A record-breaking number of Americans this year drove somewhere at least 50 miles away for Christmas. The main reason? Gas prices are good.

New Year’s traffic won’t be nearly as enormous. Still, prognosticators predict vehicle traffic will continue to stay strong if petrol prices are weak.

If you plan on heading out this new year’s eve, though, and more importantly, plan on using Uber, you might want to read this first.

Uber’s Story

One of the most recently successful companies to put stake in people’s cars is Uber – a ride
sharing company, that, like its top competitor Lyft, allows everyday citizens to get paid to drive other people around. Uber and Lyft work through mobile phone applications to offer rides in a more convenient way. Regular people can apply to be independent contract drivers and go through an application process that includes a better background check.

What’s the issue?

Uber is wildly successful, having raised more than $8 billion from investors since its 2009 founding. The ride-sharing company, however, continuously finds itself embroiled in bitter lawsuits over its somewhat sketchy background check procedures.

Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick says the company expects to add “multiple millions of drivers” in the new year. People are enticed to become independent contractors because they can earn money and set their own hours just by driving their own car.

Although nothing really will slow down Uber’s growth, more cities are hesitating at allowing the service because of what they say are insufficient background checks procedures. The biggest question that municipalities, state governments and ordinary people have about the background checks that are in place at Uber is this:

Are FBI background checks – the ones that include fingerprints – better at catching criminal history than the checks that Uber does now?

What’s Being Done?

Cities like Houston and Austin have added fingerprint check requirements, and some states like Ohio have already taken action. Additionally, San Antonio and Nevada are both looking into adding further driver requirements.

Some counties, however, have legitimized Uber’s processes by voting to de-regulate ride sharing services. Collier County, Florida for example has taken the stance that companies need to conduct their own background checks and that this will force any company who doesn’t take rider’s safety seriously to fall out of favor.

What Does Uber Say?

Uber has not been silent about the lawsuits and controversy. This past summer the company improved, updated and re-issued its safety guidelines. Click here to read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

“All driver-partners wanting to use the Uber platform are required to undergo a screening process, which is performed on our behalf by Checkr, which is nationally accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners.

People wanting to sign up as a driver-partner with Uber are required to provide detailed information, including their full name, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number, a copy of their driver’s license, vehicle registration, insurance, and proof of a completed vehicle inspection.  With the potential driver-partner’s approval, Checkr then looks into his or her background.  They run a social security trace to identify addresses associated with the potential driver-partner’s name during the past seven years, and then searches for his or her name and addresses in a series of national, state and local databases for convictions in the last seven years.  These include the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, National Criminal Search and several different databases used to flag suspected terrorists.  Upon identifying a potential criminal record, Checkr sends someone to review the record in-person at the relevant courthouse or, if possible, pulls the record digitally.  Verifying potential criminal records at the source—the courthouse records—helps ensure the records match the identity of the potential driver and that any arrest resulted in a conviction.”

One thing the company and its CEO isn’t backing down from is the forced regulation of its drivers through fingerprint checks. The main reason for that is that Kalanick claims criminal background checks through fingerprinting could be discriminatory because local police records don’t always include up-to-date information on whether an arrest actually turned into a conviction.

Confusing an arrest for a conviction when there was non is a huge no-no as anyone in the screening industry can attest.

What’s Next?

What we know for sure is this:

As always, we’ll keep you updated on how Uber’s situation affects the screening industry and vice versa. Meantime, if you have questions for us, please write it in the comment section!

Have a safe and Happy New Year from all of us at Active Screening!

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