Street Safety Alert: NYC Cabbies Log More Hours Than Long-Haul Truckers

A city cab driver jumped a curb on Monday, pinning a woman against a building in Midtown and injuring a second pedestrian. Photo via ##http://gothamist.com/2012/03/12/taxi_jumps_curb_in_midtown_collides.php#photo-1##Gothamist##

Every New Yorker who steps off a curb should read the Gotham Gazette story on the health problems associated with driving a city cab. If nothing else it’s an eye-opener, to say the least, in light of the potential impact of cabbie working conditions on street safety.

From a physical standpoint, driving is a sedentary activity, so it stands to reason that those who drive for a living are prone to a host of maladies.

Drivers are often forced to eat on the go, making fast food their easiest option. Few of them get any exercise whatsoever, and often suffer from back, hip and leg pain from sitting in a car all day. This lack of exercise combined with a bad diet has led to high rates of diabetes and high blood pressure among cabbies, according to health experts. Many of them even have kidney problems because they frequently can’t find a place to park when they need to use a bathroom.

Stress is also a significant problem — and no wonder, since according to Gotham Gazette, “most drivers work 60 to 70 hours per week.” That’s more time on the road than is permitted to long-haul truck drivers. While federal law limits truckers to 11 hour shifts, regulations from the Taxi & Limousine Commission say cabbies may work up to 12 hours at a time.

Of course there are a number of factors at play, including low pay and the inherent nature of the work itself. And there are no statistics that we know of on the number of cab crashes caused by driver fatigue or other ailments. But if the federal government says 12 hours behind the wheel is too risky for drivers who haul freight on interstate highways, how safe can it be for those carrying passengers on streets teeming with people?

As bad as those long days are for cab drivers themselves, it could be that they’re worse for everyone else.

  • Mark Walker

    If all (not just some) medallions were owned exclusively by cab drivers, and not treated as million-dollar investments for fleet owners who lease them to drivers, perhaps NY’s cabbies would be able to keep more of what they earn and spend less time behind the wheel. Alternatively, drivers could go back to being employees of the medallion owners with tightly regulated hours, salaries, and health insurance.

  • New Yorker

    Let’s just acknowledge that we have an utterly shabby Third World transportation system in NYC.

  • Ben from Bed Stuy

    I see an organizing opportunity here. Since taxi drivers and cyclists are so often having, shall we say, “interactions” in the street that aren’t always pleasant, what can we as a cyclist community do to reach out to taxi driver groups or big garages to encourage their drivers to try cycling for fun and fitness? I’ve heard that one of the taxi unions, the taxi worker’s alliance, runs health and fitness classes for their hundreds of drivers. We could, as volunteers, help run an intro to city cycling class, or biking for fun and fitness for cab drivers. Since so many garages are in Queens, perhaps this is a project that someone in the Queens TA volunteer comittee could get involved in. I would be willing to help plan it – message me back if you like the idea and you want to help!

  • Ian Turner

    Mark: Doubtful. Instead of working crazy hours to meet the demands of their paymasters, they’d have to work crazy hours to meet the demands of the mortgage on the medallion. Doubly so since right now a medallion owner can operate a single cab 24/7, which an individual would obviously not be able to do.

    A better way to deal with the million-dollar-medallion problem would be to revoke all existing medallions and then have the city instead sell one-year operating licenses at open auction. But that will never happen, because it is far too threatening to existing interests.

  • Ryan Ng

    They should have robot drivers that do not need to eat, sleep, get paid, or go to the bathroom so that we don’t have crazy taxi drivers who crash cabs every other week

  • Killmoto

    Ben: Brilliant!Ryan:  Just as brilliant!  Moreover, RoboCabs could have a hardware/software enforced maximum acceleration, and be held by GPS to the max posted speed.  Get enough RoboCabs on the road, and all other drivers would be capped at the speed limit, because the squadron of robocabs all obeying the limit will be impossible to pass.  

    Everybody wins!

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