Drivers participating in the nation's most extensive ridesharing services are all independent contractors and, as such, are responsible for keeping their own vehicles maintained. After all, if they want to make money as a contracted driver, it seems perfectly reasonable to expect them to oversee vehicle maintenance, performance, and efficiency.
However, this includes self-monitoring for vehicle safety, and many of these contractors don’t have any immediate concern when it comes to dangerous recalls. There is no law mandating that rideshare companies or their contracted drivers safeguard against any danger their vehicles may present due to an existing recall. And, depending on the specific type of recall, drivers could lose days, or perhaps weeks, of income waiting for parts to arrive to attend to the repair. Many drivers cannot afford to take that much time off.
According to an article by Consumer Reports, 1 in 6 Uber and Lyft vehicles have open safety recalls – and that’s only in New York City and Seattle – which accounts for 94,000 vehicle records! Can you imagine how many there are nationwide?
The problem is that these contracted drivers continue to pick up a multitude of passengers every day who could be riding in an unsafe vehicle – and the passenger has no idea. Most rideshare customers assume that these vehicles are safe and don’t fully recognize just how little concern many of the drivers have for vehicle safety. Imagine an Uber or Lyft vehicle arriving to pick you up with a sign in the window, stating, “This vehicle has five open safety recalls.” Would you get in?
Ridesharing has become a very popular mode of transportation. As a result of Uber and Lyft drivers circling cities in search of their next fare, there are now, in all probability, a more significant number of unsafe vehicles on the road traveling more miles, thus presenting an even more substantial risk to the driving public than if these services were not available. I'm not suggesting that ridesharing should be abolished. It’s clear that consumers love these models and that it may decrease congestion. My question is, shouldn’t these companies (and their drivers) ensure that all vehicles used to transport passengers are safe?
Currently, drivers are not required to provide proof of vehicle service, and completion of any safety recalls. All that is presently required is proof of registration and insurance. It is not difficult for these rideshare companies to then use this information to check for any outstanding recalls on the driver’s vehicles.
In my opinion, it would be a good idea for Uber and Lyft need to take a look at this situation and take steps to ensure the safety of their passengers through some sort of recall monitoring. They could then demand that any contracted drivers complete recall repairs before their vehicle is used to transport passengers.
Customers who utilize these ridesharing services don’t look at it as if they are hiring “John, the driver,” but, rather, perceive they are hiring Uber or Lyft. After all, access to these contracted drivers and their potentially unsafe vehicles is enabled by their ride-hailing apps. Not only that, the financial transactions themselves are between the unsuspecting consumer and these big businesses.
It is probably only a matter of time before the rideshare companies get sued, should a passenger be injured by something such as an exploding airbag – and no one wants that.
So, my hope is that these ridesharing companies rise to the challenge and institute a simple plan to monitor for any outstanding recalls and have their drivers fix them. It could even make for a great consumer campaign as a value-added benefit. Something else the consumer does not have to worry about!