It’s been 12 years since Uber was founded and 9 years since Lyft was founded, so I think it’s fair game to recap their impact and their dubious influence on the transportation, delivery, and insurance industries… with a twist. That twist isn’t just limited to them poaching drivers from transportation providers, chipping away at restaurants’ already slim margins by hijacking their deliveries, and confounding the insurance industry, which has struggled mightily with how to deal with them – but more importantly, governments worldwide still seem unable to figure out how to regulate them properly to ensure public safety.
In the decades before these massive, investor-fueled corporations bum rushed the otherwise well-thought-out and regulated transportation industry, protocols had been promulgated to assure the traveling public that the evolving for-hire industry was as safe an option for the public as it could be.
That level of safe operating standards was achieved by reviewing driver histories, and requiring criminal background checks, pre-employment drug screenings, random screenings, requisite commercial insurance, and in some instances complete physicals, with vision tests, and commercial vehicle safety inspection enforcement.
At places like the Los Angeles and San Francisco airports, another layer of checks and balances was added by requiring operators to present themselves and their and vehicles to Landside Operations for “verification.” A California Public Utilities Commission Trip Charter Permit blue seal had to be affixed to a bumper and a transponder EZ Pass style device had to be placed on the windshield.
At every transportation company I ever worked at, prospective hires were vetted by senior employees and managers for fitness and social disposition, hygiene and psychological temperament. When an individual met minimal hiring standards set by reputable operators, only then could they begin training. In those days, requirements included black suits and ties, white shirts and orientation trips to venues like hotels, entertainment attractions, studios, museums, parks, shopping destinations, neighborhoods and even courthouses and hospital emergency entrances. Strict routes were often required to and from popular destinations.
Then began hands-on drivers orientations and tests that included driver safety videos and Americans with Disabilities Act protocols that included service animals and the operation of ADA-approved equipment, so that established candidates would be “recognized professionals.”
A great deal of detail and attention was paid to the rules-of-the-road training that divided casual drivers from professional, disciplined operators of commercial equipment. Tenured and experienced instructors shared their street experience by discouraging speeding, tailgating, illegal U-turns, double parking and illegal and patently unsafe pickups and drop-offs. Drivers also needed to understand and be proficient at handling specialized vehicles, like passenger vans, stretch limousines, and even buses. It was all part of the operator orientation, with particular attention to passenger limit counts prescribed and regulated by vehicle codes and manufacturer max gross weight limit specifications, as defined by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Stopping distances at various speeds and weight class were of critical importance, as much as defensive driving techniques in the age of staged accidents, road rage incidents, common street crimes and, yes, aggressive paparazzi, as well as adoring fans who represented a safety concern to everyone, including the unsuspecting motoring public.
But none of these reasonable – even minimal – thresholds were instituted, by and large, by Uber and Lyft to qualify anyone from coming aboard the key-stroke driven threshold of the app-service job application – particularly in the beginning, when worldwide operations resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of injuries, assaults and deaths – and tens of thousands, if not millions of dollars, of economic destruction to the existing ground transportation industry.
Perhaps most regrettable and tragic have been the predictable incidents of loss of life and the terror-filled incidents of sexual assaults that Uber and Lyft, and governments themselves were responsible for when Uber and Lyft – often in league with regulators – abdicated their responsibilities to enforce the very standards that had been imposed on existing and accountable legitimate operators… standards that Uber and Lyft brazenly exempted themselves from with the willing complicity of their highly paid K and Wall Street brokers, lobbyists, and lawyers, all for financial gain, while everyone else worked hard, staying up late and getting up early, playing by the rules and paying their taxes as the working class heroes they truly are. It’s a distinction no one can ever take away from them… not at any price!