Mayor de Blasio, TLC Commissioner Joshi Announce Proposed Driver Fatigue Rules

May 24, 2016

NEW YORK––Mayor Bill de Blasio and Taxi and Limousine Commissioner Meera Joshi today announced the culmination of an extensive Taxi and Limousine Commission review of the science and best practices of professional driver fatigue. A public hearing on a proposed rule that reflects the TLC’s findings is scheduled for June 23, 2016.

“We add new elements to our Vision Zero plan all the time,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, “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. This would help keep all road-users safer today, and bring us a bit closer to Vision Zero’s ultimate goal tomorrow.”

“Every day more than a million New Yorkers and visitors rely on our licensed drivers to transport them,” said TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi. “The work of TLC-licensed drivers is critical to the movement of the City. To minimize the risk of a crash, drivers must be alert, which requires rest. But these crashes are preventable with a reasonable limit on the hours during which a driver can pick-up passengers. Today’s proposal does that. It is tailored to the unique dynamics of New York City, takes into consideration drivers’ earning potential, is consistent with that of comparable industries in cities across the nation, and it is enforceable with data that is available to the TLC today. Most importantly, today, the vast majority of TLC-licensed drivers are well under the proposed limits.”

“Over two years of Vision Zero, we have reminded cab and livery drivers that their choices matter. When drivers are feeling fatigued, they simply will not have the reflexes and judgment that are up to the task.” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “I thank Commissioner Joshi and the TLC for an initiative that will help make New Yorkers safer – and supports the City’s collective effort to make Vision Zero a reality.”

As explained in the proposed rule’s statement of basis and purpose, an existing TLC rule addresses driver fatigue by limiting to twelve the number of consecutive hours that a taxi driver can drive for-hire. That restriction, however, does not currently apply to for-hire vehicle drivers. It has also been historically difficult to enforce because a break of any length could reset the clock and allow a driver to comply with TLC rules while still working excessive hours. Consistent with Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero action plan and its emphasis on traffic safety, the TLC reviewed the research on fatigued driving with the goal of developing new rules that would apply to its driver licensees across all of the various industry segments it regulates.

Among the lessons learned in the review, we’ve noted research conducted by organizations including the Centers for Disease Control, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Sleep Foundation, and the US Federal Highway Administration, among others, that concludes long work hours lead to acute fatigue and reduced sleep. Over a period of days and weeks, the research shows, these long hours may lead to cumulative fatigue. For professional drivers, this means slowed reaction times and a reduced ability to assess situations quickly, potentially leading to driver errors and a higher risk of crashing. Perhaps most compelling is the fact that, in addition to longer working hours being associated with fewer hours of sleep, research has shown that being awake for 18 hours results in impairment equal to blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of 0.05 (considered driving while under the influence of alcohol in New York State), and being awake for 24 hours and results in a BAC of 0.10 (1.25 times the 0.08 threshold for driving while intoxicated).

"Driver attentiveness is a critical issue, especially in the active vehicular and pedestrian traffic environment of New York City,” said Thomas Chan, Chief of Transportation at the NYPD. “A central focus of our Vision Zero program involves awareness. This new rule will contribute to the ultimate goal of safety for our drivers and pedestrians.”

The proposed rule seeks to reduce the serious safety risks of fatigued driving by:

  • Prohibiting all TLC drivers from picking up passengers for more than 12 hours in any 24-hour period, and more than 72 hours in any seven-day period;
  • Allowing a driver who has gone eight or more consecutive hours without pick-ups to “re-set” his or her 12-hour work clock and begin making pick-ups again.

In formulating the proposed rule, the TLC has engaged with numerous industry groups and leaders. In the days leading up to the June 23 public hearing, the TLC will continue to discuss the proposed rules with stakeholders. The agency will also continue to send anti-fatigue messages to drivers in vehicles equipped with info screens, as well as continuing its aggressive outreach work, engaging directly with drivers about safety – including fatigue-free driving – through Vision Zero Team visits to for-hire bases and taxi fleets.

"We have seen too many tragedies caused by fatigued driving," said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Committee on Transportation. "These new rules are a positive step that – with enforcement – can alleviate some of the concerns about drivers being inattentive due to sleep deprivation. I hope our hard-working taxi and for-hire drivers will recognize the importance of these measures to considerably improve safety on our streets."

"When New Yorkers step into taxis and other for-hire vehicles, they expect to arrive at their destination safely; after all, everyone knows New York taxi drivers are the best in the world. But when a driver has given in to the temptation to work more and sleep less he or she is putting their life, the lives of their passengers, and any car or pedestrian around them at risk," said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety. “I applaud Mayor de Blasio and TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi for recognizing the danger sleep deprived drivers present to our community and proposing these much-needed regulations. Sleep deprivation has been the cause of too many tragic accidents, and I thank the Mayor and the Commissioner for addressing this ongoing public safety concern."

Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, said, “New York City's professional drivers should be the safest drivers on the road and set the tone for other motorists on our streets. Tired drivers are as potentially deadly as drunk drivers. We commend the Taxi & Limousine Commission for continuing to raise the bar on safety, and we look forward to working with the TLC on other Vision Zero measures to reduce the likelihood of crashes.”

"This commonsense policy will make passengers in New York City's taxis and for-hire vehicles safer,” said Michael O'Loughlin, Campaigns Director, Cab Riders United. “No passenger should ever have to worry their driver is dangerously drowsy behind the wheel. We appreciate the Taxi and Limousine Commission's science-based approach to this important safety issue, and we look forward to working with the TLC on next steps to improve the safety and quality of for-hire transportation for New Yorkers."

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