Thousands of Uber, Lyft drivers fail background checks

BOSTON — More than 8,000 drivers for ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft have failed a new Massachusetts background check, the Boston Globe reports.

The background checks revealed a variety of infractions including license suspensions, violent crimes, driving-related offenses and even sexual offenses, the newspaper said.

Massachusetts reviewed the criminal and driving records of nearly 71,000 drivers—including many who had already passed reviews by their employers—under the new state system, which began in January and is one of the strictest in the nation for ride-hailing drivers. (See related story on Page 12.)

Officials rejected 8,206 drivers, about 11 percent of those reviewed. The drivers will be barred from working for ride-hailing companies unless they successfully appeal the results.

While safety advocates and critics of ride-hailing services praised the new system for taking unsafe drivers off the road, others suggested that the Massachusetts background checks are too strict and could be identifying drivers who committed minor violations years ago or who already settled their cases without convictions.

The state looks back seven years for violations such as reckless driving, license suspensions and less-serious violent crimes, but there is no limit to how far back they look for more serious infractions.

Uber and Lyft said they are limited by state law to checking just the last seven years of an applicant’s history, which they said explains why so many drivers they had approved failed to make it past the state’s review.

They said the unlimited reach of the government’s background checks is unfair to drivers who are trying to overcome past troubles.

The Globe said the most common reasons drivers were rejected were because they had suspended licenses or they hadn’t been driving long enough to qualify for the ride-hailing services.

The new law was an outgrowth of a lobbying effort by the taxi industry and the Boston police commissioner to require fingerprinting for ride-hailing drivers. State lawmakers decided to add the state-run background checks.

Uber and Lyft signed an agreement to submit their drivers to the checks a year before the law would have required.

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