Rhode Island Cab Drivers May Have to Undergo Background Checks

By Michael Klazema on 3/15/2013

Cab drivers in Providence, Rhode Island may face more in-depth background checks should new legislation pass. The new bill proposes that all employees of taxicabs and other public motor vehicles undergo national and criminal background checks. Representative Robert Jacquard, the sponsor of the new bill, states, “When you get into a cab, the only thing you should be concerned about is getting where you need to go.”

Currently all people interested in operating a tax, limo, or multi-passenger van are required by the Division of Motor Vehicles to obtain a chauffer’s license. This license confirms their agreement to a criminal background check. Unfortunately, this background check is limited to within the state of Rhode Island. Potential drivers who have criminal records outside the state are able to slip through the cracks. This new bill would allow the Division of Motor Vehicles to perform a national check, which would better weed out drivers with previous criminal and driving records. A background check could also potentially flag illegal taxis not operating within the proper standards of conduct.

Providence will be one of the many cities that have looked into more extensive background checks on cab drivers. Other cities and states include Honolulu, Hawaii, Lee County, Florida, Ketchum, Idaho, and many others. The increase in security comes after news regarding some cab drivers performing violent acts and later on discovering that they had numerous criminal offenses.

Although there have been no reported incidents of assaults or other crimes among the Providence cab drivers, Jacquard believes that is better to make sure the passengers’ rides are safe. On top of a criminal background check, licensed chauffer operators are required to regularly maintain their cars and submit them twice a year to routine inspection. “When passengers get into a cab, and they see the certificate allowing the vehicle to operate in the state, they assume their ride will be safe, not only in terms of the condition of the vehicle but also in regard to the driver,” said Jacquard.

Despite Jacquard’s insistence for performing background checks, it is still possible the companies will continue to hire taxi drivers who have criminal backgrounds. An example of this is in Alexandria, Virginia. In Alexandria, cab drivers are required to undergo a background check when they apply for their license and then once every two years. Despite this, a cab driver, Kashif Bashir, was able to receive his taxicab license despite a long list of traffic offenses, such as tampering with a vehicle, speeding in a school zone, failure to obey a highway sign, and more. He was also charged with misdemeanor assault, though he was not prosecuted.

The Jacquard bill is currently before the House Committee on Corporations. It has not been stated when they will address the bill, but Jacquard hopes to have the bill passed shortly and the law to come into effect in 2013.

When your company employs drivers, whether for transporting products or transporting people, it’s important to make sure their history is appropriate for such a job. Most companies start out with a standard criminal background check, like's US OneSEARCH, which searches more than 450 million criminal records across the nation. But for a driving related job you obviously want to include a driving record report to find out if they are any reported driving offenses or violations that typically do NOT show up on a criminal report.  This, along with your standard pre-employment screening process, will help you get the most relevant information on the drivers you intend to hire.

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