On behalf of the IATR, I would like to thank our loyal and supportive members, sponsors and friends for their patience, understanding and commitment over the past year and a half, as we all navigated difficult regulatory terrain to help people in need during the pandemic. When the pandemic first hit, many were in a state of shock as to what to do, how to do it, and how we could help one another and our constituents (including the riding public, licensed drivers and industry businesses). The IATR is proud of its members who listened, learned from one another, and most importantly led the way as resilient regulators who did everything they could to ensure health and safety, while laying the groundwork for economic recovery.
The theme of last year’s first ever Virtual IATR Conference, entitled Resilient Regulation, captured the intensity and dedication of our regulated industries and regulators, who worked together to help get us through the worst days many have seen. The despair, gloom and fear turned to hope, help and resiliency. We are proud of everything we have accomplished during these trying times, including the IATR’s Best Practices & Model Regulations for COVID-19 Health, Safety & Resiliency, which can be accessed here: https://bit.ly/3eylzF5, and the many webinars and zoom meetings we held with our members and IATR subject matter committees throughout the pandemic.
Now that the many cities and states in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world are beginning to open up as a result of widespread vaccination efforts, some places are starting to return to a new normal, with excitement and energy. However, not every jurisdiction represented by IATR membership is in the same place. Some countries and cities are experiencing variants of the virus, resurgences, multiple lockdowns and vaccination rollout failures, which is slowing the economic recovery in some places.
We are all not in the same place, but most members are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. While IATR is encouraged by the re-opening of many of our member jurisdictions, including the planned site of our Memphis, Tennessee 2021 conference, unfortunately, there are many members, especially from our robust IATR Canadian membership, that still have government travel restrictions that would preclude attendance at our conference in person this coming September.
Since it was unclear which members were experiencing internal travel restrictions and/or budgetary issues that would make in-person conference attendance difficult, we initiated an IATR member survey to gauge the willingness and ability to attend in person. I am sorry to report that the results of the survey indicate that, primarily due to ongoing travel restrictions, we will be unable to meet the minimum attendance requirement of our hotel contract with the Peabody hotel in Memphis this year. However, I am pleased to announce that the Peabody was kind enough to modify and push back our conference dates to September 22 to 25 in 2022. We will, for 2021, again turn to a virtual conference setting like last year, which will be held from Monday through Friday, December 13th – 17th, 2021.
We apologize for the delay in making these decisions, but as things started to change dramatically at the outset of the spring, we thought it would be prudent to wait and see how travel restrictions might evolve, with the hope of fulfilling our commitment to the hotel and to our IATR members who registered. We simply could not have moved forward with an in-person conference this year economically, due to the minimum contract attendance requirements; in addition, while we explored holding a hybrid in-person/virtual conference as well, we concluded that it would neither be feasible nor fair to our sponsors in terms of realizing a reasonable return on their investment.
The 2021 IATR Virtual Conference Theme – “Regulatory Reboot!”
The theme chosen for this year’s conference is “Regulatory Reboot!” Having been through hopefully the worst days of this unprecedented pandemic, it is my hope that we are on the path to some type of “Regulatory Renaissance.” Europe flourished and reawakened during the Renaissance of the 14th to 17th centuries, from the Middle Ages (or Dark Ages); recovering from a prolonged period of wars, famine and pandemics (including the Black Death or plague). While that was a long time ago, the concept of a “rebirth” or “revival” is here and now. There is a feeling of excitement among the industry, regulators and society in general after our most recent prolonged pandemic, with lockdowns, masks, social distancing and tremendous sadness surrounding the loss of life and suffering caused by COVID-19.
Regulators and our industries have been resilient and were holding the line, taking things day by day over the past year and a half. Now, however, as many have reached or are approaching the light at the end of the tunnel, the first question asked is: What do we do next? Do we continue as is, or try something new and different? Today’s excitement has drawn comparisons to the Roaring Twenties – following society’s last historical emergence from a worldwide flu pandemic, circa 1918. However, some feel we are not out of the woods yet, and that we should temper our excitement with sound policymaking and caution.
With regard to transport regulation, the concept of resiliency is to return to what things were – as we did last year as part of our last conference theme. This year, it is important to realize where we go from here – in terms of advancement and innovation.
In terms of the selection of a conference theme, it is premature to say we are embarking yet on a revival, rebirth or Renaissance. Rather, the use of the term “reboot” makes more sense – as if we were rebooting our computers or software to work again after encountering a computer virus, software glitch or some other problem – but to have the system work better than before.
Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines the term “reboot” as: “to start up again after closing or shutting down… to start (something) anew: to refresh (something) by making a new start or creating a new version.” Given the IATR’s relentless focus on transportation technology, and with many regulators only now getting back into their physical offices, the theme seems to make a lot of sense for this point in time. Let’s pick-up where we left off, survey the landscape, upgrade our regulatory toolbox, and move forward into a changed and changing mobility world.
5th Annual Regulator Bootcamp
This year’s bootcamp, which involves basic regulatory training for beginners, will address the following topics from the ground-up so to speak:
- Urban Air Mobility: This session will explain the technology behind flying taxis, its evolution and history, as well as current regulations and issues. The role of the ground transportation regulator and city planners will be discussed, given the need for transport to and from take-off locations. Pilot programs and full program implementation and plans from around the world will be portrayed and discussed.
- Electric Vehicle Primer: The topic of electrification is hot! While our conferences have covered the topic from a generic policy standpoint in the past many times, this time we will delve beneath the surface into the technology, its benefits and challenges, the infrastructure issue, and what taxicabs, limousines, buses, TNCs, micro-mobility and other transport modes are doing to promote and deploy electric vehicles, on the private and public-sector sides.
- Food & Package Delivery Services, Optimization & Regulation: During the pandemic, many taxicabs, for hire vehicles and TNCs alike started to deliver more packages and food in between passenger trips. While UberEATS has been around for several years now, this was the first-time government agencies started subsidizing similar services (including “meals on wheels” for senior citizens). Also, private sector logistics companies expanded the use of package delivery to include for-hire vehicles, by providing package delivery business to drivers during downtime in between passenger trips. The big question is whether these services are here to stay as part of the passenger transport industry, and if so, what role, if any, do regulators play in this equation? The basics of the how these services have expanded, and the history of how package delivery has worked on the supply side, will be covered extensively.
The following plenary sessions will take place as part of the IATR’s 2021 Virtual Conference:
- Is Carmageddon Coming & Are Regulators Prepared? With the re-opening of businesses, ongoing fear of using mass transit, and the return of bus, taxi, TNC and black car drivers post-Labor Day when the enhanced Federal employment runs out in the U.S., are regulators ready for dealing with the many issues that may come from an increase in for hire and personal motor vehicle usage? Are policies such as vehicle caps and/or congestion pricing the answer? What is the role of the licensing regulator in this policy mix? This panel will compare and contrast lessons learned from other countries, and conduct a comparative analysis with what is happening post-pandemic in the U.S.
- Industry Perspectives on Disruptive Technologies and Service Models Shaping the Transport Sector (Roundtable Discussion sponsored by the World Road Association – PIARC): This unique industry roundtable discussion is an outgrowth of the IATR’s partnership with the World Road Association (PIARC). PIARC aims to foster and facilitate global discussion, knowledge sharing and dissemination of best practices on road and transport policies and procedures. PIARC’s Technical Committee 1.1 (Performance of Transport Administrations) plans to use this roundtable industry session to identify and document policy, regulatory and governance challenges, and emerging best practices for transport agencies and regulators in understanding, responding to and shaping disruptive technologies and service models. Modes and technologies that will be represented include: Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs), Digital Highways, Urban Air Mobility (UAM), Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), Micro-Transit, Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), Electric Vehicles (EVs) and the replacement of physical mobility and transactions through digitally connected online services. This roundtable discussion will focus on private sector perspectives relating to technological change in the transport and mobility sector, what is driving change, and the required policy and regulatory changes public agencies need to make to accommodate and facilitate progress, including necessary regulatory, organizational and governance reform. A diverse set of technology executives and innovators will provide their thoughts on the future of transportation, the scope of regulation, the role and capacity of public agencies, suggested best regulatory and operational practices, and how public private partnerships will or should develop in this sphere. The aim is to arrive at a set of perspectives and recommendations which will assist effective collaboration between the public sector and the private enterprises driving much of the new mobility agenda for the good of communities, business and civil society. This session will serve to assist PIARC in its work program on this topic, which to date has included a joint-survey of regulators and transport agencies with the IATR, as well as PIARC generated reports and literature reviews which will be shared with the membership of both groups.
