Vision Zero safety proposals that would limit the working hours of all for-hire vehicles has divided the city and its drivers.
The proposals, introduced by the Taxi and Limousine Commission, would refine rules and restrict driving hours for its taxi, black cab, limousine and e-hail drivers in an attempt to reduce fatigue and ultimately cut down on for-hire crashes.
“These proposals address the twin concerns of acute and chronic fatigue, keeping our streets and licensees safer,” said Madeline Labadie, a senior analyst at the TLC, during a presentation at a TLC hearing on the rules Thursday.
Under the new policy, the TLC’s 143,674 licensed drivers would be prohibited from carrying passengers for more than 12 hours in any 24-hour period, unless they take a full eight-hour break, and more than 72 hours in any seven-day period.
Currently, hour limits only apply to yellow taxi drivers. Rules state that cabbies can’t operate on the clock for more than 12 hours at a time, but any break a driver takes can theoretically reset their hours of operation–making limits difficult to enforce.
Medallion owners and cabbies were outspoken against the limits at the hearing, despite that the TLC alleges only three percent of drivers would be impacted. With the emergence of e-hail apps like Uber and Lyft scooping up passengers, drivers said they’ve been working longer to make a living.
“The competition is amazing. There are no passengers,” said Gladys Barrera, a Queens yellow cabbie who has been driving in New York for 25 years. “The TLC never put a cap how many drivers they have and now we’re all out here longer.”
Placida Robinson, a Harlem taxi medallion owner since 2006, called the proposals an “income cap.”
According to the TLC, from 2014 to 2015, taxi drivers were at a 24 percent higher risk of being involved in a crash resulting in an injury when working more than 12 hours per day and a nine percent greater risk when working more than 72 hours per week.
Steven Shanker, counsel to the Livery Roundtable, questioned the relevance of the TLC research, which involved an internal review and data from Centers for Disease Control, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Sleep Foundation and the US Federal Highway Administration.
“I believe it’s the city’s obligation to perform a study to see how this applies to New York City before regulations are proposed,” he said.
TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi then jumped in.
“A lot of people throw around the word ‘study’ and sometimes I wonder if they want to know more about a subject or they want to use it as a technique for delay,” she said. “There’s a tremendous amount of study that’s already taken place.”
Julia Kite, policy and research manager at Transportation Alternatives, backed regulations, arguing that the economic issues behind concerns need to be dealt with, but not at the sacrifice of safety.
“Fatigued driving worsens judgment in a way similar to being intoxicated, creating patently unsafe situations on our roads,” Kite said during her testimony. “We are confident that the new regulations, if properly enforced, will improve safety for drivers, passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians.”