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An Ugly Turn for the Industry in NYC
The past few weeks have been particularly frustrating for the For-Hire industry in New York City, with any recent optimism that the new administration might be reasonable and forward-thinking being crushed under the weight of some onerous new rules that are set to go into effect in the next few months.

As we were about to go to press last month, news arrived that negotiations on a list of new Vision Zero rules from City Council had gone well, and that they were going to be strict but fair. I ran with the story& but shortly after the paper printed and hit the street, I found out that nearly all of the negotiated versions of the new rules were thrown out the window and the ones that were signed by the Mayor in late June (and are due to go into effect 120 days after their signing) have the real potential to be highly detrimental to the hard working drivers of our industry.

I know that the Mayor wants to make the citys streets safer, and no one can argue with that goal, but why would you go after a group of drivers with a strong safety record  particularly when that group has already been getting unfairly slammed in recent years? The goal may be safer streets, but the outcome in this case will be fewer drivers in an industry that is already starving for drivers. And the fact is: THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO GOOD REASON TO CRACK DOWN ON THE BLACK CAR INDUSTRY!

Instead of giving the Taxicab & Limousine Commission (TLC) more rules to harass an industry with a proven safety record, perhaps that effort (and money) should be put into fixing the TLC.

In recent weeks, the newspapers have been full of stories about TLC incompetence and gross negligence. In addition to facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit for towing the vehicle of a married couple and accusing them of operating a gypsy cab and one about a gentleman who was wrongly accused SIX times of operating illegally by enforcement agents, another story came out about taxis being rushed through the inspection process due to extreme understaffing.

There are plenty of other stories that go unnoticed, but that I have been hearing about in recent weeks and months  situations that affect hard-working men and women who are just trying to earn a living, but end up losing literally thousands of dollars unnecessarily due to a badly broken TLC.

One such story happened this past year when Gregory Eskin  a veteran driver who has continuously held a TLC license since 1980 and serves as a Board Member and Chairman of the Clean Car Committee at Vital Transportation  tried to transfer a license plate from New Jersey to New York. One would think this simple process would be seamless, but instead it took several weeks, costing Mr. Eskin thousands of dollars in revenue.

Mr. Eskin acknowledges the fact that his TLC license number was accidentally put in a line on the form where the base license number was supposed to go  but his base (Vital) called the TLC several times over a period of almost three weeks to see why it was taking so long to get Mr. Eskins inspection date, and Vital kept being told that he simply had to wait. Finally, Mr. Eskin went down to the TLC personally and waited in line for two hours, only to find out that the transfer wasnt being processed because the wrong information was in the line designated for base license.

Lets forget the fact that the TLC already had the correct information in the system, and it should have been obvious to anyone with two weeks on the job what the mistake was& but when Vital called the TLC to find out what was wrong, someone could easily have looked into the matter, told them what the problem was, and saved Mr. Eskin at least a week in the process& plus the two hours he spent in line at the TLC facility.

Another disturbing situation occurred when veteran driver and new columnist for Black Car News, Doug Schifter had to wait nearly two months to get his brand new 2014 Denali SUV on the road, due to the TLCs insanely confusing and lengthy process for getting a NEW car on the road.

According to Mr. Schifter, To register a new vehicle with the TLC, you must first buy and insure it. Then your base has to set up an appointment with the TLC to have your paperwork checked, which can take weeks. After that, you are given the paperwork to go down to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get your TLC plates.

Next, you must make an appointment for a TLC inspection, if the vehicle has more than 500 miles on it. This often happens since there is so much time between purchasing the vehicle and getting it on the road for work. This secondary inspection is totally unnecessary, as far as I can tell, since its a brand new vehicle, but the City wants their $75 or $80 for the inspection. (BTW: A state inspection, which is already conducted, costs $10 for new vehicles and $37 for older vehicles.)

Only then do you get your diamond. The total processing time can take a bunch of weeks& and Ive heard of instances where it took up to three months. During that entire time you are making car payments, paying insurance and you cannot use the vehicle to work, so you are losing revenue. If you are like many drivers in the industry, who drive their TLC vehicle for personal use, while you are waiting for all of this to happen, you have to rent a car to get around because your TLC vehicle cant be driven until you get your TLC plates. So that costs even more money. It costs you literally thousands of dollars.

What a nightmare& And despite that fact the TLC is clearly understaffed at its inspection and processing facilities, it is planning to put more enforcement officers out on the road to harass drivers, rather than correct some of the obvious problems at the Commission.

Its hard to ignore the reality that enforcement officers write tickets and therefore pay for their own salaries (and more), while the people processing licenses and conducting inspections do not earn for the TLC. But when ill-equipped enforcement officers make serious blunders and those mistakes result in massive lawsuits, maybe its time to reexamine your priorities.

I have heard from a number of people, who have assured me that Meera Joshi truly is a decent and caring person, and that if she is given the opportunity to do her job the way she wants to do it, positive change could be brought to the TLC. I am just gravely concerned that this will not happen, and that Ms. Joshi will get stuck in the mire that is the New York City TLC.