News 8 Investigates: No permit? No problem for rideshare drivers in Dallas

The rideshare inspection sticker on the left was purchased on the black market, and is unpunched and unregistered with the city. The one on the right is legit.
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News 8 Investigates

A WFAA investigation has discovered that thousands of rideshare drivers are working without driver and vehicle permits in the city of Dallas.

In the past two years, the rideshare industry here has swelled 20-fold, to nearly 26,000 permitted drivers. But traffic citation records obtained by News 8 show that there could be thousands more rideshare drivers working without the proper permits -- meaning regulators don't know who's driving around the city. 

See part one of our rideshare investigation here.

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Just as troubling, News 8 has found other drivers who have obtained counterfeit or unregistered permits on the black market

The transportation-for-hire industry is supposed to be regulated as part of a two-step process the city of Dallas implemented in 2015.

  • First, all rideshare drivers have to have a city permit to drive.
  • Second, every vehicle has to display a city safety inspection permit.

But some authorities told WFAA the process is broken.

Click here to see the city's rideshare regulations.

“There's thousands and thousands of drivers without permits,” Saied Rafie, owner of Cowboy Cab, told WFAA. “…If the vehicle is not permitted and the driver is not permitted there is no background check.”

And even apparently “permitted” vehicles may not truly be permitted.

News 8 found vehicle permit stickers that do not show up in the Dallas permit registration database. The permits, several drivers said, were purchased on the black market in Dallas.

The questionable permits also are not a pink or lavender color, but instead white like the now out-of-date 2016 sticker.

When shown the permits, Saied said he was troubled.

“Either it’s not a valid permit, or it’s a fake permit because I’ve never seen anything like it,” Saied said.

A WFAA review found sequential gaps in the City of Dallas data base of registered vehicles. The gaps were where several of the questionable stickers should have been listed - and could indicate hundreds more questionable stickers are unaccounted for and remain unregistered.

The City of Dallas has 79 locations where vehicles may be inspected.

Until September 2016, the locations were to conduct 31-point inspections, which included a thorough review of brakes, tires, seat belts, doors, battery, belts and engine.

Now, the inspection has been reduced to a 6-point inspection, including a check to see if vehicle has any safety recalls.

But even with a 6-point inspection, WFAA found several rideshare drivers whose cars had problems, and should have not passed inspection, but were cleared anyway.

"We have to do what we have to do,” a mechanic told one of the drivers. “You need to work in order to make money."

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said he was troubled by the lack of city oversight.

“We are going to have to continue to stay on top of this because it's a big, big issue," Rawlings told WFAA Tuesday.

"When you have hundreds and hundreds of drivers who may not be permitted we've got to stay on top of it and they've got to do a better job," the mayor said.

He said the city plans to do a review of its oversight.

"So I'm interested in seeing best practices,” Rawlings said. “I'm interested in learning and evolving as a city. We've got a new city manager and he's going to take a look at this as well."

Uber and Lyft officials declined to talk on camera but told us via email and phone they say they care about consumer safety and work hard to comply with all city regulations.