which charges would disqualify applicants from driving for a TNC or taxi company, with the goal of making the standard the same.
What else would be required: The proposed ordinance would charge TNCs a fee of 1 percent of their Austin revenue, require vehicles to have “trade dress” identifying them as associated with a particular company, prohibit drivers from parking in travel lanes to take on or drop off passengers, confine ride-hailing to specific areas at large events and require drivers’ cars to pass a 20-point city safety inspection.
Sources: Uber, Lyft, City of Austin