Uber drivers in New York City who drive longer than 12 hours at a time will risk deactivation, under a new policy being adopted by the ride-hail company. In a letter to the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) Thursday, Uber says that drivers who are on the road longer than 12 hours will be temporarily deactivated. If they do it again soon after being reactivated, they will be permanently removed from the platform.
Previously Uber had been tracking drivers' hours on a weekly basis. Now, the company says it will be keeping track daily. The new policy was adopted just as the TLC says it is looking into new ways to crackdown on driver fatigue, after a cabbie struck and killed an 88-year-old woman on the Upper West Side after 16 hours on the road. Dangerously long shifts in the taxi and for-hire vehicle industry are becoming more commonplace as competition heats up between yellow cabs and Uber.
Dangerously long shifts are becoming routine
Cabbies routinely pull 12-hour shifts, but are prevented by law from driving longer than 12 hours at a time. But the TLC says it has never fined a driver for breaking that rule. Meanwhile the New York Post recently identified a handful of Uber drivers who reported driving 16-19 hours a day.
Some Uber drivers say they feel they need to drive longer hours to compensate for the recent 15 percent in fares instituted by the company to kick up more business during slow winter months. But Uber says the price cut will ensure that drivers have less idle time between trips, and wasn't intended to force drivers to stay on-call for longer hours. Uber says the vast majority of its over 30,000 drivers in New York City — 99 percent — drive less than 12 hours a day, while the average driver is active for around 30 hours a week.
The news of Uber's new policy comes at time of high tension between the company and its drivers. Hundreds of drivers protested the fare reduction last month and called for a strike that never materialized, thanks to Uber's ability to lure drivers back to the app with surge pricing. Still, some of the most vocally critical drivers say they may try again to strike on Valentine's Day.