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Uber Update Requires Six-Hour Rest Period for Frequent Drivers

By: Allan M. Siegel

The safety of customers and the public should be among the highest concerns for any business, especially those involved in the transportation industry. In an effort to address these issues, Uber – one of the most popular rideshare services connecting smart phone app users to available rides – has announced a nationwide update that will mandate a six-hour rest period for frequent drivers.

According to Uber, the update is expected to roll out nationally over a two-week period. Here are a few details about what it entails:

  • After a driver has been behind the wheel for 12 cumulative hours, the update will require them to take at least a six hour break before they are able to access the app and transport customers for a fee.
  • The update will include warning notifications for frequent drivers, including a warning after 10 hours of uninhibited driving, a second warning after the 11th hour, and a third and final notification for a 30-minute warning.
  • The updated app will use GPS and telematics to measure driving time and detect when vehicles being used as Ubers are in motion. Short waiting periods while the app is on, as well as stops at stop lights or in congested traffic, will count against a worker’s driving time.

The update is being made in an effort to prevent drowsy driving, which numerous studies have reported to be as dangerous as drunk driving. In fact, one study from the AAA Foundation for traffic safety reported that driving with four to five hours of sleep – something many busy Americans are guilty of – is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol content level at or above the legal limit. Even missing just one or two hours of sleep in a single night can significantly increase a driver’s risk of crashing. Drowsy driving and its dangers have motivated many advocates and lawmakers to call for better laws, including regulations that address the issue for drivers of commercial trucks.

A Positive Step that Still Falls Short

Although the new update is a step in the right direction, it is still woefully inadequate when it comes to addressing drowsy driving and the immense dangers posed by driver fatigue. This is due to several reasons:

  • Not all hours are accounted for – Although the update will prevent drivers from working for too many hours, it will not account for all hours worked. That’s because it doesn’t track longer waits, such as when a vehicle idles for more than 5 minutes or waits in long lines like those at airports. These wait periods still mean a driver is awake, and that their total “on-duty” time can exceed 12 cumulative hours.
  • Drivers who work for other rideshare services – Many drivers who work for Uber also work for Lyft or other rideshare services, such as those that deliver products or meals to customers. Although the update may prevent an Uber driver from accessing the app until their six-hour rest period expires, it does not prevent them from simply transitioning over to a new app and transporting fares or operating their vehicles long after being behind the wheel for 12+ hours. It also doesn’t account for drivers who may still operate a motor vehicle during the rest period for personal matters, or for other jobs.
  • Not enough rest – Although mandatory rest breaks are important, they still need to address the issue at hand. A six-hour break after 12 hours of driving is simply not enough time to ensure a driver is well rested. Even if a driver were to sleep for the entire 6-hour period (which is unlikely), they would still be more likely to crash than drivers who slept 8 or more hours, according to the AAA study. The update also fails to address the amount of time workers are permitted to drive on a longer or weekly basis – which can create substantial crash risks due to chronic fatigue and lack of adequate sleep.

When you compare Uber’s new mandated rest period to other similar regulations in the transportation industry, you quickly see how inadequate it is. Commercial truck drivers, for example, are required to abide by much more strict Hours-of-Service regulations enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These HOS rules impose an 11-hour driving limit for cargo-carrying vehicles and a 10-hour driving limit for passenger carriers AFTER 10 or 8 consecutive hours off duty – much more than the six-hour Uber rest period. They also now require commercial drivers to record their hours on duty and behind the wheel more accurately using electronic logging devices.

HOS rules also limit the total time a driver can be on duty (14 hours for cargo carriers and 15 hours for passenger carriers), limit drive time to within 8 hours or less of a minimum 30-minute break (for commercial carriers), limit the hours of duty worked in a 7 / 8 day period, and require at least 34 consecutive hours off duty before starting a new 7 /8 day work period. Up until the current Presidential administration suspended an Obama-era rule, commercial cargo carrying truckers were also required to take two mandatory rest periods between 1 am to 5 am within their 34 hours off duty.

These commercial trucking regulations may be strict, but they have been developed over years of research and data that clearly show tired drivers are a danger to everyone on the road, and that mandatory breaks and longer rest periods reduce the risks of preventable wrecks. The same or similar regulations should also be expected of and adopted by other businesses that operate in the transportation industry. After all, ensuring a safe ride and the safety of other motorists and pedestrians on the road begins with sensible and safety-conscious policies.

Help for Victims of Uber and Lyft Accidents in Washington, DC, Maryland & Virginia

Although better policies are a way to keep the public safe, it is still the responsibility of transportation companies – including rideshare services – and drivers to ensure they take reasonable measures that allow them to uphold their obligations of safely operating their motor vehicles. When they fail to uphold this duty, drive while tired, or commit other acts of negligence or carelessness, they can be held liable for the injuries and damages they cause.

Our Washington, DC car accident attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. are committed to protecting the rights of auto accident victims throughout the DC metro area, including those harmed in accidents involving Uber, Lyft, and other commercial transportation operators. If you have a question regarding your rights and potential case, contact us for a FREE consultation.