Wednesday 30 October 2019 4:19 pm

Revealed: TfL tightened Uber's driver checks in London licence extension

Uber’s licensing restrictions have been revealed to include stringent checks on drivers’ documentation and insurance, prompting claims the ride-hailing app has in the past harboured unlicensed drivers.

Restrictions were placed on Uber by Transport for London (TfL) in September as a part of a two-month licence extension in September.

Read more: Uber suffers blow as TfL grants a two-month London licence

The ride-hailing company was offered only a short extension by TfL as it wanted to see more information to demonstrate Uber could “ensure passenger safety”.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent by the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), revealed the set of requirements meant Uber had to send regular reports to TfL on any “potentially fraudulent” licensing documents produced by drivers.

The requirements also force Uber to have systems in place to check drivers have insurance, a private hire vehicle licence and are not using technology to evade regulation.

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said the licensing requirements show it is likely Uber has had past problems with unlicensed drivers.

Uber did not deny whether this was the case.

“It is crystal clear that Uber cannot guarantee the basics, that the vehicle is insured and that the driver even has a licence,” McNamara said.

“The granting of the shortest ever licence of eight weeks clearly shows that TfL have serious concerns over Uber’s disregard for public safety and feel the need to micromanage every aspect of Uber’s safety operation. “

Uber were granted a two-month extension after previously being suspended in 2017 by TfL after it found the ride-hailing company was “not fit and proper” to operate.

TfL said at the time that Uber had put passenger safety in jeopardy by not implementing proper background checks and not reporting criminal offences.

The Silicon Valley giant was given a 15-month probationary licence in 2018, but could not secure a long-term licence last month.

Rival companies Bolt and Kapten were recently granted multi-year licences by the transport body this year.

An Uber spokesperson said the company had made “significant changes” over the past two years.

“This includes launching new safety features for riders, introducing better protections for licensed drivers and we’ve improved our corporate governance and compliance,” they said.

Read more: Uber’s regulatory wild ride: Meet the man behind the wheel

A TfL spokesperson said: “We have granted a licence to Uber London Limited to operate for two months while we request additional material from them and will consider that information as part of any future licensing decision. 

“As with other operators, we have attached a number of conditions to Uber London Limited’s licence, which we consider necessary and appropriate to ensure passenger safety and security.”