Cabbie was fatigued, reveals investigation

Uber driver who fatally knocked down woman on Ballari Road on March 24 had been working for 14 straight hours

April 02, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 07:46 am IST - Bengaluru:

Bengaluru : Karnataka : 24-03-2016 : Menaka Gulati, manager with British airways killed after he bicycle was knock down by speeding cab in Yelahanka

Bengaluru : Karnataka : 24-03-2016 : Menaka Gulati, manager with British airways killed after he bicycle was knock down by speeding cab in Yelahanka

Cell phone call records have revealed that Venkatachalaiah, who was driving the Uber cab that hit 38-year-old cycling enthusiast Menaka Gulvady on the international airport road at 6.20 a.m. on March 24, had worked for 14 hours continuously before the accident.

While the driver had told the police that the early-morning trip was his first of the day, his call records reveal that he had received calls from customers for pick-up from 4 p.m. the day before.

“We found call records containing numbers of passengers that the driver had picked up and dropped through the night,” said inspector R. Mohan Kumar of Yelahanka traffic police, who are investigating the case.

The police are now analysing trip log records from Uber to further strengthen their case.

They point out that this case could be an example of a serious accident due to tired drivers illegally working long hours.

Drivers push limits

It is not uncommon for cab drivers to push the limits by working double shifts to reach the targets set by aggregators.

“On weekdays, it is impossible to get enough customers to meet the target for incentives. We have to work at least 12 hours to meet 70 per cent of the target. At night, it is tough to keep driving,” says Rajesh (name changed), a driver attached to a cab aggregator.

But as incentives have been scaled down, drivers have signed up with multiple aggregators to stop their earnings from dipping.

“I alternate between two aggregators and try to complete as many trips as I can. I earn some incentive with both companies if I work for 14-15 hours,” said another driver. But central rules categorically state that drivers can work a maximum of eight hours a day, with a 30-minute break after five hours.

A Transport Department official said the onus is on cab aggregators to ensure that their drivers follow the rule.

But aggregators turn a blind eye, said Rajesh, adding that often, drivers sign up with multiple aggregators using different names. Traffic snarls and long trips make it virtually impossible to meet incentive targets set by companies like Uber, he adds.

For instance, targets range from 8-15 trips in a day to earn incentives up to Rs. 6,000. Meeting this could mean up to 15 hours on the road, said an Uber driver.

After an uproar over a news story highlighting the fact that Uber drivers in New York were working up to 19 hours, the aggregator had volunteered to cut short working hours.

Efforts to ascertain the measures Uber has in place to fight driver fatigue in Bengaluru were unsuccessful as requests for information were not taken.

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