The Maryland Screening Conundrum: Uber Drivers Getting Booted

(Bick Bhangoo) #1

If there is one way to check out what the demographics of a city might be, is through the screening process of Uber. They perform a seven your old screening of all their applicants, and in Maryland, this led to 15% not passing the background check.

During 2015 the State of Maryland was proposing to impose a fingerprint screening process for all Uber applicants. Uber responded by threatening to leave the State since the new regulations would put a great burden on all their drivers as well as the company. The Public Service Commission (PSC) eventually agreed to Uber's demands but stated that they would screen all the applicant files after Uber had accepted the driver. Uber claimed that some of the States demands were ludicrous, such as a provision that banned applicants with a Single felony charge of possession at any time during their past. The PSC agreed to change the term for a single felony to seven years and multiple felonies to ten years. The new screening policies that were published in December 2015 were more in line with what Uber expected.

The PSC checked that nearly 15% of all rideshare drivers didn't pass their background screening checks for Uber and Lyft. They also mentioned that 95% of the applicants that had been rejected had already started to work for Uber before the screening was over.

The actual figures were 460 applicants that failed the process due to their criminal histories and 900 applicants that had bad driving records. Uber stated that these figures proved that their screening process was outdated and that they would review the requirements and make them more agreeable, however the PSC stated that their regulations and legal standards that had to be established on December 2015 were proof of how accurate they wore in weeding out the potential bad drivers with proven problematic personal history.

The Maryland results were sought after by other States that are considering adopting the Maryland screening mode due to its remarkable results. The Maryland model that was updated in 2015 uses a combination of electronic checks and strict regulatory oversight and is more efficient and through than the standard fingerprint checks that are used by law enforcement agencies.

The rigorous and strict screening methods in Maryland led to over 4,000 applicants out of 74,000 which is around 5% of all the drivers being refused ridesharing jobs in a six months period since December 2015. After April of 2016, The State of Maryland rejected around 3,500 applicants out of 24,700 applicants in a six-month period, which is 14% and presents a significant rise in the number of rejections, which tripled after the commencement of the new regulations, pricing the effectivity of their new system

The State of Maryland uses Uber's and Lyft's applications and lets the drivers operate after receiving Uber or Lyft's approval while undergoing a further review by the state. The Other States, such as Virginia and DC do not check the applications and as such proves what a State oversight will do to improve the level of their ridesharing drivers. Although, the State did agree that they were going above and beyond what needed to be done.

In the latest batch of drivers under review, around 6.6% were rejected, in numbers, this represents 1,624 applicants out of 24,608 being rejected. Out of this group, 40% were rejected due to driving or criminal records; the remaining 60% were rejected due to bureaucratic reasons such as invalid documents, missing documents or applicants having a limited temporary driving license or not enough actual US driving experience as is required.

Uber, on the other hand, were defending their application and screening process and claim that the State of Maryland is over exaggerating and denying some people a basic right to employment. An official Uber statement included: "There is a consensus among the Public Service Commissioners, PSC staff, and ridesharing companies on the responsible, fair, and clear standards for screenings. These standards were in line with the PSC's ruling on screening requirements last year, they are similar to the laws in neighboring D.C. and Virginia, and they are expected to be finalized within the next few months. Unfortunately, despite this consensus, some ride-share driver applicants are being blocked under an outdated criterion while the new rules are being finalized."

Lyft didn't react the same way as Uber and merely stated that the difference between their drivers being accepted by Lyft and rejected by the State was due to bureaucratic reasons and not driving or criminal ones.

A direct result of the new policies might be working effectively, and fewer applicants with issues are applying for work with Uber and Lyft, the actual figures for April 2016 show that the number of State rejected applications was 64% and from April to October 2016 the number of rejected applications due to driving or criminal histories dropped to 39%.

Ubers spokesman stated that "As our screening guidelines continue to evolve as a result of new regulations and practices, we believe this will lead to more stability and even a decrease in the number of safety-related rejections going forward."

The Taxi industries funded "Who's driving you" spokesman Dave Sutton stated that finding was alarming. He said "This is further proof that governments should be conducting background checks on Uber and Lyft drivers, not the companies themselves. While Uber points to Maryland as a proponent of its background checks, the state is quietly rejecting thousands of already approved applicants. This should serve as a warning to other states and cities."

The State of California's public utility commission had reached a proposed decision that would not subject ridesharing applicants to a fingerprinting test and went on to state that they found the Maryland process to be comprehensive and accurate, based on their results. Sutton responded to this by saying

Meanwhile, in California, the state Public Utilities Commission recently reached a "proposed decision" that would not subject drivers to fingerprint checks. The decision notes that Maryland regulators found Uber's and Lyft's screenings to be "as comprehensive and accurate" as fingerprint-based checks. "In California, the state regulator has decided not to fingerprint Uber and Lyft drivers based on Uber's testimony that Maryland approves of the company's driver screening, clearly, Maryland does not."

Source: Washington Post