What Your Policy Says About “Ubering” to School
Vol. 15 No. 4
When it comes to managing school risk, there is never a dull moment. Your policy handbook is in constant flux and often needs updating because of today’s rapid changes in lifestyle trends, technology, and compliance standards. Adding to the mix is the transportation trend of Uber, Lyft, and other ride shares.
If you’re not familiar with these companies, they are app-based transportation systems that for the most part have replaced the standard taxicab. Passengers download an app (Uber, Lyft, Shuddle, etc.), create a profile that consists of basic contact information including payment options, and then request rides from anywhere at any time. Unlike taxicabs that are limited to particular areas such as larger cities and populated suburbs, these companies use regular drivers looking to make a few extra dollars on their “free” time.
Drivers working for these companies must pass a background screening, have a car that complies with certain criteria (some companies even go as far as to inspect the vehicle), and provide all appropriate paperwork needed to legally drive such as drivers license, proof of insurance, and registration.
The ease of use compared to public transportation and taxicabs—along with reasonable costs—has made these companies explode in popularity. So popular in fact, schools are now experiencing students being transported to and from campus using such ride shares. This raises certain risks for those schools with strict transportation guidelines as there is no distinctive way to identify rideshare vehicles beyond a logo sticker that is often found on the window. More often than not, the driver and the car will be different every pick up and drop off. For schools that verify who picks up students, this can be problematic.
And, it’s not just schools that are voicing concern. It’s against Uber policy to transport minors not accompanied by an adult. However, drivers are shuttling kids regardless of regulations for fear parents will give them a bad review, costing them future fares.
Parents trying to manage hectic schedules find rideshare programs a blessing. It’s incredibly easy for them to schedule a rideshare for their child if they’re running late. However, parents and schools should consider some concerns.
Limited background checks—school accountability.
Both Uber and Lyft perform background checks on their drivers, however the training and scrutiny are not comparable to most cab services. And, even with background checks performed, it’s impossible for rideshare companies to know the level of professionalism their drivers are operating with outside of the reviews passengers leave. If something happens during the ride that the child was not comfortable talking about, there is no way to prevent that driver from harming other students. Also, as Jules Haplern Associates Education Law experts warn, if something happens to a student on the way home, regardless if the parent requested the ride, the school may still be liable for negligence claims.
Rideshare policies included in student handbooks.
Schools have an obligation to ensure student safety. All student, employee, and family handbooks should be updated with a policy prohibiting ridesharing services. These policies should also be posted in the school office and teacher areas. However, if parents insist on using rideshare services, schools should have them sign waivers releasing the school from liability if something happens to the student during transport.
In addition to Uber and Lyft, companies such as Shuddle and HopSkipDrive are now penetrating the rideshare market. These are organizations tailored to transporting children. These drivers working for these companies have a minimum of five years of child care experience. They position themselves as caregivers first, drivers second. However, even with child-focused missions, the same risks apply for schools. School policies should be clear and waiver forms should be kept on record.
Additional ISM resources of interest
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 2 No. 6 Transportation Safety
Additional ISM resources for Gold Members
I&P Vol. 41 No. 6 Cost-Effective Solutions for Managing Risk