Transportation Network Companies

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

At least 103 drivers working for transportation network company (TNC) Uber in the United States “have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past four years” and as many as “31 drivers have been convicted for crimes ranging from forcible touching and false imprisonment to rape,” according to a CNN investigation of police reports and court records for 20 major U.S. cities.

The CNN investigation of Uber – which was launched in San Francisco in 2010, operates in 630 cities worldwide, and provides 15 million rides a day – found there “is no publicly available data for the number of sexual assaults by Uber drivers or for drivers of other rideshare companies.” A CNN investigation of Lyft, an Uber competitor, found 18 cases of drivers being accused in the past four years with four convictions.

CNN also contacted more than 20 police departments to obtain data on complaints involving sexual assault with Uber or Lyft drivers. While most of these complaints were not included in the final tally of TNC drivers accused of crimes or named in civil lawsuits, “the numbers suggest that there may be many more overall incidents of sexual assault than the 103 cases found in the CNN investigation.”

Boston police had 24 sexual assault or abuse complaints about Uber drivers and three about Lyft drivers since 2016, Los Angeles police had 13 complaints about Uber drivers and eight about Lyft drivers since 2016, Austin police had 16 complaints about Uber drivers and ten about Lyft drivers since 2015, and Denver police had nine complaints about Uber drivers and 12 about Lyft drivers since 2015, CNN found.

In April 2018, Uber announced it would increase due diligence to strengthen its background checks. In a blog titled ‘Getting serious about safety,’ Uber Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dara Khosrowshahi wrote that Uber has “conducted criminal and driving record screenings on millions of people” since the company started nearly nine years ago and will strengthen its background checks moving forward with:

  • Annual background checks: While Uber conducted background check reruns in jurisdictions where required, the company will now proactively rerun criminal background checks and motor vehicle checks each year, regardless of whether there is a legal obligation to do so.
  • New offense notifications: Uber will use technology to rapidly identify new criminal offenses using data sources so they receive notifications when drivers are involved in an offense such as a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge to ensure that drivers are still eligible to use Uber.

Uber will also add a ‘Safety Center’ where riders learn safety information, ‘Trusted Contacts’ with whom riders can share trip details, improve and modernize 911 communications, and add former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to Uber’s Safety Advisory Board as Chairman. “Helping keep people safe is a huge responsibility, and one we do not take lightly,” Khosrowshahi wrote in the blog.

The growing scrutiny over background checks for TNC drivers from companies such as Uber and Lyft – which includes states passing laws or issuing fines to strengthen TNC background checks – is one of the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2018 selected by leading global background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR), which is headquartered in the San Francisco, California area.

In November 2017, the California Public Utilities Commission strengthened background checks for TNC drivers by requiring TNCs to use screening firms accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). In addition, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission issued a $8.9 million penalty against Uber for allowing individuals with disqualifying offenses to drive for the firm.

More Information about Screening for TNCs Like Uber

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