Uber, Lyft criticize Mass. background checks
Uber and Lyft on Tuesday asked state officials to revise the background checks that resulted in thousands of their drivers being kicked off the road this year.
The companies were among the dozens of people and organizations to submit comments before a Tuesday afternoon deadline. The Department of Public Utilities asked for public comment as it prepares to craft final rules governing the ride-hailing companies and drivers.
Working under interim rules, the DPU said in April that more than 8,200 ride-hailing drivers, who had already passed the private companies’ background checks, had been banned from the roads after undergoing the first-ever vetting procedure by the state.
Hundreds of drivers were taken off the roads due to serious past violent and sexual crimes, bolstering critics’ claims that Uber and Lyft background checks were inadequate. Yet some drivers and legal advocates criticized the checks as overly stringent because they banned drivers who were convicted of crimes decades ago, who had committed minor road offenses resulting in license suspensions, or who had settled past cases without a conviction. Those drivers also have limited options to appeal the department’s decision.
Other organizations focused their comments on ride-hailing regulatory concerns beyond the background checks. For example, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a regional planning agency, argued the companies should be required to share anonymized trip data with the government to better understand transportation patterns. The nonprofit Transportation for Massachusetts made the same appeal. The National Safety Council said drivers should be required to undergo distracted driver training.
Uber took issue with a proposed regulation that would not allow drivers to offer rides for more than 12 consecutive hours or 70 hours in a week.