Are Cab Drivers Background Checked Thoroughly Enough?

By Michael Klazema on 9/3/2013

Unlicensed cabs are popular in many big cities, where lower fares attract passengers to these private modes of transport. Unlicensed cabs are able to offer lower fares in part because they are unregulated and do not have to abide by official fare rates, so they can pass this savings on to passengers. However, the very circumstance that attracts passengers to these cabs may be putting their safety in jeopardy.

After two unlicensed cab drivers allegedly committed sexual assault against passengers in Boston this past month, some nearby communities are taking a moment to consider what kind of background check regulations apply to cab drivers in their neck of the woods.

For example, a reporter in Newport, R.I., a city home to many Boston commuters, found that unlicensed cabs were also operating in Newport. Terry Mercer, an official with the Public Utilities Commission’s Motor Carrier told the reporter that these unlicensed cabs are almost certainly driven by individuals who have not been required to pass a background check or prove they have a clean driving record. Plus, the vehicles used by these drivers are probably not inspected as thoroughly as the fleets of licensed companies and may not carry commercial insurance.

Mercer went on to point out that the drivers of licensed cabs in Newport do get background checks, but the check is only state-based. This state-based check only reveals public criminal convictions from the state of Rhode Island, so it would not prevent a driver with convictions in neighboring states or any other region from being hired to drive a cab.

Mercer said that there are some lawmakers who would like to see national background checks required for cab drivers in order to provide additional protection for the public. A national background check tool such as US OneSEARCH from would be an affordable and effective way to accomplish this. US OneSEARCH compares a name and date of birth against a collection of over 450 million public criminal records taken from state and local databases across the country. The US OneSEARCH database is updated frequently with new information to keep it relevant and useful to employers.

Running national background checks would give cab companies the tools to try and locate records for any individual with a prior conviction in every us state for a violent crime such as sexual assault, rape, battery, etc. from employment as a cab driver. This would be wise because cab drivers are often alone with passengers and able to take them to deserted areas for the purposes of committing a crime, as was alleged in the Boston cases. Of course, because no suspects have been apprehended in the Boston cases, it is not known whether or not they actually have prior convictions that could have been detected by a background check. A background check cannot predict the future, so it is not effective in screening out individuals who commit their first crime while on the job.


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