A quick glance at the website “Who’s Driving You?
” displays a laundry list of criminal activity related to Uber and Lyft drivers that has become so commonplace it can be broken down into separate categories: Deaths, assaults, sexual assaults, felonies, imposters, DUIs, robberies, rapes, and kidnappings — yes, kidnappings.
The website, sponsored by the Taxi, Limousine & Paratransit Association, lists news accounts of alleged crimes, convictions and other illegal activities TNC drivers have been arrested for while on the job. They often drive people, including corporate employees traveling for business, who are mostly unaware whether TNC drivers have passed minimal background checks — if any. When they hop into the backseat, they just expect safe and secure rides.
The TNC safety issue has moved to the forefront with corporate travel managers and executives grappling with the dilemma because employees are using TNCs more often, yet safety concerns are bubbling up in meetings due to corporate duty-of-care responsibilities and liability issues.
Mounting Safety Concerns
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Seven out of 10 travel managers and 55% of business travelers are very concerned about the safety of TNCs, according to the 2015 Ground Transportation Study conducted by the Global Business Travel Association Foundation (GBTA) that surveyed travel managers and business travelers. Despite their concerns, 76% of travel managers and 70% of business travelers say that TNCs are an acceptable or preferred ground transportation option in their companies. The survey found that one quarter of companies do not allow employees to use TNCs.
That disconnect between business travel managers having concerns about TNC safety yet still allowing employees to use on-demand mobile apps could result from a lack of education about driver qualification and regulation requirements. For example, the study found only about one-third of business travelers are at least somewhat familiar with all aspects of driver training and certification requirements, such as pre-employment screening, ongoing DMV checks, amounts and types of commercial insurance, and compensation and benefit levels for drivers.
However, nearly half of business travelers are unfamiliar with driver certifications and requirements. Comparably, travel managers are more familiar with such driver issues, but only a quarter or fewer are very familiar with all aspects of driver regulations and requirements.
The findings drive home the point that the private transportation industry needs to educate the public and corporate travel managers on the differences between a well regulated industry versus the TNC companies that often disregard accepted rules, regulations and standard driver safety requirements and practices.
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More than ever, the limousine industry is citing “duty of care” responsibilities in its efforts to inform corporate travel executives that TNCs do not abide by the rules and practices of the for-hire ground transportation industry. The report’s findings state that safety clearly is an important consideration for travel managers and business travelers when choosing transportation, but nevertheless they are not fully informed about key differences between traditional ground transportation and TNCs on safety, insurance and driver background checks.
Easy In And Out
On business travel preferences, the study found that chauffeured transportation users like the comfort of the luxury vehicles, ease of getting a ride, and safety. But respondents admitted that they use chauffeurs services more often because of their companies’ policies to use them instead of other alternatives. Business travelers also responded that they choose TNCs because of the comfort and ease of getting a ride via a mobile app and simplified payment process.
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Travel managers also consider a number of factors when thinking about ground transportation. Most importantly, the study found, they evaluate traveler and vehicle safety, availability for a timely pick up, and convenience of payment methods. At least eight in 10 travel managers consider these factors “highly important” in their transportation policy decisions, and three-quarters of business travelers say they are highly important in their transportation decisions. On a side note, the study found that travel managers consider the following factors more important than do business travelers: Amount of insurance the chauffeur or company carries and access to customer service.
Overall, the study concluded that “ground transportation methods are not equal in the regulations they must follow and oversight they receive. As a result, they differ markedly in driver pre-qualifications, ongoing driver and vehicle checks, and commercial insurance requirements, all of which affect the safety of business travelers. Given this, there remains a nagging concern, particularly among travel managers, about the duty of care aspects of TNCs.”
Further, the report concluded that travel managers may be responding to traveler and budget pressure in allowing TNCs to be a part of their corporate policy. That may not be in the best interest of their companies if duty-of-care is a real concern and regulations do not change to cover TNCs in the same way as taxis, limos, and other ground transportation providers.
As the limousine industry gears up in 2016 to advance its public relations, lobbying and education initiatives to level the playing field with TNCs, the findings of the GBTA study reinforce the fact that operators and industry associations must continue to bring up the duty-of-care issues related to TNCs to reaffirm the overall need for safe business travels.