RI Uber Drivers Warn That “Criminal Drivers” From MA Are Invading

Sunday, April 16, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team

GoLocal has been told by Rhode Island-based Uber drivers that Massachusetts' stringent background check requirements for Uber and Lyft drivers are sending hundreds if not thousands of Massachusetts drivers heading to Rhode Island to drive. 

Last week, the Commonwealth’s regulatory agency announced that 62,000 drivers were approved, but that over 8,200 failed the required background check. Those companies - Uber and Lyft - fall under the category of Transportation Network Companies (TNC).

The MA Department of Public Utilities, the regulatory agency, reported that of the rejected, 51 applications were sex offenders and 352 were rejected for incidents related to sex, abuse, and exploitation.

Rhode Island Uber drivers that spoke with GoLocal asked that their names not be used, for fear of reprisal. They said that many of the individuals with the worst criminal records in Massachusetts knew they would never pass a background check -- so those ones never even went through the review.

Rhode Island Lacks a Review Process

Presently, there is functionally no state required and implemented background check for TNC drivers in Rhode Island. Companies such as Uber and Lyft have their own review standards, but many state regulators and law enforcement believe those are not stringent enough.

Tom Kogut of the RI Public Utilities Commission told GoLocal that the agency is in the midst of the process of developing regulations the would increase review, but it still falls far short of the Commonwealth’s standard that looks at all minor offenses going back seven years and an unlimited time period for more serious crimes.

The website whosdrivingyou.org keeps a running tally of violent crimes by drivers. Presently, the site reports 57 alleged assaults; 23 related deaths; 217 alleged sexual assaults; 10 kidnappings; and 17 felonies committed behind the wheel by drivers.

  • 1. Ordering

    Taxis: GoLocal's reporters had two different experiences ordering.  One reporter called Action Taxi LLP and was told five minutes, the other had to call two separate companies -- Providence Taxi LLP said they "had no rides" available, High-Class Taxi said ten to fifteen minutes for a pick up.

    Uber:  One reporter was a "first time" Uber user, although had previously opened an account months earlier, so had to spend five minutes updating credit card information before an order could be placed.  The other reporter, a seasoned Uber user, took less than 30 seconds to order and was told two minutes.  

    Edge: Uber

  • 2. Pick-Up

    Uber:  One reporter had some major issues with getting Uber to come to PC -- the car was visible on the app driving near the location requested, but not approaching the main drive -- it look several calls to the driver to get picked up.  The other reporter's Uber car arrived in 2 minutes from time of order.  Both cars were unmarked but described on the app prior to arrival.  

    Taxis: Despite saying five minutes, Action Taxi took 12 minutes from time of call to arrive, and showed up well marked.  High-Class arrived for pick-up nearly twenty minutes from the time of call.

    Edge: Uber

  • 3. Cleanliness

    Taxis: One reporter found Action Taxi to be impeccably clean, the other saw a lotion bottle on the floor in the the front by the driver in the High-Class taxi, but otherwise was clean.  

    Uber:  Both reporters found the Uber cars to not be at the level of the taxis.  One Uber car, while clean, had a towel over the backseat, and despite air-fresheners, smelled of smoke.  The other was a clean car, but according to the reporter, a little "beat up" -- the seats were slightly torn. 

    Edge: Taxis

  • 4. Driving

    Uber:  One reporter found coming back from PC, the Uber driver was slightly unsure of turns to take, and highly dependent on the GPS, constantly fiddling with the screen.  For the other reporter, the Uber driver had to back up at a red light for being too far over the line.  

    Taxis:  Both reporters found their taxi drivers to obey speed limits and traffic signals, and felt safe.  

    Edge: Taxis

  • 5. Cost

    Taxis:  One reporter had their ride cost $13 (with a meter -- $15 with tip) with High Class Taxi; the other paid $10 with Action Taxi, which didn't have its meter on, and didn't take credit cards.

    Uber:  Both reporters paid essentially the same price -- $8 and change -- for their Uber rides from downtown to PC, and vice-versa.  

    Edge: Uber


  • 6. Service

    Uber:  Despite the one reporter's late pick-up experience at PC, the Uber driver was friendly and accessible.  For the other reporter, their driver did not talk much, and was not receptive to questions, due to a language barrier.

    Taxis: The fact that the Action Taxi had no working meter was disconcerting; the driver spoke very little English but was pleasant.  The reporter said their High Class taxi driver was engaging and professional.

    Edge:  Draw


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