Travis Kalanick, chief executive of Uber and Ayn Rand superfan, thinks regulation is for suckers, and his company has been slow to expand background checks and tighten the screening process as it ravenously expands. Surprise: people are beating Uber's weak rules.
The above message was posted to Whisper, the anonymous messaging and confessional app, by an Uber driver who has worked for the transit firm's Los Angeles branch. The source's subsequent conversations with Valleywag and Whisper, which put us in touch with the driver, speak to a corporate culture of laissez-faire gone wrong:
[Uber's] background check is done through a third party called Hirease. It consists of filling out your name, address, DL & SSN online. That's it. Every taxi company I worked for required drug screening and livescan fingerprinting at the local police department before being issued a taxi driver permit.
Signing up online sounds lax enough, but it's the account-swapping that's truly worrying here:
One person could fill out all the info and hand off the approved account to another person. You can't do that in the taxi world. That's what this limo company did that I used to lease from. Without anyone knowing.
I know of a few guys that "share" an account. One was approved by Uber, totally legit, and the other just drives.
Then there's what the limo company I used to lease from is doing. That's even more underhanded. They asked me to help two new drivers a few months ago. When to work, where to go, etc. I consistently generated over $2000 a week in revenue so I suppose that's why.
When these drivers told me they had interviewed only a few days prior to starting, I became suspicious. Uber is slow to get new drivers onboard - it took me a little over two weeks. It turns out that the limo company took two active driver accounts - guys that were in good standing but no longer driving - and changed the name and the photo on the account to that of these new guys.
They already had extra Uber phones in the office so the new guys were on the road in a few days, completely circumventing the "rigorous background check" or the driving check. I'm pretty sure they have valid driver's licenses because I doubt the limo company would forego insurance coverage. They also own one of the major cab companies in LA, I just don't think they'd risk that.
But this means Uber didn't check the driving record for these guys. It's harder to find drivers than you'd imagine. The company just wants someone in that car paying the lease. I had to train these guys on how to use a smartphone. They had no clue. No clue that they were not going through the normal channels
Even if you're not falsifying or swapping your driver bio, our source says the screening process itself falls short:
Uber's claim that their screening process is " often more rigorous" than what it takes to become a taxi driver is an outright lie. I've been a taxi driver in MA, FL and CA. You have to provide a 10 year driving history from the DMV dated within 30 days, pass a drug and alcohol test, go to the police department and get fingerprinted, and in some cases pass a test that shows you can at least read a Thomas Guide. Uber requires none of this. Your UberX driver could be shooting speedballs before he goes online and starts accepting rides.
Ultimately, our driver source says it was a mix of limo company scheming and Uber indifference that turned him off from the job: "I never want to go back to generating revenue for a company like Uber, that in my eyes doesn't give a fuck about its drivers. It's a great idea. I just wish it was in different hands."
I've asked Uber, Travis Kalanick, and Hirease for comment—if I hear back, I'll update.