(Photo by Flickr user Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures, used under a Creative Commons license)
State regulators at the Maryland Public Service Commission decided the ridesharing companies do not need to include fingerprinting in background checks for their drivers.
The companies use separate services to conduct background checks, and don’t want to include fingerprinting as is required for taxi companies. To get a waiver under new regulations for ridesharing companies passed in Maryland last year, Uber and Lyft had to show that their background checks were the same or better than fingerprinting.
In its ruling, the PSC decided the background checks that Uber and Lyft use include “extensive efforts to identify criminal history, are supplemented by ongoing safety protocols and updates.” It also helps that the companies are also using “unique and emerging methods of authenticating the identity of drivers,” the ruling stated.
The taxi industry argued that fingerprinting was less extensive, but the PSC appeared to decide it had a choice between imperfect methods.
“The Commission noted that neither fingerprinting-based nor commercial background checks are completely comprehensive and accurate,” the ruling stated.
Though they won’t have to fingerprint, Uber and Lyft will have to implement additional safety standards, including rerunning the background checks every year, having the background checks accredited and audited and submitting annual reports to the state. Drivers are also required to report arrests or convictions to Uber and Lyft within three days.
Fingerprinting has been a sticking point for Uber and Lyft around the country — the companies pulled out of Austin, Texas, earlier this year over the issue. Last week’s ruling was the result of a compromise over the issue in last year’s whirlwind General Assembly debate, when the ridesharing companies threatened to stop operating in Maryland if they did not get a favorable ruling from the PSC.
The companies still have to agree to the additional safety requirements within 10 days, but appeared satisfied.
Uber put out an email blast saying the ruling “ensures that the Uber you know and love can continue to operate in Maryland.”
In the bigger picture, it’s another sign that regulators, just like riders, are onboard with ridesharing companies operating differently than taxis. The legislation passed by the General Assembly last year created a completely different regulatory framework for Uber and Lyft. The PSC’s decision makes one of those differences permanent.