If you want to see Uber’s upfront true intentions, look no further than the local regulatory battles playing out in cities, towns and airports across America.
I noticed two examples recently; one at the nation’s busiest airport in Atlanta, and the other in Springfield, Missouri, a small city representative of America’s heartland.
In Atlanta, Uber objects to fingerprint background checks airport officials want to require for drivers. Fox News report here. Uber claims its non-fingerprint checks are good enough, but the spate of media reports about criminal drivers getting through belies its position.
In Springfield, the City Council is considering an ordinance to allow TNCs to operate in the city alongside taxicabs. The solution should be straightforward; TNC and taxi drivers follow the same rules.
According to a Springfield News-Leader report last week:
Assistant City Manager Collin Quigley said his department is [talking] with Uber about how they can create potential ordinance language that might work.
The issue with the bill, Uber General Manager Sagar Shah said, is that it places too many burdens — like drug tests, health physicals and fingerprint background checks — on the individual driver, rather than the company. He said ideally, Uber should be required to ensure basic safety, insurance and consumer protections, but laws should not penalize drivers by having them pay fees and take time to complete several external procedures.
Quigley said these requirements are the same that taxi drivers have to meet in order to obtain a permit for operating in Springfield. . .
There you have it, again. Uber doesn’t want to obey the same reasonable rules as other forms of ground transportation. It prefers to handle background checks, instead of drivers, so it can avoid fingerprint checks and take the easiest route possible. It tries to whine, lobby, lie, cheat and scam its way into special status as a ridiculously self-labeled "technology company." That’s transparently unfair and un-American in my view. If Uber can't make it following taxi rules, it deserves to fail.
The good news here is that more local governing bodies are pushing reasonable solutions. Last month, I highlighted the common sense approach of the Rehoboth Beach (Del.) City Council.
Larger cities are taking the lead as well, with New York City fingerprinting drivers, and the mayor of Los Angeles this month asking state regulators to allow his city to do so as well. Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city, was among the first in the nation to require drivers for Uber and other ride-booking firms to undergo fingerprint-based background checks using the FBI's database.
While we can’t yet declare that the background check issue is shifting in the favor of safety and uniformity, we should be encouraged by the cities and towns bold enough to step forward and take a stand.
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