Alderman wants mandatory drug testing for ride-sharing drivers

SHARE Alderman wants mandatory drug testing for ride-sharing drivers

Chicago drivers for Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing companies would be subject to annual drug testing, under a crackdown proposed Wednesday after a bizarre incident involving an Uber driver in Atlanta.

Earlier this week, Atlanta Police said they were investigating reports that an Uber driver waiting to pick up a customer had pulled a gun on and threatened to kill a valet who asked the Uber driver to move forward into a designated space.

There is no proof that the Uber driver in question was on drugs. But, Atlanta does not require ride-sharing drivers who transport passengers in their own vehicles to be tested for drugs.

Chicago’s ride-sharing ordinance initially included drug-testing, but the mandate was removed before a divided City Council approved the ordinance on May 28.

On Wednesday, South Side Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) moved to fill the regulatory gap.

He introduced an ordinance that forbids city-licensed ride-sharing companies from engaging “any person as a…driver” unless the licensee ascertains, in a process approved” by the commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, that the driver has passed a drug-test administered by a company authorized by City Hall.

Drivers would have to be tested annually prior to license renewal. Drivers who test positive for drugs would be barred from operating a ride-sharing vehicle for at least one year. They would not be allowed to return until they pass another drug test. Companies caught affiliating with drivers who test positive for drugs would face daily fines ranging from $500 to$1,000per incident.

Sawyer is a staunch supporter of a taxicab industry that has bitterly about, what it calls an unlevel playing field that has allowed ride-sharing companies to siphon business from cabs and driver down the value of taxicab medallions.

Asked why he introduced a separate drug-testing ordinance, Sawyer said, “We want to make sure our constituents are safe and have a safe ride. It’s just a common-sense approach. It was part of the original ordinance.”

He added, “It was part of the original ordinance. It should have stayed in . That’s another reason why I voted against it.”

Last month, Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed a state-wide ride-sharing bill, clearing the way for Chicago’s less rigid ride-sharing regulations championed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to take effect.

The ride-sharing industry whose investors include the mayor’s brother was pleased. The taxicab industry, its City Council allies and a union representing cabdrivers were not.

That’s because the ordinance does not regulate ride-sharing fares or “surge-pricing” and does not restrict the number of companies, vehicles or drivers that could operate on Chicago streets.

It also creates a two-tier system that allows part-time drivers to escape rigid screening. And it opens the door to the lucrative airport market that UberX once tried to enter illegally, only to be stopped by the city.

Ride-sharing companies would be prohibited from picking up street hails or riders at McCormick Place, O’Hare and Midway airports “unless the commissioner determines, in duly promulgated rules, following consultation with the commissioner of aviation, that such pick ups can be accomplished in a manner that preserves security, public safety and the orderly flow of traffic; and . . . designated taxicab stands or loading zones.”

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