Driver Fatigue Rules

Proposed Rules: Closed to Comments (View Public Comments Received:2)

Comment By: 
Thursday, June 23, 2016



Commercial drivers’ long work hours make them more susceptible than others to fatigued driving.  An existing Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) rule addresses driver fatigue by limiting to twelve the number of consecutive hours that a taxi driver can drive for hire.  But the restriction of the current rule is limited in scope—it does not apply to for-hire vehicle drivers—and difficult to enforce, because a break of any length could reset the clock and allow a driver to comply with TLC rules while working excessive hours.  Consistent with Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero Initiative’s emphasis on traffic safety, TLC reviewed the research on fatigued driving with the goal of developing new rules that would apply across its service sectors.


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 concludes that long work hours, both daily and weekly, lead to acute fatigue and reduced sleep, and over time, may lead to cumulative fatigue.  For 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.  Fatigued driving has been found to impair driving ability.  Research has shown that longer working hours are associated with fewer hours of sleep, and that being awake for 18 hours and 24 hours, respectively, 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 0.10 (1.25 times the 0.08 threshold for driving while intoxicated).  Although the vast majority of TLC-licensed drivers are not driving an excessive number of hours, there is a small segment of drivers who do.  Indeed, the TLC has heard concerns from passengers that their drivers may have fallen asleep behind the wheel.


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


  • Prohibiting a driver of a taxi or for-hire vehicle from picking up passengers for-hire for more than 12 hours in any 24-hour period;
  • Prohibiting a driver of a taxi or for-hire vehicle from picking up passengers for-hire for  more than 72 hours in any seven-day period;
  • Resetting the 12-hour clock for a driver after any period in which he or she has gone eight consecutive hours without pickups; and
  • Prohibiting a base from dispatching a driver to do pickups in more than 12 hours in any 24-hour period (unless that base has stopped dispatching the driver trips for eight or more consecutive hours) and prohibiting a base from dispatching a driver to do pickups in more than 72 hours in any seven-day period.


 Unlike the current rule, the proposed rule:


  • Provides flexibility for different shift types.  It maintains the ability for drivers to work  twelve-hour shifts, as is common practice among many taxi drivers in New York City, while also creating a standard that is flexible enough for drivers of any vehicle type who work less regular or “split shift” schedules.
  • Fights fatigue in both taxi and FHV sectors.  By applying to both taxi and for-hire vehicle drivers, this rule ensures the public and drivers have the same protections regardless of the service sector. 
  • Reflects cross-sector driver mobility.  This rule applies uniformly across driver types as drivers increasingly move back and forth between the taxi and for-hire vehicle sectors.  This practice will become even more common as TLC implements a new “universal license” giving all taxi and for-hire vehicle drivers cross-sector mobility.
  • Addresses acute fatigue. By prohibiting drivers from operating for-hire for more than 12 hours in any 24-hour period, while also accounting for adequate downtime, this rule reduces the likelihood that drivers will work more hours than may be safe within one day.
  • Addresses cumulative fatigue. By prohibiting drivers from operating for-hire for more than 72 hours in any seven-day period, the rule reduces the likelihood that drivers and the public will face additional safety risks associated with working long hours over many consecutive days without time for the body to recuperate.  Drivers who like long shifts could work up to six 12-hour shifts in a week but would need to rest one day a week. Most drivers do not work full 12-hour shifts and work shorter shifts.  These drivers could still work every day so long as the total number of hours worked does not exceed 72.   


The proposed daily and weekly limits fall within a range of limits in place for professional drivers in other jurisdictions:


  • In any 24-hour period, Chicago and Nevada taxi drivers may drive no more than 12 hours, Philadelphia taxi and limousine drivers may drive no more than 14 hours, and Los Angeles for-hire drivers may drive no more than 10 hours. Nationally, interstate truck and bus drivers may drive no more than 11 and 10 hours, respectively.
  • In any seven-day period, interstate truck drivers may drive no more than 60 hours, Los Angeles for-hire drivers may drive no more than 70 hours, Minneapolis taxi drivers may drive no more than 72 hours, and Philadelphia and Chicago for-hire drivers may drive no more than 84 hours.   


The limitations are also supported by best practices and scientific research.  The Institute of Medicine classifies transportation as a safety-sensitive industry, and work hours for professional drivers (e.g., truck drivers, aviation workers) have been regulated by the US Department of Transportation since the 1930s.  NHTSA reports that fatigue impairs performance of repetitive tasks, such as driving, by reducing vigilance, slowing reaction time and creating deficits in information processing.  Engineers at the University of North Florida studied bus drivers and found a discernable pattern of an increased propensity for collision involvement with an increase in weekly driving hours.  The AAA Foundation reports that fatigued drivers are involved in 20% of fatal crashes nationally.


While there is an economic aspect to this rule, the population of drivers affected by these limits is small.  Indeed, only 3% of for-hire drivers in New York City typically drive more than 12 hours per day and less than 7% of drivers typically drive more than 72 hours in a week.  Therefore most drivers would not need to modify their working hours to comply with these rules.  There is a small population of drivers whose current hours put them most at risk for fatigued driving and for whom it is particularly important to reduce working hours: the approximately 3% who are driving more than 80 hours in a week and the 1% who are exceeding 14 hours in a day. 


With regard to enforcement, Medallion and Boro Taxis are equipped with trip-recording equipment, and such records are transmitted to the TLC on a regular basis.  FHV bases transmit records of the for-hire vehicles that they dispatch on a regular basis.  TLC will review these trip records after submission to calculate the hours in which a driver is picking up passengers in any 24-hour or seven-day period.  Trips by a driver who accepts dispatches from multiple bases, or who operates both taxis and FHVs, will be combined to determine the total number of hours worked.  Bases will only be responsible for trips that they dispatch, not dispatches that their affiliated drivers accept through other bases or street hails accepted by Boro Taxis.


Given the wide range of driving schedules among the more than 140,000 TLC-licensed drivers in New York City, it is important to create clear, consistent, and enforceable rules.  This proposed rule will serve as one of many tools for the TLC to combat the complex challenge of fatigue. In addition to broad-based outreach to licensees to explain these rules, TLC will expand its current driver education and training materials to include strategies to combat driver fatigue, including the benefits of breaks and the importance of getting adequate rest. By drawing on all of these tools, TLC seeks to ensure that drivers have enough time to rest prior to transporting passengers for hire and thus help move the city a step closer to achieving Vision Zero. 


This rule is authorized by Section 2303 of the New York Charter and Section 19-503


of the Administrative Code.

Public Hearing

Driver Fatigue Rules Public Hearing

Public Hearing Date: 
Thursday, June 23, 2016 - 10:00am
TLC Commission Meeting Room
33 Beaver Street 19th Floor
NEW YORK, NY 10004