Maryland boots nearly 15 percent of new ride-hail drivers for failing screening – Washington Post

Nearly 15 percent of new ride-hail drivers in Maryland have been booted from the apps over the previous six months for failing state screening, regardless of having handed Uber and Lyft’s background checks, based on the state Public Service Commission (PSC).

In greater than 95 percent of instances, the rejected candidates had been driving for Uber, the fee stated.

The rejections included 460 candidates with disqualifying legal histories and 900 who have been flagged as a result of of points with their driving data, in line with the PSC.

Uber blamed “outdated” screening necessities for the outsize quantity of rejections and stated fewer drivers can be blocked as new screening standards have been rolled out by the state. The firm stated it adopted a authorized normal established by the fee in December 2015, however PSC employees had been making use of broader vetting standards till final week.

The fee hailed the rejections as proof that its multitiered screening course of is working to weed out dangerous-apple drivers.

For some, nevertheless, the numbers renew considerations concerning the effectiveness of Uber and Lyft’s digital screening, notably as different states weigh adopting Maryland’s screening mannequin.

The Maryland PSC accepted a new screening framework final yr after commissioners agreed digital checks — paired with rigorous oversight by regulators — could possibly be as or extra thorough than fingerprint-based mostly checks favored by regulation enforcement.

But the uptick in rejections, six months after Maryland reported that it had booted greater than four,000 out of 74,000 drivers since December 2015, exhibits a big hole between ride-hail corporations’ screening and state regulators’ expectations. In the newest spherical of checks, Maryland rejected three,503 out of 24,608 purposes evaluated since April three. Over the six-month span, the proportion of rejections nearly tripled in contrast with the yr-and-a-half earlier than.

Maryland doesn’t conduct its personal separate screenings of drivers however quite critiques Uber’s and Lyft’s accomplished purposes for compliance. Once Uber and Lyft approve people to drive, they will decide up fares till the state says in any other case.

Virginia and the District don’t acquire the businesses’ screening knowledge to examine for compliance.

“The fact that we are rejecting a significant number on secondary review demonstrates a solid justification for our supplemental review process, which is above and beyond what most other states do,” PSC spokeswoman Tori Leonard stated.

In addition to the 24,608 purposes already checked, one other 6,922 purposes acquired since April three have but to be reviewed. Since December 2015, the state has rejected about 6.6 percent of the purposes it has acquired, Leonard stated.

In the newest batch, nearly 40 percent of the rejected drivers have been dismissed for driving or felony historical past causes, based on stats offered by Leonard. The remaining drivers have been rejected for administrative causes, which might embrace the failure to confirm a driver’s id, having too little driving expertise, and holding a restricted-time period short-term license.

Uber defended its screening course of and argued that state regulators have been evaluating its drivers based mostly upon an out of date normal.

“There is a consensus among the Public Service Commissioners, PSC staff, and ridesharing companies on the responsible, fair, and clear standards for screenings,” an Uber spokesman stated in a press release. “These standards are 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 criteria while the new rules are being finalized.”

Last yr, as considerations arose over the effectiveness of ride-hail corporations’ digital screening, the PSC debated whether or not to institute fingerprint-based mostly background checks. Uber threatened to go away the state if it adopted the checks, largely as a result of of the restrictions the pricey screenings would place on its workforce. In the top, the fee permitted an alternate screening technique that allowed the businesses to proceed conducting digital checks — topic to ultimate approval by the state.

Uber additionally had opposed provisions that, for instance, banned drivers who have been convicted of a single felony drug possession cost, in accordance with the corporate. But a new rule authorised by the fee would reinstate drivers’ eligibility after seven years, or after 10 years for a number of convictions.

The new PSC screening necessities, which went into impact final week, are extra consistent with Uber’s strategy to screening, the corporate stated.

Lyft didn’t reply on to questions concerning the discrepancy between its checks and the state’s secondary screening however stated the bulk of rejections are for what it described as “paperwork issues,” which might embrace submitting pictures of car inspection stickers somewhat than the precise certificates.

One constructive notice for the ride-hail corporations: Between April and October, the proportion of drivers rejected for driving and legal historical past causes decreased. In statistics launched in April, the quantity of drivers rejected for driving and legal historical past was 64 percent; the quantity rejected for these causes between April and October dropped to 39 percent.

“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,” Leonard stated.

Still, Dave Sutton, a spokesman for the taxi business-funded Who’s Driving You, stated the findings are alarming.

“This is further proof that governments should be conducting background checks on Uber and Lyft drivers, not the companies themselves,” he stated. “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.”

Meanwhile, in California, the state Public Utilities Commission just lately reached a “proposed decision” that may not topic drivers to fingerprint checks. The determination notes that Maryland regulators discovered Uber’s and Lyft’s screenings to be “as comprehensive and accurate” as fingerprint-based mostly 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,” stated Sutton, whose group raises considerations concerning the corporations’ screening processes. “Clearly, Maryland does not.”

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