Although the number of TLC Plates in storage is unknown, it’s still worth noting the number of active NYC FHV vehicles is down 12% from 114,000 plates in early March

By Dawood Mian

Source: NYC Open Data

We’ve been regularly tracking the number of active for-hire vehicles in NYC since October 2017, 10 months before the August 2018 for-hire vehicle pause went into effect. The “TLC plate cap”, as many in the industry refer to it, was enforced with a few weeks delay to allow for last minute vehicle applications in August 2018. This essentially made the effective date of the TLC plate cap closer to February 2019, when you saw the total number of TLC-plated cars topping out around 120,600 (i.e. it took 5 months to process all the vehicle applications from August 2018). Now, nearly nine months since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of active for-hire vehicles is about to break below a symbolic figure – for the first time since September 2017 there will be less than 100,000 active NYC TLC-plated vehicles.

Image from August 2018, just before TLC plate cap went into effect.

TLC Plates in Storage Likely Deflates Figure

It is with a caveat that we say the number of active for-hire vehicles is set fall below 100,000 as the TLC gave vehicle owners a 180 day “plate storage” option due to the pandemic. That being said, if a vehicle owner stored his or her plates in March, April or May, the plates would have needed to be removed from storage as the 180 day deadline has now passed (i.e. if one doesn’t pull their FHV license out of storage within 180 days they lose their TLC plates permanently).

COVID Might Ultimately Accelerate the Normalization of Supply & Demand Dynamics

It’s anyone’s best guess when NYC for-hire trip volumes will begin to recover closer to pre-pandemic numbers, but as for-hire vehicle supply decreases the trip demand recovery required to boost driver earnings lessens. What do we mean by that? Essentially, if before the pandemic there were 700,000 trips for 114,000 active vehicles, to maintain the same trip to vehicle ratio with 100,000 TLC vehicles would only require 614,000 trips, (i.e. 12% less trips).

With the second COVID wave just beginning to hit NYC, “normal” is at least a long winter away, but with a vaccine on the horizon and a new year, the NYC for-hire industry may be in for a recovery as we get into spring and summer of 2021. Driver earnings should hypothetically rebound quicker as the number of active for-hire vehicle licenses decrease. Given TLC plates continue to decrease everyday it will be interesting to track just how many active FHV vehicle licenses remain post pandemic.

The TLCMKT Newsletter is written by Dawood Mian, Founder & CEO of TLCMKT. He covers the NYC ridehailing industry and related news. Search TLCMKT for TLC cars, parts, service, accessories, reviews & more. Find great deals at TLCMKT.COM.

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