Bill Would Require Fingerprints from Uber, Lyft Drivers

Article written by Mary Markos and provided by the Boston Herald

Drivers for ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft would be fingerprinted under a bill being considered on Beacon Hill, a measure that failed when mandatory background checks were first signed into law in 2016.

“There is a hole in the system,” advocate Scott Solombrino said. “You absolutely have to have a fingerprint. It’s the only way you can guarantee people are who they say they are.”

Solombrino is a spokesman for Ride Safe Massachusetts, a coalition of chauffeured car and taxi companies, and also the owner of Dav El/Boston Coach, a luxury chauffeur transportation service.

The coalition is renewing its push for fingerprinting in response to what they describe as a “nonstop series of violent assaults against women by drivers working for these ride-hailing companies.”

A former Uber driver was accused of raping a passenger in his car and ordered held on $100,000 bail Monday in Boston Municipal Court, pending a May 1 pretrial hearing. Mayanja Daudah, 37, of Waltham, is being charged with two counts of rape.

“This needs to be dealt with — how widespread this problem is. There is a lack of protection. Women have been getting into these vehicles not knowing the truth and I think it’s a problem,” Solombrino said. “We are not anti-TNC, but we think they should have requirements.”

The fingerprint bill, filed by Rep. Michael Moran (D-Brighton), would require drivers for all transportation network companies (TNC) to submit fingerprints to be checked in the state and national criminal history databases. Moran did not return requests for comment Wednesday.

An Uber spokesperson countered that the company’s screening process is “robust,” citing the third-party provider that checks driving and criminal records through local, state and national databases to check for any “disqualifying offenses.” The background checks are re-run every six months.

“Safety is Lyft’s top priority,” a statement from the company to the Herald reads. “Which is why we have worked hard to design policies and features that protect both drivers and passengers, In Massachusetts, drivers undergo a rigorous two-tiered background check process, including a state-run check, before driving on the platform. As always, we’re open to discussions with policymakers on issues that impact our industry.

Solombrino, along with law enforcement officials, urged legislators to include fingerprinting as part of the law that requires background checks before it was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in 2016, but the effort failed.

Solombrino added that they are also working on a bill to require random drug testing, which he said is even more pertinent now that recreational marijuana is being sold. The coalition expects the legislation to be filed later this week.