After more than a decade of industry disruption, Uber has become one of the biggest businesses established in the transportation sector. Since its inception, the company has had major impacts on the way people get around and how people think of work. Urban transportation has undergone a significant shift towards ridesharing and away from organized taxi companies. Likewise, the “gig economy” in which Uber once nearly stood alone has expanded to encompass much more than driving. However, such rapid growth and innovation have come with risks.
For many years, controversy has surrounded Uber’s efforts to protect passengers, including the types of background checks it uses to vet drivers before hiring and the oversight it conducts on active drivers. Over the years, numerous Uber drivers have been accused or convicted of assault, rape, reckless driving, and other misdeeds. These instances have put Uber driver background checks under the microscope and caused critics of the company to question whether those background checks are thorough enough to protect passengers.
What Does an Uber Background Check Involve?
Uber currently uses a multi-part background check process administered through an accredited third-party provider. Because Uber operates in every US state and many other locales, the company must follow various regulatory and legislative requirements specific to each jurisdiction. Therefore, the specifics of what each background check entails can vary significantly from city to city. Uber’s website states that their process involves “a Motor Vehicle Report review and a criminal background check.”
Uber’s review of the Motor Vehicle Report, or MVR, has several purposes. The first is to establish whether the applicant has a driving history that meets the company’s requirements for experience and safety. Uber requires a valid license from a US state and at least one year of “licensed driving experience.” Drivers under 24 years of age must show at least three years of driving experience, while those over 25 only need to demonstrate one year.
During its driving record check, Uber also looks for driving infractions that may indicate a history of reckless or unsafe driving behavior. In most cases, Uber looks for “major driving violations”—not minor speeding tickets or other small moving violations. However, Uber does note that a driver can be disqualified if they have a “recent history of minor driving violations.” The company also states that even no-fault accidents reported on the MVR may be disqualifying in some places, per local laws.
In the case of the criminal background check, Uber automatically disqualifies any candidates with “convictions for felonies, violent crimes, sexual offenses, and registered sex offender status.” “Terrorism-related offenses” are also an automatic disqualifier. Uber will disqualify drivers who have pending charges for these crimes at least until the charges “are resolved in [a driver’s] favor.” Uber says that its criminal history checks include local, state, and national searches.
These requirements reflect Uber’s internal policies for driver background checks and disqualifications. Uber may require additional background checks or approach its driver considerations more strictly depending on state and local laws.
Uber’s background checks have evolved beyond a process that occurs only at hiring. Starting in 2018, the company completed an effort to implement ongoing criminal monitoring for its drivers. This system monitors criminal data sources and notifies Uber automatically if a driver is charged with a disqualifying crime. Uber then decides how to handle the incident and whether the driver should be investigated, suspended, or terminated.
Uber also states that they require all drivers to submit to an additional annual background check as a safety precaution. In some states and cities, Uber runs multiple background checks on drivers throughout the year because of local regulations.