PUC Approves First-Ever Review on Uber’s Driver Background Check Process in Pennsylvania; Recommends Future Improvements

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today, March 28, 2019, releases

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its first-ever report of Uber’s driver background check process in Pennsylvania.  Also, the PUC is releasing Uber’s implementation plan and directing the Company to proceed with several recommendations which will further strengthen Uber’s background check process in the future.

The Commission voted 5-0 to release the PUC report and implementation plan of Rasier-PA LLC, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Uber Technologies Inc and the largest transportation network company (TNC) operating in Pennsylvania.

The report includes seven major recommendations for improvements related to background checks and rider safety. Uber’s implementation plan, which was submitted after completion of the review, fully or partially accepts all the PUC recommendations and details how those matters will be addressed moving forward.
Findings & Recommendations

The PUC examination of Uber’s background check and safety function included a study of the driver onboarding process; driver background check practices; driver and rider complaint handling practices; contracts and service agreements established with Rasier-PA’s background check provider; performance metrics and safety statistics; rider and driver mobile in-app safety features; upcoming safety initiatives and other related issues.

Following the detailed review, the PUC Bureau of Audits identified the following issues:

  • Background check monitoring for Pennsylvania drivers can be improved;
  • Uber’s mobile apps offer a toolkit of safety features, but its visibility could be improved;
  • Rasier-PA is unable to reach a definitive conclusion in many complaint investigations due to incomplete information;
  • Driver deactivations due to safety concerns are not shared by companies providing transportation services;
  • Rasier-PA has safety initiatives that have not been completed or rolled out to all users;
  • Rasier-PA has some performance metrics in place, but no goals have been established; and,
  • Rasier-PA’s documentation of policies and procedures are not formalized.

Based on those review findings, the PUC report includes the following seven recommendations:

  1. Strengthen the background check process and continuous monitoring features;
  2. Redesign the Safety Toolkit icon allowing for quicker and easier identification;
  3. Explore ways to reduce the level of insufficient information in the complaint investigation process;
  4. Partner with all transportation market participants to explore the development of a database to readily identify deactivated users to supplement the driver background check monitoring process;
  5. Complete the development and implementation of key safety related initiatives;
  6. Reevaluate tracked performance metrics and establish goals for critical metrics; and,
  7. Formalize business process and procedure documentation.

TNCs in Pennsylvania

In November 2016, Governor Wolf signed Act 164 of 2016, providing for permanent statewide authority for Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), often referred to by the public as ride-hailing or ride-sharing services.

Prior to passage of that legislation, the PUC had granted temporary experimental authority for several TNCs to operate, while encouraging the development of a permanent regulatory framework to address important consumer safety matters – such as driver backgrounds and integrity, vehicle safety, insurance coverage and licensing requirements.

TNC applicants in Pennsylvania are required to submit the following information and supporting documentation for Commission review before beginning service:

  • A verified, written application.
  • A certificate of insurance for the coverage levels required by Act 164.
  • Documentation evidencing the TNC’s financial position.
  • Certification that it will maintain accurate records.
  • Certification that the vehicles used in TNC service comply with Pennsylvania’s vehicle safety standards.
  • If autonomous vehicles are used in TNC service, verify that the vehicles and their operation comply with all applicable PennDOT regulations.
  • Certification that it will implement a driver drug and alcohol policy.
  • Certification that it will conduct background checks of its TNC drivers before permitting them access to their digital network.
  • Certification that it will establish and provide a driver training program.
  • Certification that it has a procedure for complaint resolution.

Desire specific assistance regarding PUC matters, representation in transportation cases, ratemaking, contracts, real estate, or utility law, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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