HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has released a detailed review of the driver background check process used in Pennsylvania by Lyft, Inc. (Lyft) – recommending a series of actions to strengthen Lyft’s background check process in the future and raising concerns about Lyft’s failure to provide data and documented policies.
The Commission voted 4-0 to release the PUC’s background check process review – performed by the audit staff of the PUC’s Bureau of Audits – along with an implementation plan from Lyft addressing issues raised by the PUC.
Based on (the PUC Bureau of Audits) review, Lyft should initiate or devote additional efforts to improving its driver background check process and safety functions.
The PUC examination was intended to assess the effectiveness of Lyft’s driver onboarding, background check, and driver quality assurance programs. Activities reviewed included:
- Driver sign-up process, including required information, timelines and evaluations;
- Driver background check policies, procedures and processes;
- Driver performance evaluation and methods to reevaluate qualifications;
- The complaint process and its connection to user safety;
- Methods to ensure compliance with Pennsylvania laws and regulations; and,
- Future changes or initiatives.
Findings & Recommendations
The PUC report includes seven major recommendations for improvements related to background checks and rider safety. In several of these areas, auditors noted Lyft’s inability to, or refusal to, provide specific data.
The PUC report includes the following findings:
- Lyft did not provide documented policies and procedures related to background checks and its onboarding process.
- The background check process and the continuous criminal monitoring functions for Pennsylvania drivers could be enhanced.
- Safety-related driver terminations/deactivations are not shared by companies within the vehicle-for-hire industry.
- Lyft did not provide PA specific performance metrics or goals to measure its operational performance.
- Lyft is unable to reach a conclusion in many complaint investigations due to incomplete or insufficient information provided and/or acquired.
- Lyft’s mobile app features could be improved to enhance safety.
- Lyft did not provide driver and rider deactivations for its most serious cases.
In response to those findings, the PUC report makes the following recommendations for improvement by Lyft:
- Document detailed operating policies and procedures.
- Strengthen the background check process and the continuous criminal monitoring function.
- Develop a partnership with transportation industry participants to build a database to readily identify/flag users that have been terminated/deactivated due to serious safety issues.
- Create and track performance metrics and establish goals for each.
- Leverage technology to reduce the level of insufficient information in the complaint investigation process.
- Implement, redesign, and /or improve safety-related features of the mobile app.
- Track the cause of all driver and rider deactivations and maintain a database of such deactivations.
Lyft’s implementation plan, which was submitted after completion of the review, partially accepts all the PUC recommendations and details how those matters will be addressed moving forward.
The release of the report on Lyft’s background check process follows the PUC’s first-ever on the driver background check process used by Uber in Pennsylvania, which was released in March 2019.
TNCs in Pennsylvania
In November 2016, Governor Wolf signed Act 164 of 2016, providing for permanent statewide authority for Transportation Network Companies – or 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, verification 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.
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