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Uber under fire in Colorado for hiring "disqualified" drivers

Published: Nov. 20, 2017 at 2:44 PM MST
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According to a state agency, Uber has hired dozens of drivers in the past year and a half who should not have been allowed to drive for the company.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission, or PUC, made the announcement Monday morning issuing a Civil Penalty Assessment Notice for $8.9 million to Rasier, LLC, the parent company of Uber. The document states there were Uber drivers working with "disqualifying criminal or motor vehicle offenses, or without valid licenses," in Colorado. . The company was cited $2,500 a day for each day a disqualified driver was found to have worked.

“We have determined that Uber had background check information that should have disqualified these drivers under the law, but they were allowed to drive anyway,” PUC Director Doug Dean said in a release. “These actions put the safety of passengers in extreme jeopardy.”

Uber responded to the announcement with a written statement:

“We recently discovered a process error that was inconsistent with Colorado’s ridesharing regulations and proactively notified the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). This error affected a small number of drivers and we immediately took corrective action. Per Uber safety policies and Colorado state regulations, drivers with access to the Uber app must undergo a nationally accredited third party background screening. We will continue to work closely with the CPUC to enable access to safe, reliable transportation options for all Coloradans.”

PUC transportation enforcement staff launched an investigation earlier this year after a referral from the Vail Police Department about an Uber driver accused of assaulting a passenger. In cross-checking driver records produced by the company with information obtained from the Colorado Crime Information Center (CCIC) and court databases, PUC staff found that Uber allowed individuals to drive with previous felony convictions, major moving violations (DUI, DWI, reckless driving, driving under restraint), and numerous instances of individuals driving with suspended, revoked or cancelled driver’s licenses.

Under Colorado law, a Transportation Network Company (TNC) must perform a criminal history record check prior to allowing a person to act as a driver for the company. The company must also obtain and review a driving history report for individuals before they are allowed to drive. Drivers must have a valid driver’s license.

According to PUC, Uber’s background checks also failed to identify a number of aliases used by their drivers, including one driver who was a convicted felon, habitual offender, and at one point in his past had escaped from the Colorado Department of Corrections. Nevertheless, after he was released from prison, he became a driver for Uber.

Under PUC rules, Uber can pay 50 percent of the CPAN amount within 10 days, or $4.45 million, to resolve the case. Or the company can request a hearing before an administrative law judge to contest the CPAN.