Uber Combats Drowsy Driving by Mandating 6 Hours of Rest for Busy Drivers

Uber is taking a stand against drowsy driving. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Uber isn’t asleep at the wheel—anymore.

The ride-sharing company is now mandating that drivers take six hours of time off for every 12 hours behind the wheel. Uber announced the new policy today, and it will roll out nationally over the next two weeks.

Drivers will receive three warnings from Uber: the first after 10 hours behind the wheel, the second after 11 hours and the third when there are 30 minutes remaining in the shift.

The Uber app will automatically go offline after the driver has worked for 12 hours. It will not reactivate to pick up fares until the mandatory six-hour rest period is over.

The Uber lock screen for drowsy drivers. Uber

Uber’s new policy is partly a public safety concern—according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving causes 6,000 fatal crashes every year.

But it’s also a public relations move: Uber has come under fire in recent years for overworking its drivers. A 2016 New York Post investigation found that the city’s Uber drivers worked up to 19 hours a day to make ends meet.

After a barrage of criticism, Uber agreed to limit Big Apple Uber drivers to 12 hour shifts (the same standard used for city taxi drivers). The new update rolls out that change nationally.

Uber already instituted a similar policy in the United Kingdom, mandating drivers take a six hour break after 10 hours on the road. That change came after Uber lost its license to operate in London because of a “lack of corporate responsibility.”

There are some caveats to the U.S. rule: while short waits at stoplights will count against workers’ driving time, any idling lasting more than five minutes (at airport terminals, for example) will not count.

And there’s always a chance that drivers will find workarounds.

As VentureBeat pointed out, many people moonlight for different ride-hailing companies, so after they drive 12 hours for Uber, they could simply switch to another service.

But the new mandate still gives Uber a leg up over Lyft, which only makes drivers take a six hour break after 14 hours of driving.

That’s a positive sign, according to Bradley Tusk, a venture capitalist who’s worked with Uber on several lobbying efforts.

“If Uber, Lyft and the others keep paying attention, learn from mistakes, try new ideas and keep pushing forward on every form of innovation, they’ll get to the right place,” he told Observer in an email. “I’m encouraged to see Uber taking the bull by the horns.”

Uber Combats Drowsy Driving by Mandating 6 Hours of Rest for Busy Drivers