As most of you probably know the New City Council passed a package of bills that were quickly signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio, designed to improve working conditions for what has become an unmanageable number of For-hire Vehicle (FHV) and Taxi drivers. NYC’s historically bad traffic congestion is also of grave concern, and a major motive for creating these new laws.

What you may or may not already know is that City Council isn’t done yet. The Committee on For-hire Vehicles drafted another package of bills, set to be discussed at the upcoming council meeting on Monday, September 17, 2018 at 10:00am at City Hall.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) also posted on its website possible changes to its “driver income and vehicle lease transparency” rules in August, and those proposed changes will be discussed at the TLC’s public hearing on October 3, at 10:00am, in the hearing room at 33 Beaver Street (19th Floor), New York, NY 10004.

The following outlines what has happened and what’s about to happen.

The new laws, signed by the Mayor in August, perhaps most significantly halted the issuance of new For-hire Vehicle (FHV) licenses by the TLC for a year, while traffic congestion is studied and decisions are made regarding new licenses moving forward. Only Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) will be able receive new licenses in the coming year.

Additionally, a new law set to go into effect this fall, establishes a minimum payment of $17.22/hour for drivers who work for “app-based services,” which will now fall into a new category of “high-volume” companies that dispatch “at least 10,000 trips per day.” These companies would be required to make up the difference if the drivers who perform jobs for them do not meet the hourly minimum during a shift.

According to the TLC, the one-year cap, “does NOT impact current FHV vehicle owners, only applicants for a new FHV vehicle license.” A notice from the TLC added: “In certain limited circumstances, TLC will issue a new FHV license to a non-accessible vehicle if the driver has a long-term lease with the option to purchase the vehicle AND the driver has decided to purchase the vehicle. The exception will be decided on a case-by-case basis.”

The license fee for Yellow Taxicabs ($550 annual license fee) and FHV vehicles ($275 annual vehicle license fee), including Green Taxis, will be waived IF the license is used with a WAV on the date the application for a new or renewal license is filed.

Next up, New York City Council’s Committee on For-Hire Vehicles (Ruben Diaz, Sr., Chair Members: Joseph C. Borelli, Costa G. Constantinides, Francisco P. Moya, Ydanis A. Rodriguez, Deborah L. Rose and Paul A. Vallone) will be discussing a second package of bills at their meeting on Monday, September 17, 2018 at 10:00am, at City Hall New York, NY 10007.

Details about these proposed bills, which are coming right on the heels of the above laws, can be found at: http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=620973&GUID=D64DE31F-9531-4182-BEA0-2543EB4F7716&Options=info&Search.

Here is a brief summary of the new City Council bills: Int 0304 would create a task force to study taxicab medallion values; Int 1052 would amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to benefits for taxi and for-hire vehicle drivers (such as health care services and disability insurance), paid for through a surcharge added to all taxi and for-hire vehicle fares; Int 1062 would amend the NYC administrative code in relation to the risk of loss with respect to digital payments in the taxi and for-hire vehicle industries, requiring taxi and for-hire vehicle drivers to be paid the full amount for a trip regardless of whether the payment is denied; Int 1068 would amend the NYC administrative code in relation to financial education for taxi and for-hire vehicle drivers, requiring the TLC to educate drivers on financial matters relating to taxi medallions and for-hire vehicles; Int 1069 would amend the NYC administrative code to address the problem of medallion owner debt, requiring the TLC to study the issue as medallion values have plummeted in recent years, and then be required to determine appropriate actions to address the problem; Int 1070 would amend the NYC administrative code in relation to leasing, rental and conditional purchase of for-hire vehicles, requiring the TLC to make rules regarding financial agreements drivers enter to obtain for-hire vehicles; 1079 would amend the NYC charter to create an “Office of Inclusion” within the TLC, which would be responsible for promoting diversity, inclusion and cultural sensitivity, and raising awareness about service refusals; Int 1081 would amend the NYC administrative to establish driver assistance centers, to provide services and information to drivers, including financial counseling, mental health counseling and referrals to non-profit organizations for additional assistance.

For its part, the TLC is examining changes to its “driver income and vehicle lease transparency” rules at a public hearing on October 3, at 10:00am, in the hearing room at 33 Beaver Street (19th Floor), New York, NY 10004. In the TLC’s “Statement of Basis and Purpose of Rules,” Intro 890-B reiterates authority to establish a driver pay floor and Intro 144-B provides the same support for the Agency’s authority to require specific data from FHV service providers. The proposed rules would seek to provide protections relating to income and financial transparency to FHV and Yellow Taxi drivers.

The TLC notes that the tremendous spike in the number of FHV drivers – due to the introduction of app-based services – has caused drivers to “work longer hours for fewer trips and less pay,” while bearing a significant share of the expenses for providing service. Despite the economic success of these app-based companies, “reflected in the massive growth in the number of trips in recent years… the majority of drivers have not seen an increase in income,” the TLC added.

The TLC commissioned a study from labor economists (www.centernyc.org/an-earnings-standard/), which confirmed the need for action to protect drivers against further decreases in earnings. To reverse the trends of declining earnings and trips per driver, the proposed rules address pay-per-trip as a function of both expenses and compensation, as well as how often drivers are on a trip per working hour, a factor referred to as “utilization.” The details are pretty complicated, so we urge everyone to read: www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/downloads/pdf/driver_earnings_vehicle_lease_transparency.pdf.

The proposed TLC rules include transparency requirements for financial transactions, setting requirements for all FHV bases and vehicle owners to help ensure transparency for drivers – as part of this, leases would need to be written in plain language and specify all costs, and owners would be required to pay drivers in a timely manner and provide them with receipts itemizing all payments, deductions and charges.

The TLC is also expanding Yellow and Green Taxi driver pay protections, requiring pro-rated leases when taxis are unavailable through no fault of the driver, eliminating the prohibition on e-hailing Yellow Taxis at JFK and LaGuardia airports and removing possible discrepancies from fare totals, among other things.

Anyone interested can comment on the TLC’s proposed rules by mailing written comments to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, Office of Legal Affairs, 33 Beaver Street – 22nd Floor, New York, New York 10004; faxing written comments to the TLC Office of Legal Affairs at 212-676-1102; emailing written comments to tlcru@tlc.nyc.gov; or submitting comments through the TLC website at www.nyc.gov/nycrules. Written comments must be submitted by September 28. Anyone who wants to comment at the public hearing must sign up to speak, by calling 212-676-1135 – or you can sign up in the hearing room before the hearing begins. Speakers get up to three minutes to say what’s on their mind. If someone needs assistance, due to a disability, to participate, they must tell the Office of Legal Affairs by September 28, via mail (see address above) or telephone at 212-676-1135.

After years of little-to-no action, City Council and the TLC have stepped up in a big way – and the changes will be coming fast and furious. We highly recommend attending the September 17 City Council Hall meeting at 10:00am at City Hall and the TLC public hearing on October 3, at 10:00am, in the hearing room at 33 Beaver Street (19th Floor). In the meantime, updates will be posted on our website (www.blackcarnews.com).

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Article by Neil Weiss

Neil Weiss is the Editor/Publisher/Owner of Black Car News and Livery Times. He has been involved in the ground transportation industry since 1991, writing thousands of articles on a wide variety of subjects.

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