Uber has completely revolutionized the transportation industry. Ride-sharing has become common-place in many parts of the country and the world. As the industry has grown, Uber has offered flexible and economical alternatives for its customers to travel from place to place, an innovative option for food service delivery, employment opportunities for drivers, and a reduction in DUIs and drunk driving accidents. However, with such rapid growth, Uber has also faced challenges with sexual harassment in its corporate culture, its driver screening practices, and in safety as drivers sometimes work dangerously long shifts.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that there are about 100,000 car accidents and nearly 1,000 deaths annually caused by fatigued drivers. Fatigue slows a driver’s reaction time and impacts his or her decision making. Unfortunately, even caffeine and a short break cannot always keep a driver awake and safe at the wheel.
While the majority of Uber drivers are part-time, there are a growing number of drivers who drive longer than 12 hour shifts or more than 50 hours per week, and currently there is little to no regulation of Uber drivers. Federal laws mandate that commercial vehicles transporting passengers have shifts that cannot exceed 10 hours and require an 8 hour break between shifts. In many (but not all) cities, taxi drivers are limited in the number of hours they can drive. Commercial freight drivers have limits on their driving hours and shifts as well. However, because Uber drivers are claimed to be “independent contractors” instead of employees of the company, they do not face similar regulation.
Passengers need to be aware of the risks of riding with fatigued drivers. Many factors, including recent Uber fare decreases have caused many drivers to increase the number of hours they spend working. Additionally, Uber often incents its drivers to “stay on the clock” through reward systems or earnings targets. Through a feature on the Uber App, drivers automatically receive their next pick-up trip before their current ride terminates. It can be difficult to log off the system when the next money-making opportunity is dangled in front of the driver.
The city of Chicago put limits on Uber drivers that match the city taxi services. In New York City, Uber has also taken steps to control and monitor drivers who log more than 12 consecutive hours. Uber is rolling out limits in the United Kingdom as well. Massachusetts is working on legislation to limit the hours Uber drivers can work, but Uber is opposing the proposal. Meanwhile the Lyft APP, a key competitor to Uber, requires its drivers to take a 6 hour break for every 14 hours they drive. Many drivers are independent contractors for both Uber and Lyft, and there is currently nothing that stops a Lyft driver from simply switching to the Uber App to continue taking ride requests. Cities in Kentucky, like Louisville and Lexington, have no way of limiting how many hours an Uber or Lyft driver can spend behind the wheel. If you are injured in an Uber or Lyft accident you may want to consult an attorney. Brett Oppenheimer, a Louisville attorney, will meet with you and help you assess your potential case. There are no costs associated with your consultation, and there are no lawyer fees or expenses unless your case results in a recovery. You can reach out to Brett via email at email@example.com.