Fatigued cab drivers allowed unlimited road hours

10Investigates considers the issue of taxi drivers on the road for too many hours at a time.

TAMPA - There used to be a public service ad about driving: "Look out for the other guy."

When you're behind the wheel, you should always be aware of those driving around you.

Truck driverr, bus drivers; there are limits on how long they can dive, just like pilots have rules about how much time they can fly.

But 10Investigates uncovered a big surprise - there is one group of professional drivers with zero limits on drive times and it's putting you in danger.

If you drive in Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco or even Polk, at any given point you could be on the road with one of thousands of taxis. And it could be dangerous.

Ben Fiore knows firsthand. He was in a serious accident when a taxi collided into the back of his car.

“Pretty heavy collision,” Fiore told us. He ended up having surgery as a result.

These days Fiore says he has changed his driving habits because of the accident.

“I don’t let (taxi drivers) get behind me. If I see one behind me, I change lanes.”

And anytime you are in traffic with a cab, you could be in danger because of the incredible amount of time that drivers often spend behind the wheel,

One taxi driver we talked to at Tampa International Airport who wanted to remain anonymous explained, “Some people are working 24 hours a day just to make it.”

He explained taxi drivers are losing money when they start their work week.

Here's why: every work week, taxi drivers don't start making money until they pay for leasing the cab, up to $600 a week and gas, which can run $200 a week.

Driver Jim Little said, “So you are talking $800 a week, $40,000 a year that we have to cover before we start putting anything  in our pocket.”

And that means many taxi drivers are working a lot of hours just to make a living - more than most of the rest of us work.

Another driver who didn’t want to be identified said, “It might take 12 (hours per shift), it might take 15, 18, That's how it is.”

When we asked how many days a week he works the driver said "Seven."

He also admitted that drivers are often tired and sometimes take chances. And some actually sleep in their cab.

 Veteran driver Randy Wilson is not happy that some of his colleagues work so many hours.

"You just can't push yourself to drive like that when you are not physically alert,” Wilson says. “Because as you well know, the Howard Frankland (Bridge), one mistake and you can be in a 10-car pile-up."

Hillsborough County is unique in the area in that it has the Public Transportation Commission, which regulates all cabs in the county. But it has no regulations about how many hours drivers can spend behind the wheel each day.

“This is exactly the type of issues the Public Transportation Commission addresses and should be addressing, said commissioner Victor Crist. However, Crist, the chairman of the PTC ,had *no idea" there weren't time regulations for cabbies.

Crist admitted, “I am shocked this issue hasn't come forward sooner, and am impressed you found it. It is amazing to think we have no safeguards, no restrictions.”

Attorney Chris Ligori, who has successfully sued cab companies for driver negligence, is unhappy with the PTC. He said "they seem more interested in protecting the cab companies than the people of Hillsborough County.”

Ben Fiore is a former truck driver. He had a list of restrictions on the hours he could drive. He is furious that after his accident that neither the cab companies nor the PTC have limited the hours taxi drivers can be behind the wheel.

“What's the point of having an agency if they are not going to regulate anything?” he asked.

Pinellas, Pasco, Polk and Sarasota counties don't regulate cab companies or drivers and don't have regulations on how many hours someone can drive.

However, starting Nov. 1 New York City will limit taxi drivers to 12 hours a day and no more than 72 hours a week in an attempt to keep fatigued drivers off the road.
 


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