- Shared-Connected & Autonomous Electric Vehicle (S-CAEV) Implementation – Proposed Guiding Principles & Model Regulations (International Hearing): Starting in 2019 at the IATR conference in Calgary, work began with scoping meetings on this project, with input from the various IATR subject matter committees (including the lead committee on Technology & Innovation). This session will include a presentation on the proposed guiding principles for regulators seeking to implement and/or experiment with Robotaxis or S-CAEVS. Going beyond the various testing laws and issues, this project is focusing on the socio-economic and regulatory issues that need to be navigated for full implementation in the for-hire sector of S-CAEVS. Issues that were scoped and will be addressed include: (1) safety & vehicle standards; (2) equity & accessibility; (3) data access & privacy; (4) labor concerns & workforce development; (5) governance, business models and implementation. Licensing regimes and protocols, and putting the technology on the streets, will be discussed and debated as part of an international hearing, per IATR protocols, where interested stakeholders can comment and testify on the proposed guiding principles, many of which may be codified as model regulations.
- Pandemic Regulatory Reboot – Lessons Learned – What Policies Will Stay & What Will Go? (Regulator Star Trek 4.0): For the 4th straight year, the IATR will continue and expand upon its popular spotlight session for new and emerging regulatory talent, where mobility regulators will focus on initiatives in their jurisdictions, or a potpourri of issues each regulator is tackling, and new initiatives and perspectives to share with the regulatory community. This year, each panelist will be asked to address policies enacted during the pandemic, including mask mandates, deferral or waiver of licensing fees and inspections, enforcement moratoriums, and whether these policies will continue in some form. A “lessons learned” approach will be taken to the format, and the panel will address whether any changes need to be made to update IATR’s Regulatory Practices & Model Regulations for COVID-19 Health, Safety & Resilience as a result.
- Driver Compensation – New Labor Models For Transportation Workers: In the aftermath of California’s passage of Prop 22, and the continued existence of AB-5, compelling many drivers for taxi and limousine companies to become employees, this panel will explore where we go from here – post-pandemic – after all of the enhanced unemployment runs out and drivers return to work during the Fall of 2021. In the past year new concepts that include driver-owned technology companies, cooperatives and other new business models are percolating, as well as discussion in jurisdictions like New York, of an independent contractor model with benefits and certain union rights that differs from Prop 22 and AB5. The status of new driver models or compensation and business equity in the U.S. and Canada will be discussed by industry experts and stakeholders, and an international comparative analysis will be explored.
IATR’s 6th Hack-a-Thon: Theme = Equity
For the 6th time, the IATR, City University of New York’s University Transportation Research Center at the City College of NY (UTRC), and the University of California at Berkeley, will partner to organize yet another hack-a-thon competition with partner universities and other private industry stakeholders. The U.C. Berkeley IATR “Data Commons” is alive and well and will continue to serve as a data repository for students, professors and aspiring start-ups to compete on a challenge question to be determined by the IATR and its various committees. IATR regulators and academics will serve as judges of the competition and the winners will present their findings at the IATR conference. This year the theme of the competition will be Transportation Equity – including safe, reliable and affordable service to underserved communities – which has now become a top priority for not just many cities, but for the federal government in the U.S. and worldwide. Private and public data sets will be made available, with anonymized data that is secured for use by students and competitors. The competition will focus on solving equity challenges in the mobility sector, using data to map out policy and service-related solutions.
Registration & Sponsorship Open Now!
In terms of the format of the conference, I have consulted with the Chairs of our various IATR committees and task forces and reviewed the post-conference surveys completed by IATR 2020 virtual conference attendees. The feedback received is that any future virtual conferences should be condensed in time – and not spread out over weeks or months. Mindful of the need for regulators and sponsors to conduct other business, with many who have already returned to workplaces as well, we will slightly change the format to space out the sessions a little more – to allow for more breaks and timeframes for attendees to conduct other business. We believe this will facilitate the learning experience, increase attendance and reduce stress for many of our members. But for the most part, we will be sticking with the format from last year’s conference, which worked very well, and the tentative conference program can be accessed here https://bit.ly/3xZWzhu.
If you would like to attend, registration is now open for regulators and associate (industry) members, click here https://bit.ly/2UtW8xI and our sponsor menu can be accessed here https://bit.ly/3eJL7ix.
Let’s all “Reboot” together, by attending IATR’s second-ever virtual conference, and just like new software upgrades, develop new and enhanced regulatory ideas that provide better compatibility with other regulatory modes, devices and policy applications.