Uber Forces U.S. Drivers to Take More Breaks

Drivers now have to take a six-hour break after 12 hours of driving time.

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto

Uber is introducing a new feature for its app that will force U.S. drivers to take a six-hour break after 12 hours of driving time. The company already has a similar policy in place in the U.K., but this is the first time it has been tried in the U.S.

Uber hopes the new feature will prevent driver fatigue. In a press release, the company noted that nearly 60 percent of its U.S. drivers use the app less than 10 hours a week, but fatigue has become a major concern for the company. Last month, Uber began requiring U.K. drivers to take a six-hour break after working for 10 hours.

In the U.S., the Uber app will begin tracking the length of time drivers have been on the road. It will notify drivers once they get close to the new 12-hour limit, and then automatically shut off once that limit is reached. Drivers will only be able to begin accepting new trip requests after the app is deactivated for six straight hours. Uber noted that driving-time limits may vary in certain areas, depending on local regulations.

A drowsy driver is an unsafe driver, but the issue generally doesn't get as much attention as drunk driving or the use of cell phones while driving. Uber cited a 2016 National Sleep Foundation report in which nearly seven million people admitted to falling asleep at the wheel over a two-week period. But that's not the only reason for Uber to enforce mandatory breaks.

Uber has long maintained that most of its drivers are part-timers who only work a few hours each week. When drivers rack up a lot of hours, it not only raises questions about safety but also about whether those drivers are really doing the amount of work of full-time employees. Treating drivers as freelance contractors is a key part of Uber's business model, and anything that might disrupt that arrangement could be a threat to the company. Of course, Uber won't have to worry about any of this is if it can get its promised fleet of self-driving cars on the road.