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Low Fares, Competition Lead to Overworked, Overtired Uber Drivers

April 10th, 2017 by Attorney Chip Evans

When someone hails a ride through their Uber smartphone app, they’re trusting that Uber driver to get them safely to their destination. And that’s usually what happens. But would Uber customers cheerily hop into a car if they knew their driver had already driven 70 hours that week and slept in their car every night?

According to a Bloomberg article, lower Uber fares and more competition among drivers have forced some Uber drivers to new extremes. One driver interviewed for the article said he lives in Sacramento, but makes a 90-minute commute to San Francisco because Uber fares are higher there. Rather than come home at night, he sleeps in a parking lot before hitting the streets to pick up more passengers. Another driver who lives in Indiana and works in Chicago said he sleeps in his car at night, and when it’s cold outside, he wakes up every three hours to turn on the heat.

These hardworking Uber drivers are doing their best to make a living. But their long hours and inadequate rest may be cause for alarm. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules that limit work hours for drivers carrying passengers do not apply to Uber drivers. Bus drivers may drive only up to 10 hours at a time, following eight consecutive hours off duty. Uber drivers can work as long as they’re able to, with very little rest between shifts. Uber’s primary competitor, Lyft, does not allow drivers to work more than 14 hours at a time.

Challenges of Regulation

In November 2016, a new law in New York City went into effect, requiring all drivers of taxis and ride-for-hire vehicles to work no more than 12 consecutive hours, followed by an eight-hour break. (Previously, drivers had to take a break after 12 hours on the clock, but that “break” could have been just a minute or two). Drivers – and Uber – were strongly opposed to the law, saying it will result in lower incomes. Some drivers argued they know their own limits and when to take a break.

When cities attempt to regulate Uber, Uber pushes back. In Austin, Uber and Lyft withdrew service from the city in 2016, due to their opposition to a law requiring drivers to be fingerprinted. In Houston, Uber continues doing business, despite the city law that requires fingerprinting of its drivers. Houston’s mayor says 50 percent of Uber driver applicants in the city have criminal records (a number Uber disputes).

Currently, the Texas Legislature is considering legislation that would strip cities of their authority to regulate ride-for-hire companies, including Uber, taxi companies, and limousine services. One of the proposed bills would require such companies to ensure only that drivers have insurance and are not sex offenders – background checks would not be required.

Uber left Broward County, Florida, in 2016, after county commissioners enacted a fingerprinting and background check ordinance. But after the success of a “public pressure campaign,” Uber convinced the majority of county commissioners to loosen regulations and announced it would return to Broward County.

Uber spent $1.36 million on lobbying efforts last year, according to the U.S. Senate Office of Public Records. It’s a powerful company with a lot of influence over government. So it seems unlikely regulations regarding driving time and rest breaks for Uber drivers will happen anytime soon – if at all.

If you have questions about how this topic might apply to your situation, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Austin, TX-based Evans Law Firm. As personal injury attorneys with years of experience, we help the people of Texas put their lives back on track. We offer small law firm attention with big law firm results. Call today at 1-855-414-1012 or fill out this online contact form to find out how we can help you.