Two million U.S. drivers admitted to nodding off at the wheel of their car in a two-week period back in 2016, according to a report by the National Sleep Foundation. This finding led to some high-profile campaigns, including one by the mighty Uber, which has sought to raise awareness about the dangers of drowsy driving. Today, the ride-hailing giant has revealed that its ramping things up a notch by restricting its U.S. drivers to a maximum 12 hours of driving time before theyre forced offline for a six-hour break. This mirrors a similar move made by the company in the U.K. last month. Uber claimed that nearly two-thirds of its U.S. drivers actually drive less than 10 hours a week for the platform anyway, but it didnt reveal how many actively drive for longer than 12 hours at a time. Whats most interesting about the new policy is that its more than a recommendation. The drivers app will be pushed offline once the 12-hour driving limit has been reached, and they wont be allowed online again for six hours. This move will strengthen our approach to helping keep riders and drivers safe on the road while preserving the flexibility drivers tell us they love, said Uber product director Sachin Kansal, in a blog post. Drivers will see notifications on their screen periodically after 10 hours, and when they hit their 12-hour limit, their shift will be automatically ended. Even if a driver does punctuate their shift with sporadic shorter breaks, it appears that the 12 hour limit will still apply: The only way to reset the clock is by taking an uninterrupted six-hour break. On paper, this seems like a great move by Uber, but in reality drivers will likely find ways around it. They could, for example, switch between different ride-hailing services, so when their times up with Uber they turn on Lyft. Moreover, there is nothing stopping drivers from moonlighting — working their normal job during the day, then driving for Uber at night — and theres no way of knowing how well-rested a driver really is. But there is only so much Uber can do to prevent its drivers working while fatigued. Everyone knows that drinking and driving is dangerous, but many dont know the risks or warning signs of drowsy driving, added Kansal. Our Community Guidelines make clear that its important to take a break when feeling tired on the road. Weve also piloted features like an in-app notification that reminds drivers of this.
In order to prevent drowsy driving and improve safety, Uber is going to limit drivers in the US to a maximum of 12 hours a shift, after which itll block them from the service for six hours in the hopes that theyll take a break and recharge their batteries before getting back behind the wheel. Thats a commendable move from the ride-hailing company, and its good to see Uber taking the issue of driver fatigue seriously. However, its only rolling this out in the US for now – where nearly 60 percent of drivers use the service for under 10 hours a week. Ideally, Uber should turn on this feature for its drivers across the globe in order to prevent accidents and improve their well-being. But it may not be quite as simple as flipping a switch. Some Uber drivers Ive spoken to recently in major cities in India, including Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, and New Delhi, say that they routinely work long shifts because they have car loans to pay off – loans they didnt have to worry about until they signed up to drive for Uber. The promises about earnings that they heard before they joined or moved cities for havent been fulfilled. and the incentives that the company offers for completing a stipulated number of rides or serving a stipulated number of passengers keep changing – and they mostly become more difficult to achieve than before. While these drivers could certainly use a break – for their own safety, as well as for that of their passengers and others on the road – they also need a more stable source of income that doesnt cause as many sleepless nights as their long shifts. That may take a while, because cab companies are still battling each other by offering riders low fares and discounts. Heres hoping new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi can figure out a better way to do business around the world.