As of 2015, Uber has reported an active workforce of 327,000 drivers in the United States alone. With this number of employees across 204 cities it’s no wonder that the company currently has a user base of 15.8 million Americans looking for a convenient ride, day or night. And in cities where public transportation might not run until the early A.M., the ridesharing service has been an obvious blessing for night owls who choose to travel safely after a few drinks at the bar or club.
However, Uber has been receiving criticism lately for accumulating reports of driving behavior and records that seem to defy their supposed safety claims, including violations such as DUIs, speeding tickets, and reckless driving. All of these uncovered violations makes one wonder, exactly what is Uber’s set criteria and protocol for passing drivers' background checks?
What information is required for an Uber driver background check?
Uber’s website is pretty vague when it comes to describing what background and criminal history details they look for in a driver application. Their website goes into extreme detail about other application aspects like how much you can earn an hour, appropriate licensing, and vehicle requirements. However, when it comes to information on background checks the only thing provided is, “After signing up, take a few minutes to start a screening online. It’ll review your driving record and criminal history” (Uber.com).
What kind of records does Uber look at during a background check?
While Uber’s official website doesn’t go into detail about the records they require for a proper background check, other websites have detailed the records that are looked into when you fill out a background check consent form for Uber:
- Courthouse records for every county of residence for the last 7 years
- Federal courthouse records for the past 7 years
- Records from the multi-state criminal database for the past 7 years
- Motor Vehicle records
- Social Security Trace
- National Sex Offender Registry
- The Uber background check doesn’t include a credit score check
What criteria does Uber have for driver background checks?
With the records mentioned above, Uber will decide whether or not your background and driving records meet the criteria listed below. Although required minimum years without an offense may differ by state (for example, California drivers must not have had a DUI in the past 10 years), you can expect a pass or fail depending on whether or not you have:
- Had your U.S. driver’s license for a minimum of 1 year. However, if you’re under 23 years old, the minimum becomes 3 years.
- A clean Motor Vehicle Report (MVR), which includes no more than 3 incidents within the past 3 years.
- No DUIs and no reckless driving ever.
- A clean criminal history. This means no felonies or misdemeanors involving theft, violence or drugs ever.
- No speeding violations within the past 3 years, in which the limit exceeded 20 mph or greater over the speed limit.
Beyond the news reports, Insurify’s data also verifies that rideshare companies don’t hold true to their own background specifications when it comes to their drivers. As you can see from the graph below, there are driving record violations, such as DUI’s and car accidents, that have taken place less than three years ago and many even less than a year ago on active rideshare driver’s records. The most concerning portion of this graph is the sheer number of violations that have taken place within the last three years compared to the number of violations spanning back five or more years on these drivers’ records. To put this data into perspective for those of you who often hail a rideshare, a 5% total DUI rate among rideshare drivers means if you have taken, or were to take, 20 Uber rides in your lifetime at least one of your drivers has had a DUI violation within the past 3 years.
So if Uber appears to have such solid, extensive background checks for their drivers that exclude people with a history of dangerous tendencies both inside and outside of the car, how do these kind of drivers keep getting behind the wheel for this rideshare giant?<
Why do there seem to be so many Uber driver incidents lately?
One theory for the increasing visibility of Uber driver violations is simply that drivers have most likely committed violations on their own time, but are only now being caught because their passengers can act as witnesses to their reckless behavior. As opposed to employed taxi and chauffeur services, ridesharing services pose a safety concern because they blur the lines between personal and business time for these contracted drivers.
Uber is infamous for their contractor’s ability to create their own work schedule. Drivers can sign into the app whenever it’s convenient for them. However, does this convenience in addition to the familiarity of operating one’s own car lead to lax decisions? For example, an Uber driver could have a few drinks for lunch off the clock and then decide to pick up some passengers while on his way home to make some quick cash. The problem with rideshare services is that drivers can turn on the app at any time. And why wouldn’t they if they think they’re fully capable to drive?
While it’s possible that drivers may be committing their first violation behind the wheel for Uber, this has not been the case in many of the reported incidents. News investigations have uncovered that Uber drivers who have crashed while on the app have a serious history of driving or criminal violations throughout their lifetimes, even though their records may have been “clean” for the past three or more years. The repetition of these stories through various news outlets raises the question--and concern-- if Uber’s time limit for violations really that safe for the community or simply a ruse to attain more workers for their cooperation?
Has Uber actually decreased drunk driving incidents?
In an attempt to combat user safety concerns, Uber’s website claims that their is a strong correlation between their presence in cities and fewer reports of drunk driving. Uber has even partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in the United States to raise awareness of this issue (Uber.com). And while this claim should theoretically make sense, Uber fails to understand that correlation doesn’t automatically mean causation---in other terms, they believe that their company is the sole cause for a recent decrease in drunk driving incidents.
However, a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology and featured in Fortune, contradicts the rideshare company’s safety claims with research that proves that the introduction of Uber’s services to cities in the U.S. has so far had no impact on the number of drunk driving fatalities year round or those specific to holidays and weekends and that actually the number of drunk driving fatalities has remained the same. Fortune suggests the stagnant findings could have several explanations. For example, it’s possible that the same intoxicated people who would usually take taxis home have merely switched over to ridesharing services like Uber. It’s also feasible that there simply aren’t enough Uber drivers present to offset drunk driving or that people are more willing to take a risk themselves than to use any form of rideshare or taxi service.
Whatever the reason, it is both ironic and dangerous that Uber would hire drivers with such spotty driving histories while claiming to be a safe service to the communities they operate within. Besides these news stories and data like ours, how can rideshare customers be sure that every time they open their rideshare app they’ll be matched with a driver with an actually clean driving history? It’s Uber’s responsibility to tighten and abide by their own background check criteria for the peace of mind and safety of their customers and their business model.