NYC cabbies and for-hire drivers have different tactics for staying loose and lively — coffee and cigarettes but also various hideaways for catnaps.
A cabbie who gave his name as Olson said the street near the Jacob Javits Center was a personal favorite — "quiet at night" — as was the pickup area at Kennedy Airport, where he said he sometimes sleeps between runs.
It's a long day for Olson, that starts with a train ride from Brooklyn to the Long Island City garage where his cab spends the night. Sometimes, he’ll work 14 or 15 hours after ignition, including a few breaks.
Lack of sleep has been linked to everything from unhealthy lifestyles to the erratic behavior of Donald Trump.
It can also lead to dangerous driving, which is why Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Taxi and Limousine Commission proposed stricter rules governing shift length for the city’s taxi and for-hire-vehicle drivers.
D.W.T.: Driving while tired
At the moment, cabbies are restricted to 12-hour shifts, but their hours reset to zero the moment they take a break of any length. Other commercial drivers — Uber drivers, for example — are not bound by those TLC restrictions.
The new rules would tighten the break loophole, and drivers would be restricted to 12 hours out of every 24, and 72 hours out of every week.
The rules would apply to all for-hire vehicles as well, addressing the new world of app-based hail services.
The TLC cites research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, among others, that underscores the dangers of driver fatigue — one Australian study finds that staying awake for long periods of time approximates driving drunk.
Over the past two years, TLC-licensed drivers who worked more than 12 hours in a day had a 23.8 percent higher crash rate than those who worked 12 or fewer, according to TLC data.
The TLC estimates that the new rules would apply to single digit percentages of cabbies who are regularly driving into those dangerous limits. But even the limits themselves demonstrate the long, difficult days that cabbies and other drivers work, roaming the five boroughs in search of passengers from morning to night.
Sanctioned spaces of rest include the approximately 70 miniscule "relief stands" dotting the city — a few spots on the curb reserved for cabbie and for-hire-vehicle use (one-hour-only) to nap, find a bathroom, polish your black Mercedes until it shines, take your eyes off the road. Some, like yellow minicab driver Chaudhry Badai, 68, go into the back seat to spread out and sleep.
Others, like Dennis Reid, 51, a luxury-car service driver dressed in suit and tie who says he’s been driving for 20 years, stay in the front seat. He keeps a pillow by his side to rest his head. Reid can recite the most popular relief stands in Manhattan, including the ones temporarily closed due to construction.
When he does find a spot, he likes walking around the block for exercise — essential to keep the blood moving.
“Falling asleep at the wheel is not something I’m interested in,” Reid says. The "money you lose" far outstrips the minimal gain, the extra minutes on the clock.
The never-ending hustle
With steep overhead and more competition from the apps and the sleek cars they direct, some cabbies say they are feeling financial pressure. Drivers for Uber — some of whom have recently formed a driver association — have their own worries about salary, given Uber headquarters’ recent decision to slash prices.
It's a never-ending hustle, and few drivers want to be forced into longer hours, let alone the upper limits.
Badhar Khan, 37, a cab driver waiting for a fare to LaGuardia Airport, said that he tries to operate his vehicle in as sane a way as possible — starting at 9:30 a.m. after he drops his kids off at school, finishing around 5 p.m. and heading home.
Uber driver Abdo Alsaidi said he’d worked 14 hours before, but never two days in a row. In general, “nobody can work more than 12.”
For those 12 hours though, he said he’d be all over the place. Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, he listed, tapping out a cigarette into the gutter.
“Anybody got money, I go there.”
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