New York University’s School of Global Public Health (NYU GPH) is teaming up with the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) to increase the safety of For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) drivers and passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

NYU GPH environmental and occupational health experts are developing training programs and targeted protocols focused on evidence-based COVID-19 safety practices and tailored for rideshare drivers and passengers. The IDG – which represents more than 80,000 for-hire drivers for Uber, Lyft, and Via in New York City and advocates for more than 200,000 drivers across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut – will work with its members to implement, monitor, and evaluate the program.

“Drivers for ride-hailing companies are on the front line, getting people to work and critical appointments, and coming into contact with numerous passengers each day. Drivers need to be protected, and passengers need to know that with safety practices implemented, COVID-19 risks can be minimized,” said Jack Caravanos, clinical professor of environmental public health sciences at NYU GPH and the project’s director.

At the IDG, we feel very strongly that passengers must have confidence that drivers are providing the safest possible ride or they won’t return to rideshare, and drivers need to know the steps to take to protect themselves and their riders. Ride-hail drivers transport millions of riders each day in the United States and it is critical that we move quickly to adopt the safety procedures that will protect public health. We need the cooperation of Uber, Lyft, Via, and traditional black car companies to fulfill our goal of safe rides for all. We are glad to work with NYU School of Global Public Health to develop this safe ride program because knowledge is power, and we need to empower drivers with the information and resources they need to operate safely in this unprecedented environment.

NYU GPH is creating a series of online training modules with the Guild, available in both English and Spanish, aligning with health and safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The modules cover topics including an overview of COVID-19 symptoms, transmission, and testing, as well as an introduction to infection control, the proper use of face masks, personal hand hygiene, and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces. Training will also address activities specific to drivers, including vehicle cleaning, air ventilation in cars, and customer service protocols.

“I am eager to get back to work, but don’t have the luxury of working from home. It’s been difficult to balance safety and financial security. The training developed by NYU and the Guild are really important to me – giving me reliable information on how I can protect myself and my family,” said Guillermo Fondeur, an IDG member based in Brooklyn who drives for Uber and Lyft.

The IDG has been the leading voice for the health and safety of ride-hail riders and drivers both before and during the Coronavirus pandemic. Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, the Guild successfully advocated for a ban on pool rides, a mask mandate for riders and drivers and compensation for sick and high-risk Uber, Lyft and Via drivers not just in New York City but across the nation.

At the epicenter of America’s coronavirus outbreak, New York drivers found themselves without masks or sanitizer amid a worldwide shortage. The Guild worked quickly with partners to secure and distribute safety kits to more than ten thousands drivers who were still on the streets transporting hospital workers and other essential personnel and IDG is continuing to distribute safety kits as the city opens up.

The Guild’s work expanding driver benefits and protections over the years also played a critical role in protecting the health of riders and drivers throughout the crisis, from securing running water restrooms (providing critical hand washing stations) for drivers at Newark, La Guardia and JFK airports for the very first time to winning free telemedicine benefits for drivers.

The NYU team includes:

  • Jack Caravanos, clinical professor of environmental public health sciences at NYU GPH, who has more than 30 years of experience in designing and implementing environmental health interventions. Local and international groups rely on his expertise and research to help communities at risk from exposure to environmental hazards and toxins. Caravanos is also a board-certified industrial hygienist and specialist in personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks.
  • Andrew Goodman, clinical professor of public health policy and management at NYU GPH, who is a population health expert and former Deputy Commissioner for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Goodman now works with government agencies and union management to design workplace health programs, and several community organizations to design, implement, and evaluate community health interventions.
  • Andrew Burgie, assistant research scientist at NYU GPH, who directs the Hazardous Waste Worker Training Program, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which has trained more than 5,000 professionals in the New York metropolitan area.

“We look forward to providing this training, which will benefit both drivers and their passengers. It’s one of many ways that NYU School of Global Public Health has been answering the call for public health expertise during this pandemic, from modeling to taking the pulse on primary care in New York City to community efforts mobilizing resources to donate PPE,” added Caravanos.

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Article by Brendan Sexton

Brendan Sexton is the Executive Director of Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) representing over 70,000 working drivers throughout the for-hire vehicle industry.

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