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Uber forcing UK drivers to take breaks in the name of safety

They'll be stopped from picking up passengers after working 10 hours.
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Bloomberg via Getty Images

In an effort to stop UK drivers working excessive hours, Uber's going to start forcing them to rest up after pulling a decent shift. A new policy coming into effect next week mandates a driver must take a continuous six-hour break after racking up 10 hours of cruising either with a passenger in the back, or en route to pick one up. And these aren't just guidelines. Uber will stop drivers logging into the app if they don't take the necessary downtime, with a 10-hour counter resetting every time six hours or more are spent off the clock.

Uber first floated the idea last October when addressing a UK government committee that's investigating gig economy working practices. Uber's Head of Policy Andrew Byrne said of the obligatory breaks: "Licensed drivers who use our app really value the freedom and flexibility to choose if, when and where they work. And while drivers only spend an average of 30 hours a week logged into our app, we want to do our part to ensure they don't drive tired. That's why we've been sending drivers regular reminders to take rest breaks and why we're now bringing in these new limits. On top of features like GPS tracking of every trip it's another example of how Uber uses technology to help enhance driver and passenger safety."

While this is the first time Uber has taken to micromanaging drivers across the UK, those in New York City have been working around a cap on hours since early 2016. Any New Yorker pulling more than a 12-hour shift -- forbidden by taxi regulations -- will have their account temporarily disabled. If they're caught driving excessive hours again soon after that, Uber will kick them off the service permanently.

Uber is particularly keen to show the UK authorities safety's of paramount concern, though. It's currently trying to curry favor with Transport for London (TfL), the regulator that denied Uber a renewed private hire license for the capital last September. TfL concluded in its review the ride-hailing service was not "fit and proper" to hold a license, citing "a lack corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications," among many other criticisms. Uber is still allowed to operate in London for the time being, however, while it exhausts the appeals process in the courts and works behind closed doors to get TfL back onside.

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