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City of LA wants fingerprinting for Uber and Lyft drivers

Taxi supporters in yellow and Uber and Lyft supporters in blue and pink pack the chambers of Los Angeles City Council during last year's vote on allowing ride-hailing services at LAX.
Taxi supporters in yellow and Uber and Lyft supporters in blue and pink pack the chambers of Los Angeles City Council during last year's vote on allowing ride-hailing services at LAX.
Meghan McCarty/KPCC

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and several City Council members want to require Uber and Lyft to fingerprint their drivers just as taxi companies do, they announced Thursday.

Authority to do that, however, is held by the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates the ride-hailing services. Up to now, the PUC hasn’t required fingerprinting with checks against the national FBI criminal database.

Uber and Lyft must conduct background checks, but they do them based on Social Security numbers, which can be falsified, rather than fingerprints.

Several ride-hailing companies voluntarily fingerprint their drivers – the ones that transport children without their parents. It’s a growing market, with several companies jumping in: Shuddle and KangaDo in Northern California and HopSkipDrive in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

"We think of ourselves really as caregivers on wheels," said Joanna McFarland, co-founder of HopSkipDrive.

While all such businesses voluntarily fingerprint drivers, McFarland would like to see the practice become a legal requirement for companies that transport children.

"We welcome a level playing field. We were the first rideshare company to fingerprint all of our drivers. Safety is really the core of what we do," she said.

Next month, the California Public Utilities Commission takes up a recommendation to require fingerprinting for companies providing rides to children who aren't with adults. 

The issue of fingerprinting drivers of Uber and Lyft arose last year, when the Los Angeles City Council attempted to exert authority over the ride-hailing services in reviewing a city commission's decision to allow the companies to pick up passengers at LAX.

Some councilmembers said ride-hailing drivers should be fingerprinted in the same way taxi drivers are, but that requirement was not imposed. The city regulates taxi companies, but not services like Uber and Lyft.

Uber is fighting a lawsuit filed by the San Francisco and Los Angeles district attorneys alleging the company produces misleading advertising about its safety screening.

The debate was renewed last month when Jason Dalton, an Uber driver, allegedly killed six people in a shooting rampage in Kalamazoo, Michigan.