Colorado fines Uber $8.9 mn for unruly drivers

Colorado has demanded a hefty fine Uber over allegations it allowed convicted felons and others with questionable backgrounds drive for the company.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission yesterday said that it had fined the online ride-hailing company $8.9 million for violating the state's driver qualification laws. The commission found that Uber allowed 57 drivers to work in Colorado over the past year-and-a-half, overlooking their histories that included felony convictions, which would have disqualified them.

According to the commission, it started its investigation into Uber earlier in the year after being notified by local police about an Uber driver who had allegedly assaulted a passenger. The commission added, it cross-checked driver information given by Uber with information from court records and state criminal databases and discovered a number of Uber drivers with violations.

According to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, ''Among the findings of the investigation were 12 drivers with felony convictions; 17 drivers with major moving vehicle violations; three drivers with interlock driver's licenses, which are required after recent drunk driving convictions; and 63 drivers with driver's license issues.''

The commission added that companies providing transportation services in the state need to carry out background checks on their drivers and bar those who  fail the check from driving.

Meanwhile, commentators point out that the move comes as the ride-hailing company continues to be battered by lawsuits for assault against its contractor drivers, even as its reputation is muddied by a sexist corporate culture that toppled cofounder and CEO Travis Kalanick.

Even though background checks are carried out by Uber and other ride hailing companies on drivers, Colorado determined that despite having information that should have disqualified many drivers, Uber "allowed (them) to drive anyway," Colorado Public Utilities Commission director Doug Dean said in a statement.