On December 22nd, the Maryland Public Service Commission decided whether Uber and Lyft drivers would be required to have fingerprint-based background checks. Despite complaints from commission staff, cab companies, and the Office of the People’s Counsel during previous public hearings, the Commission ultimately decided that Uber and Lyft would not need to use fingerprinting but they would have to improve their background checks.
Similar scenarios have popped up recently across the country, including in Austin, Texas, where Uber no longer operates. How their absence has affected these communities has yet to be determined, but the threat of them leaving cities such as Baltimore and Ocean City gave the companies some added weight in their arguments to the commission.
How Will This Affect Uber and Lyft?
In its report, the commission stated that “none of the background checks at issue are completely comprehensive and accurate.” The companies came to an agreement over a set of conditions that will be amended or added to their background checks, including:
– All companies running background checks for the services must be accredited
– All drivers must agree to report to Uber or Lyft any arrests or convictions within three business days
– All drivers for the services must their background checks annually rerun
– Background checks must be increased to include the entire adult criminal history of a Maryland driver
– Drivers that are permanently suspended or deactivated by the services must be required to return each company’s respective insignia riders (used to identify themselves as an Uber or Lyft vehicle)
– Uber and Lyft must notify the Public Service Commission of any changes to their background check process
– An annual report must be filed with the Public Service Commission detailing the total number of active drivers, driver suspensions/deactivations, and safety-related complaints.
In an email statement released by Lyft, they briefly talked about their view of the situation: “Today’s decision prioritizes public safety while preserving transportation choice for people in Maryland. While we will continue to work with the Commission on certain aspects of the rules, we appreciate their recognition that Lyft’s modern background check process is comprehensive and rigorous”
Despite this forward movement in public safety, some opponents of the ridesharing companies’ practices are still pushing for higher regulation, including measures to ensure that the companies must physically meet a potential driver (something that is currently not done by Uber). This has led to another regulation specific to Uber from the commission that will require a “Real-Time ID Check” to be implemented with at least 75 percent of its drivers in Maryland.