Capitol Alert

Drug, criminal background tests for Uber and Lyft sought

Ridesharing supporters hold signs during a rally at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. The pink furry mustache is the symbol for Lyft.
Ridesharing supporters hold signs during a rally at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. The pink furry mustache is the symbol for Lyft. rbenton@sacbee.com

The drive to treat Uber and Lyft more like taxi companies has sparked another California bill requiring drivers to undergo drug and background tests.

As business has boomed for so-called “transportation network companies,” which allow nonprofessional drivers to find customers with an app and chauffeur them for a fee, regulatory efforts have also intensified. Last year a bill compelling TNCs to carry more extensive insurance became law, but a bill requiring drivers to undergo more tests foundered.

Now Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Sherman Oaks, is trying again after his bill last year died in committee amid what Nazarian called heavy lobbying from transportation companies. Assembly Bill 24 requires amateur drivers to submit to drug and alcohol testing, undergo criminal background checks overseen by the California Department of Justice and enroll in a Department of Motor Vehicles program alerting employers after DUI arrests.

“I feel it’s imperative for us to have a basic, level playing field when it comes to public safety,” Nazarian said.

“These are companies whose business model relies on consumers putting their trust in the driver,” he added, “and I just want to make sure that the act itself is protected, that the consumer feels appropriate protection. They’re vulnerable without this in place.”

The taxi industry has faced heavy regulation over the years, Nazarian said. Industry supporters of his bill note that cab drivers already undergo regular drug tests and DOJ background screens. Many participate in the DMV program. They say TNCs should be held to the same standards.

But Uber and Lyft, who opposed last year’s attempt, assail such mandates as a one-size-fits-all burden. A spokeswoman for Lyft noted the company conducts its own criminal checks through a private firm.

“We should seize this moment of change in the transportation industry to reject business as usual and establish the innovations brought by Lyft and other ridesharing services as a new standard of safety for all providers,” Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson said.

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

  Comments