The TLC proposed new rules last week that would limit drivers' work hours to no more than 12 within any 24-hour period, and no more than 72 in any week. Drivers would also have to take an eight-hour break after working 12 hours.
"Our previous policy about work-hour limits was a blunt instrument," said TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi. "This proposal closes a lot of significant loopholes that will get fatigued drivers off the road."
Under current rules, taxi drivers are only allowed to work 12-hour shifts. But even a few minutes' break counts as time "between" shifts, essentially allowing drivers to work continuously. Joshi said the consecutive hour provision was a holdover from an earlier era in city transport, when cab drivers worked long, consistent shifts and didn't have so many competitors from the ride-sharing sector.
The new TLC proposal affects all for-hire vehicles in the city, including black cars and limos.
Joshi said that fatigued driving was always on the agenda for 2016, but the TLC was prompted to act quickly after a tragic accident in November 2015, when a sleep-deprived cab driver hit and killed 88-year-old Luisa Rosario on the Upper West Side.
In its announcement, TLC cited research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Sleep Foundation that "long work hours lead to acute fatigue and reduced sleep." Drowsy drivers experience slower reaction times and have worse decision-making skills, which can be dangerous on the road. TLC also cited the fact that being awake for 24 hours results in impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 (1.25 times the 0.08 threshold for driving while intoxicated).
The proposal is part of the city's Vision Zero initiative to eliminate pedestrian accidents and fatalities. More than 250 New Yorkers are killed each year in traffic crashes.
"We add new elements to our Vision Zero plan all the time," said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a press release, "and I believe that TLC's analysis of the science and best practices of combatting professional driver fatigue, and the resulting proposed rule, are a practical and prudent approach."
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance has voiced some opposition to the measure. "We agree that safety should be a priority, but the solution to keep things safe shouldn't be to punish drivers, it should be to change the economics," Bhairavi Desai, head of NYTWA, told ABC news. Instead of penalties for working too much, she suggested the TLC change its rules on things like car leasing costs and mandatory fare minimums.
A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for June 23. After the hearing, the TLC will vote on the proposal at its next hearing in July.
Note: The Huffington Post’s Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington is a member of Uber’s board of directors, and has recused herself from any involvement in the site’s coverage of the company.