Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Reviews Lyft Background Check Process

Transportation Network Companies (TNCs)

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

In August 2020, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) Bureau of Audits released a background check process review of ride-sharing app provider Lyft since public utilities in Pennsylvania – including transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Lyft – are subject to the PUC’s authority to supervise and regulate.

In May 2018, the PUC Commissioners directed the Bureau of Audits to conduct a performance review of Lyft’s driver background check process within Pennsylvania. The findings in the report identify areas where deficiencies exist or improvements are warranted. In all cases, recommendations were offered to improve these conditions.

The Lyft background check process review was performed by the audit staff of the PUC’s Bureau of Audits to assess the effectiveness of Lyft’s driver onboarding, background check, and driver quality assurance programs. Fieldwork began on October 17, 2019, and continued through May 19, 2020. Recommendations included:

  • Document detailed operating policies and procedures.
  • Strengthen the background check process and the continuous criminal monitoring function.
  • Develop a partnership with transportation industry participants to build a database to readily identify/flag users that have been terminated/deactivated due to serious safety issues.
  • Create and track performance metrics and establish goals for each.
  • Leverage technology to reduce the level of insufficient information in the complaint investigation process.
  • Implement, redesign, and /or improve safety related features of the mobile app.
  • Track the cause of all driver and rider deactivations and maintain a database of such deactivations.

Before hiring a person to be a driver, TNCs in Pennsylvania must conduct a criminal background check for each applicant, obtain a driving history report, and conduct criminal background and driving history checks one year after hiring a driver and every second year thereafter. The review is at www.puc.pa.gov/pcdocs/1680059.pdf.

“Gig economy” businesses such as Lyft that provide services on demand to consumers through software apps are taking background checks of workers seriously, and this trend was chosen by global background check firm Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) as one of the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2020.

Attorney Lester Rosen, the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of ESR, wrote an article in which he stated that the basic problem for the “trust economy” – another name for the “gig economy” – where technology is used to connect consumers with mostly strangers from an “extended workforce” to perform services – is “trust.”

In his article “Why Consumers Cannot Trust the Trust Economy – The Inherent Conflict of Interest between Gig Economy Firms and their Customers and How to Fix It,” Rosen – the author of “The Safe Hiring Manual” – explained how hiring practices of “trust economy” firms may potentially pose a risk to consumers.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – which is headquartered in the San Francisco, California area – offers background checks for “gig economy” firms and a white paper on why screening the extended workforce is necessary for the modern economy. To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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