Testimony to the Taxi and Limousine Commission

Transportation Alternatives would like to commend the Taxi and Limousine Commission for taking proactive steps in the spirit of Vision Zero to tackle fatigued driving. We saw firsthand the devastating effects of fatigued driving last November, when 88-year-old Manhattan grandmother Luisa Rosario was hit and killed by a taxi driver reported to have been behind the wheel for sixteen hours that day. Fatigued driving worsens judgment in a way similar to being intoxicated, creating patently unsafe situations on our roads. Much like alcohol or drugs, sleepiness makes drivers less attentive to the road in front of them, slows reaction time, and affects their ability to make wise decisions. While there may not be a breathalyzer for fatigue, and while it is impossible to control the amount of sleep drivers get, the regulations the TLC plans to implement are a wise move that brings New York City into line with other American cities without placing undue burdens onto drivers. We are confident that the new regulations, if properly enforced, will improve safety for drivers, passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

We are pleased that the new rules address both acute and chronic fatigue through regulations on both hours in a day and hours in a week worked, while maintaining the provision of flexibility in shift types so that drivers will not be unduly burdened. The status quo, which limits taxi drivers to working for 12 consecutive hours with no restriction on total hours, is dangerously flawed in that a short break automatically resets the clock, leading to situations such as that of the driver who killed Luisa Rosario. These new regulations also cover the growing for-hire vehicle industry, not just yellow cabs. While relatively few drivers are currently working more than the proposed limit of 12 hours a day, it is important that all drivers have clear, consistent rules.

Crucially, these new regulations are evidence-based, having been written after consulting scientific research and taking into consideration the input of stakeholders, including ourselves. They are not arbitrary, but rather they follow industry best practices. Once the regulations are implemented, New York City will have time limits that are generally in line with other American cities.

However, we are concerned that the 12-hour limit relates to passenger pick-ups and not total time spent on the road. Driving is driving, and requires the same mental acuity regardless of whether there is a passenger present. Also, regulations are only as useful as they are enforced. We are interested in learning more about the methods and technologies that will be used to monitor compliance with the new rules, such as how non-Uber black car bases can implement "lockouts" the way yellow, green, and Uber cabs already do. We also encourage the TLC to develop the technology to allow bases to monitor the hours of drivers who work for more than one base, so that they do not unknowingly dispatch a fatigued driver. Bases need to have the capacity to know whether their drivers are approaching or over their driving time limit for the day or week.

We applaud the TLC’s efforts to combat fatigued driving, and we look forward to working with you further on Vision Zero initiatives.

 

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Julia Kite, Policy and Research Manager