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Why Travel Managers Are Leery of Uber, Lyft

Ride-sharing services Uber and, to a lesser extent, Lyft have taken the ground-transportation industry by storm, quickly becoming the go-to solution for local trips, especially among the younger all-things-digital generation.

Compared to traditional taxi services, Uber is easier, cheaper, and in many cases features friendlier service. Plus there’s the cool factor.

But among business travelers, Uber and its ilk have been slower to gain traction. And there’s a reason, a hurdle that won’t be easy to overcome: corporate travel managers.

In large- and medium-sized companies, travel managers set policies regarding everything from per-diem compensation to which airlines employees should patronize. And they’re leery of ride-sharing services.

According to a new study by the Global Business Travel Association, 24 percent of surveyed travel managers report that their companies ban the use of ride-share services by their workers when traveling on business. And a significant proportion of the others simply haven’t yet formulated a policy.

For many travel managers, the worry regarding ride shares falls under the heading of “duty of care.” That refers to a company’s responsibility for its worker’s safety during business trips, and the potential liability should a business traveler be injured or killed while on the job.

Among travel managers, 95 percent rated vehicle safety as among the highest priority, easily trumping convenience, cost, timeliness, and other considerations. (For business travelers themselves, 79 percent rated vehicle safety as especially important.)

RELATED: Uber Rides Now Earn Hotel Points

And here’s the problem: For all their strengths against other transportation options, ride-share services are widely perceived to be less safe. According to the study:

Some in the industry question the safety of TNC [ride share] drivers and their vehicles due to the lack of regulation imposed on them in many areas, including less stringent or no minimum insurance requirements, driver pre-employment certifications, driver training and knowledge requirements, and ongoing driver safety checks.

The safety questions posed by ride sharing have done little if anything to stem the enthusiasm for such services among consumers at large. So it’s possible that travel managers will eventually lighten up as well. But the fear of jeopardizing one’s job is always a strong force for adopting more rather than less conservative policies.

Given the size of the potential business-traveler market, the smart move by Uber, Lyft, and others would be to preemptively shore up their own safety-related policies. Sure, there would be a cost associated with doing so. But Uber, for one, can certainly afford it.

Reader Reality Check

Do you use Uber when traveling on business? Any safety concerns?

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