Taking Aim at Fatigue, Taxi Commission Limits Drivers to 12-Hour Days

Taking Aim at Fatigue, Taxi Commission Limits Drivers to 12-Hour Days

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission on Monday voted to limit the number of hours a driver can transport passengers to a total of 12 a day, or 72 hours per week, and for the first time such rules would be applied to both city taxi drivers and private for-hire drivers.

The regulations, aimed at reducing driver fatigue, would not take effect until Nov. 1, to give the commission time to “arrive at a more exact method” of collecting information on trip times, Meera Joshi, the chairwoman of the commission, said after the vote.

“Our discussion has shifted to what is the best way to calculate fatigue, and the difficulty in doing so in a world with differing levels of data,” Ms. Joshi said.

The delay in implementing the rules illustrates the challenge of regulating an industry that includes drivers who use newer app-based technologies as well as those who operate the city’s longstanding fleet of yellow taxicabs.

The new rules would apply to all of the 140,000 drivers licensed by the commission, which include those in taxis, limousines, black cars, and Uber and Lyft vehicles.

“There should be consistencies across all the industries we regulate,” Allan Fromberg, the spokesman for the commission, said. “A lot of rules were created before there were as many industries as there are now. It’s important to ensure that there is consistency and fairness across them.”

Other large cities have adopted similar regulations. Chicago limits taxi drivers to 12 hours of driving; in Los Angeles, for-hire drivers are capped at 10 hours.

Momentum for tightening the rules in New York has been building since an 88-year-old woman, Luisa Rosario, was killed last year in Manhattan in a crash involving a taxi driver who had been on the road for 16 hours with only minimal breaks.

Only a small percentage of drivers ordinarily surpass the new limits; 3 percent typically drive more than 12 hours per day, and less than 7 percent drive for more than 72 hours per week, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Nonetheless, drivers turned out by the dozens to denounce the rules at a public hearing last month, saying the restrictions would cut into their incomes and further burden an already overregulated industry.

A mere handful of drivers showed up for Monday’s vote, which was held during the commission’s monthly meeting. Nino Hervias, who has driven a taxi for 32 years, said afterward that drivers know when to take breaks and do not need additional regulation.

“You get to know and you pace yourself for a long day,” Mr. Hervias said. “We don’t have a long day every day.”

He said that one day last week, for example, he started work at 6 a.m. and went home at 11 p.m. The specifics of the new rules apply only to the time spent actually transporting passengers, so he was not sure if he would have been violating the new rules.

“The devil is in the details,” Mr. Hervias said.

Currently, taxi drivers are capped at 12 consecutive hours of driving, but the clock can be reset with a break as short as a single minute. The $25 fine for violating this rule has never been imposed, Mr. Fromberg said.

In its public notice of the new regulations, the Taxi and Limousine Commission presented research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which likened long periods without sleep to intoxication. Being awake for 18 hours results in impairment equal to a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.05, which is considered driving while under the influence in New York State, according to the C.D.C.

The commission found that in 2014 and 2015, the crash rate for taxi drivers working more than 12 hours in a day was 23.8 percent higher than those who drove 12 hours or fewer.

The commission does not track drivers in real time, meaning it can punish drivers and dispatchers — with fines ranging from $25 to $300 — but cannot warn drivers that they have been behind the wheel too long.

“We are hardworking people,” said Osman Chowdhury, a taxi driver and member of the United Taxi Drivers Association (NYC) Inc., who opposes the rules. At times, Mr. Chowdhury said, he drives seven days a week and the fluctuation in his income is “like a lottery.”

“We don’t do the wrong thing,” he added.

Another Uber Driver

Well-Known Member
Many states already have limits for the time that any driver can spend behind the wheel. For a private car, it is largely unenforceable. Commercial and for-Hire, especially with technology what it is, these days, is another matter.