The most significant development in transportation in recent years, Uber has recently been valued at around $50 billion, operating in 58 countries around the world. The company has inspired a number of spinoff projects – Uber for Errands, Uber for Food Delivery, Uber for Dry Cleaning, even Uber for Trucking. The popularity of the technology begs the question of regulation. Truck drivers are required to remain compliant with the federal government’s Hours of Service (HOS) laws. Are Uber drivers next?
The FMCSA’s HOS laws for truck drivers are well-defined and a subject of frequent contention. The agency does not currently have laws governing taxi drivers, the closest analog for Uber drivers. Taxi drivers, after all, do mostly local driving and have frequent rest time in between fares. Limo and bus drivers often have longer routes, but usually get rest breaks between shifts. Individual cities and taxi companies often set their own regulations – the City of Seattle, for example, caps driving at 12 hours within a 15 hour period, after which drivers must take a 10 hour break. Taxis, however, are on the wane. New York City’s iconic yellow cabs witnessed a 15.5% decline in daily usage between 2012 and 2015, with companies like Uber named among the causes for the drop. There are more than 160,000 active Uber drivers – more than the number of Amazon employees. With this many drivers-for-hire on the road, some regulation may be needed to keep both Uber employees and customers safe.
Uber drivers can currently drive when and where they like, for as long as they like. 51% drivers work less than 15 hours a week, with 19% working more than 35 hours per week. For most drivers, Uber is a part-time job. And with an average ride length of 10.2 minutes, Uber drivers are not covering great distances. The fact remains, however, that people can become fatigued behind the wheel, placing both themselves and others in danger. A version of HOS laws will hopefully be put in place for Uber drivers before an incident makes them necessary. This decision would mostly likely come within Uber itself, with an HOS interface built into the driver’s app for daily compliance.
Should Uber decide to implement HOS software for their drivers, they need look no further than telematics. Multiple software providers have HOS logs that allow drivers to easily record their hours for federal compliance and review. This software ensures they stay safe on the job, keeping themselves, their vehicles, and the road secure. With passenger transportation becoming one of the fastest-growing technical industries in the United States, GPS tracking software companies would do well to keep an eye on the developing needs in this sector.