Uber has introduced a safety feature which logs drivers off the app after they reach 13 hours - the most Uber and taxi drivers are legally allowed to drive in a day.

The rule is enforced by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), which also stipulates the period must be followed by 10 consecutive hours off the road.

The move follows the case of an Uber driver who was investigated after driving for 16.5 hours during a storm after a couple's flight from Auckland to Wellington was cancelled.

Until the company made changes to their app earlier this week it had been possible for Uber drivers to keep working after hitting the 13-hour limit.

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The feature was additional to logbooks Uber drivers were required to keep by law to track their working hours.

"[It] prompts driver and delivery partners of the need for downtime after being on the app for 13 hours, logging them off for at least 10 hours of continuous rest," Uber spokeswoman Nicky Preston said.

"While all driver partners in New Zealand need to adhere to the NZTA's work time and logbook requirements, we want to do more to help prevent drowsy driving."

Uber driver Harpal Kang (left) faced losing his job after driving more than legally allowed in a day to help passengers Lisa Kottke (right) and her husband after their flight was cancelled.
Uber driver Harpal Kang (left) faced losing his job after driving more than legally allowed in a day to help passengers Lisa Kottke (right) and her husband after their flight was cancelled.

The driving time was cumulative over a day and the app would not reset until the driver had been off the app for 10 consecutive hours, Preston said.

Uber believed this would allow drivers to keep flexibility in their hours while ensuring road safety.

NZTA spokesman Andrew Knackstedt said the organisation welcomed the initiative.

"Driver fatigue is a serious road safety issue, particularly for commercial drivers and those working in passenger services."

Uber's app also warned drivers if they hit 70 hours of driving time in a single week, though they would not be forced offline if they went over that number.

Similarly, drivers received a reminder for a 30 minute break after seven hours of driving, but this was not enforced.

NZTA data showed that in 2016, fatigue was identified as a contributing factor in 28 fatal crashes, 119 serious injury crashes and 438 minor injury crashes.

Uber and taxi driver Lucas Arthur said the feature was a good idea but he was worried drivers would be able to manipulate it too easily.

Uber driver Lucas Arthur thought the feature was a good idea, but worried it would be too easily manipulated by drivers. Photo / Doug Sherring.
Uber driver Lucas Arthur thought the feature was a good idea, but worried it would be too easily manipulated by drivers. Photo / Doug Sherring.

Anyone who drove for both taxi companies and Uber could simply turn their Uber app off and do taxi jobs, then turn it back on when they switched back to Uber and the app would think they'd been resting, he said.

"I get it though. I understand why it's that way. The app can't differentiate."

Arthur himself stuck to the rules and did not drive more than the 13 legally allowed hours he recorded in his logbook, but worried others might.

He thought integrating the logbook system, which was currently hosted by a third party, into the Uber app would be a better way to make sure drivers were complying.

Last year "hero" Uber driver Harpal Kang drove nine hours at the end of his shift from Auckland to Wellington to help a couple get to a conference on time after their flight was cancelled was investigated for breaching NZTA safety standards.

Kang told the NZTA he'd taken two breaks on the drive down, but he said he was still in trouble because his total working hours reached 16.5 in a day.