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Transportation Authority hits snag in comparing ride-hailing drivers’ background checks

The Nevada Transportation Authority has hit a snag in its efforts to compare fingerprint-based background checks of ride-hailing drivers with the third-party commercial background checks in place by Uber and Lyft.

Transportation Authority Chairwoman Ann Wilkinson acknowledged Monday that the authority’s report to the Legislative Commission is incomplete, but she delivered a chart to its members outlining some of the differences in place between how regulators oversee ride-hailing drivers and those who work for bus, taxi and limousine companies.

She also charted what type of testing is required of ride-hailing companies in other states.

The Nevada Legislature passed a bill in May that legalized ride-hailing companies, known in the industry as transportation network companies.

Within the legislation, the Transportation Authority was required to file a report by December showing the difference between FBI background checks that use biometric indicators to verify the drivers’ records against less-expensive, third-party commercial background checks.

Wilkinson said in December her agency lacks the authority to require FBI testing of any existing state-approved network company drivers. The legislation also didn’t provide money to pay for FBI background checks.

She said there are only 10 drivers that have undergone both checks — not a large enough sample to reach a fair policy conclusion.

The taxi and limousine industry says it’s unfair for its drivers to be required to undergo the more stringent background check to be licensed.

Ride-hailing companies say their drivers are independent contractors and that the cost of FBI testing would be prohibitive to its business model. They also noted that FBI background checks lack case disposition information so a driver who may have been acquitted or had a complaint dismissed would still be flagged in the investigation and prohibited from driving.

Wilkinson also said that only two locations within 23 states surveyed require fingerprint background checks. Houston and Austin, Texas, require fingerprinting. A proposal to require fingerprinting for drivers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is under consideration and a California Legislature committee recently rejected a statewide fingerprint-based background check proposal.

Asked by Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, whether Nevada has the toughest background checks for transportation network companies in the country, Wilkinson said it’s difficult to make that assessment based on the results of the preliminary investigation.

Commissioners did not address new concerns raised by the taxi industry on transportation network company drivers operating for cash off the companies’ ride-hailing platforms or last week’s assault on an Uber driver who reportedly was giving an illegal cash ride when he was knifed by an unidentified passenger.

Wilkinson was asked to provide an updated report at the commission’s next meeting, which hasn’t been scheduled.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Find him on Twitter: @RickVelotta

 

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