The driver of the app-based taxi you have booked may be sleep-deprived, putting your and his life at risk. Drivers of Uber and Ola are spending up to 17 hours every day to clock rides to avail the incentives given by the cab-hailing platforms.
Extensive driving hours cause road accidents. India data isn’t available, but in the US drowsy driving consumed 800 lives in 2013.
More rides means higher incentive. Bengaluru-based cab aggregator, Ola, gives `3,000 if a driver clocks six rides, back-to-back, `5,500 for 12 rides, `8,000 for 16, and `11,500 for 19. Its rival, American cab’s platform, Uber, offers similar incentives.
Dharamveer Thakur, an Ola cab driver, hasn’t slept for the past 24 hours. “When I feel sleepy I park the car and take a quick nap, until the next cab request comes,” he said.
Thakur says his life depends on incentives, without which he won’t make enough to pay for his children’s education, his car’s instalment, and family’s monthly expenses.
Uber cab driver Sunil Jangra dozed off when he came to pick up a passenger from Delhi’s Chittaranjan Park at 2.30am. “In the morning I did six rides on Ola. Since evening, I am on Uber. I will have to clock two more rides to avail the10-rides incentive,” he said.
Jangra has bought a plot in west Delhi’s Nangloi. His kids go to an English-medium school. Indicating at the withdrawal of per-ride incentive that Ola and Uber gave a year ago, he said he wants to earn as long as the ‘good days’ are around.
Doctors, however, said that drivers need minimum 7-8 hours of sleep, else they are not attentive, and their reaction time is low. “There is enough scientific data that shows accidents are rampant because of lack of sleep. There are guidelines for drivers that they are not supposed to drive for 15-16 hours,” said JC Suri, professor and head, pulmonary and sleep medicine at Safdarjung Hospital.
Ajay Kumar, 28, originally from Himachal Pradesh, drives for 16 hours everyday. “I don’t make money if I drive less than that. Without incentives, the business is not viable,” he said.
Fragmented sleep or short naps don’t suffice. “It causes irritability and fatigue… No driver can perform for 15-16 hours at a stretch,” said Brig Ashok Rajput, medical director of Morpheus Healthcare, and HOD of Venkateshwar Hospital.
Ola and Uber do not have any check on driving hours. The aggregators also do not do any sleep study on drivers before inducting them.
In fact, if a driver declines a trip, the chain of the trip ends and he doesn’t get the incentive, a driver said.
“We are working to raise awareness about driving patterns and habits. One of the features we are piloting on driver’s app is “pause requests” designed for drivers who want to log-off after dropping their passenger, instead of having to decline trip requests while their last rider is in the car,” an Uber spokerperson said.
A mail sent to Ola remained unattended.