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One of the best parts of driving for Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare apps is that you get to set your own schedule. You’re an independent contractor, working whenever you want. If you prefer to drive early in the morning, that’s no problem. Live somewhere that places are open 24/7 (such as New York City or Chicago)? Feel free to embrace your inner night owl and drive when most other people are asleep.
While this flexibility is helpful, it can have some dark sides. In particular, it can push some drivers to work longer than is safe to do so. In the past, there was nothing to prevent you from making Uber trips 24 hours a day. Now, Uber places limits on the amount of time you can drive.
But how do these limits affect your ability to earn as a rideshare driver? In this article, we’re going to examine everything you need to know about how many hours you can drive for Uber in a day, including how to track the number of hours you’ve driven and when to drive to maximize the income you can earn in your available hours.
- How Long Can You Drive for Uber?
- Driving While Drowsy: The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
- How to Know How Long You’ve Been Driving
- Drive Smarter, Not Longer
How Long Can You Drive for Uber?
According to a press release from Uber on February 12, 2018, the company now tracks how long drivers work continuously and automatically takes the app offline when drivers exceed 12 hours of driving within 24 hours. The app then remains offline for 6 hours before letting drivers work again.
How does this work? How can Uber know how long you’ve been driving? Using the Uber app’s location tracking features, Uber can examine the total amount of time you’ve driven within 24 hours. The app considers total driving time, not continuous time. This means you can’t game the system by taking yourself out of driver mode and then reactivating it a couple minutes later.
Also, you should know that Uber also counts the amount of time you spend working for the Uber Eats delivery service toward your total limit. Because you use the same Uber partner app to deliver for Uber Eats as you do to accept rides, Uber can easily track your total time working for both.
Furthermore, once the app goes offline, it’s offline. There’s no getting around it. The idea is that you would use those six hours to sleep or at least rest. Driving while sleep-deprived can have some serious consequences for both drivers and riders.
Driving While Drowsy: The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
We all know that driving while intoxicated is exceedingly dangerous and is against the law across the United States and most of the world. Something that fewer people consider, however, is the danger that comes from driving while sleep deprived.
In the press release we mentioned above, Uber cites a report from the National Sleep Foundation in which around 7 million people of those surveyed admitted to dozing off behind the wheel within the same two weeks. This is a frightening statistic, since dozing off behind the wheel is just as dangerous to drivers or passengers as driving while drunk or high.
Uber is serious about safety, so they’ve taken steps to prevent this from happening. Of course, they can’t force you to sleep while the app is offline, but it’s a smart idea. Not only will it make your driving safer, but it will also help you to be engaged and friendlier with passengers than you would if you were tired.
How to Know How Long You’ve Been Driving
When you’re in the groove of picking up and dropping off passengers, it’s easy to lose track of time. This is especially true if you’re driving on a weekend night where you get lots of trip requests one after the other. In cases such as these, you may get close to driving for 12 hours without realizing it.
Luckily, the Uber app will let you know how long you’ve been driving and tell you when you’re approaching the 12-hour mark. Specifically, you’ll receive notifications when you have less than 2 hours left to drive, another when you have less than 1 hour left, and a final reminder when you have less than 30 minutes left.
Note that while the general limit is 12 hours, some cities have specific rules that require you to drive for even less time before taking a break. For instance, in New York City, the TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission) does not allow drivers to spend more than 10 hours transporting passengers within a 24-hour period. If you’re driving in this market, then the app will go offline after you hit this limit and won’t reset until eight hours have passed.
Drive Smarter, Not Longer
While Uber sets the cap for the number of hours you can drive at 12, we think that there’s no need to drive that many hours to begin with (certainly not consecutively). If you feel like you have to drive 12 hours a day every day just to make a decent wage, then it could be worth considering other ways to boost your Uber driver income.
To start with, you should take steps to boost your tips. Since riders are now encouraged to tip drivers after every ride, if you can increase the amount that a rider tips you, you’ll have to work fewer hours to make the same amount of money.
Furthermore, you should consider if you’re eligible to drive for a platform besides UberX. If you have the right vehicle, you could be able to drive for a more lucrative platform such as UberXL, UberBLACK, or UberSUV. You could spend the same amount of time driving for these but make a lot more money than if you’re only taking UberX fares.
Another strategy is to drive in places and during times where fares tend to be higher. Surge pricing can really work to your advantage if you understand what causes it and where it tends to occur. Keep an eye on the events happening in your town. If there’s a big concert or a holiday where lots of people are going to be out at once, that could be a good opportunity to be around and earn some higher fares.
Finally, you can look into the other way to earn money with Uber besides driving. While transporting passengers is the main way to make money with Uber, you can also earn through referring other drivers to the platform. If someone signs up with your unique link, you’ll earn a commission. Learn more about how to do this here. You should also check out our list of 17 creative ways Uber drivers can earn more money.
Stay Safe When Driving for Uber
We know the time limit that Uber imposes can be frustrating, especially if you have lots of energy and don’t feel tired after driving for 12 hours. The limits are there to protect you and your passengers, however, so it’s best to work within the system and figure out other ways to boost your Uber income. You’ll be healthier and safer because of it.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.