Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other City Council members announced Thursday that they want Uber and Lyft drivers to be required to pass fingerprint background checks, same as taxi drivers.
However, the power to pass that regulation belongs to the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that is in charge of regulating ride-hailing firms. Until now, PUC hasn’t made it mandatory for Uber and Lyft drivers to have their fingerprints checked against the FBI database.
Uber and Lyft do perform background checks, but it’s based on SSN, which can be forged, unlike fingerprints.
Some ride-sharing companies require their drivers to pass fingerprint background checks of their own accord, such as services that provide transport for children not accompanied by parents. The market is growing and other companies are joining the scene – Shuddle and KangaDo in Northern Cali, and HopSkipDrive in LA and Orange counties.
“We think of ourselves really as caregivers on wheels,” said Joanna McFarland, co-founder of HopSkipDrive. She further stated that she would prefer if the fingerprinting method became a legal requirement for all companies that transport children.
“We welcome a level playing field. We were the first rideshare company to fingerprint all of our drivers. Safety is really the core of what we do,” she said.
Fingerprint background checks issue not new
California PUC will take up a recommendation next month requiring fingerprint background checks for firms that offer rides to children unaccompanied by adults.
The Fingerprinting issue had been brought up last year for Uber and Lyft. The LA City Council tried to impose their authority on the ride-sharing companies when reviewing the city commission’s decision that enabled Uber and Lyft to provide rides to passengers at LAX.
According to some council members, they want ride-hailing services to fingerprint check their drivers just as taxi companies do. But this requirement was not mandated. While the city has authority over taxi companies, they cannot impose laws on companies like Uber and Lyft.
San Francisco and Los Angeles district attorneys had filed a lawsuit against Uber, claiming that the ride-sharing company misleads people with false advertising regarding safety screening. The debate was rekindled last month when an Uber driver, Jason Dalton, went on a rampage and killed 6 people in Kalamazoo, MI.