Hello everyone and welcome to October! As the leaves start to change color and pumpkin spice-themed versions of everything come back in full force, it’s important to remember that leaves aren’t the only thing that change their characteristics over time – so, too, does our Industry via legislation – and it just keeps coming.

On September 17, the NYC Council Committee on For-Hire Vehicles held a public hearing on a set of bills which make up a new package aimed at improving Driver finances, which I discussed in my September column. Last I reported, seven bills made up the package. Now, there are nine, with one bill, Int. 1052 seeking to establish a benefits fund for Drivers.

Also, by the time you read this, the TLC will have already held its October 3rd public hearing and voted on the terms of the FHV WAV settlement, meaning a definitive timeline will be in place.

A general concept for us to remember this month: Halloween is NOT the scariest thing to happen in October – not this year, at least. Let’s begin.

First, with the City Council Committee on For-Hire Vehicles hearing which took place on September 17th. While nine introduced bills were up for the public to testify on, there is primarily only one bill of direct consequence to the Black Car Industry, and that is Int. 1052. Drafted and sponsored by Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Int. 1052 calls on the TLC to provide taxi and FHV Drivers with benefits more in-line with traditional employment, funded by a uniform surcharge, the amount of which has yet to be determined, across all industry sectors.

I submitted written testimony on behalf of The Black Car Fund in opposition of the bill. While the bill is well intentioned, we do not agree with the proposed execution of the initiative. Anything regarding providing drivers with additional benefits should be done through The Black Car Fund, as it is a state-mandated fund with a coverage span inclusive of the entirety of New York State, as well as boasting a stellar track record and reputation when it comes to the management of such an entity type.

As for the other bills, here is a very brief summary: Int. 0304, calls for the establishment of a task force to study yellow taxi medallion values, review their sales and the relevant impact on the overall City budget, and make recommendations on changes to laws and regulations to help raise the value of medallions. Int. 1062 aims to ensure both taxi and FHV Drivers are paid the full amount of the fare in the event a digital payment system malfunctions. Int. 1068 instructs the TLC to go about providing Drivers with financial education, particularly with a focus on Industry-related finances, as well as to conduct the outreach to make sure Drivers know such assistance is available. Int. 1069 is calling for a study conducted by the TLC on the economics of the yellow taxi medallion market – from the excessive debt faced by owners, to the asset’s steady decline in price, as well as report back to the council suggested measures. Int. 1070 calls on the TLC to initiate rulemaking regarding the financial agreements drivers enter into to obtain FHVs. Int. 1079 instructs the TLC to establish an “Office of Inclusion,” to be tasked with promoting diversity, inclusion and cultural sensitivity. Int. 1080 directs the TLC to establish at least one “Driver Assistance Center” to provide certain services and information to drivers, as well as some mental health counseling and referrals to non-profits, if needed. Finally, we have Int. 1096, which would require applicants for a license to provide high-volume for-hire service affirm on their applications that no deductions will be made from driver earnings for the payment of a rental, leased or purchased vehicle.

All of these bills are currently laid over by the Committee on For-Hire Vehicles, and will eventually go up for full council vote. I will update you on the progress of all mentioned above.

As most of you probably already know, the TLC next public Commission Meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, October 3rd, 10:00am, in the Auditorium of the National Museum of the American Indian, located at One Bowling Green, New York, NY. By the time you read this, the meeting will already have taken place, so I encourage you to check back next month for more details.

What I do know is this: Typical business is set to be conducted like the determination of base applications and the opportunity for the public to comment on the proposed driver income protection rules, which are mainly of concern to the app-based for-hire vehicle and taxi sectors, due to the fact that the traditional Black Car operational business models, such as franchise agreements or cooperative arrangements allow for self-governing by the industry, itself. There was also vote set on a minor “clean-up rules” package, as well as on the terms of the settlement reached between the agency and FHV Industry Coalition on the FHV WAV rules in court.

If passed by the Board of Commissioners, we will have a firm implementation date in January, so all will be able to ensure their compliance with the WAV rules in time by choosing one of the AVDs (Accessible Vehicle Dispatchers). Again, look for an update on this in my column nect month.

Now, enough news about upcoming possible changes to our Industry… let’s discuss the recently-released 2018 NYC TLC Factbook, which provides a snapshot of the Industry as a whole. The most recent TLC Factbook prior to the 2018 version was put out in 2016, making the 2018 version somewhat anticipated. With data taking center stage more and more as the world continues to evolve in a more “connected” direction, the TLC has been collecting and processing data to compile statistics and provide insight for policymaking for quite some time, making for one of the most detailed TLC Factbooks yet.

Of the countless statistics included in the document, some were already well known within the industry. In terms of vehicle counts, green taxis are down by 36%, commuter vans by 49%, and paratransit by 62%. As for the FHV sector, a 59% increase has been experienced, bringing the total current FHV count to 107,435. Of course, the yellow taxi sector had 0% fluctuation in vehicle count. Among yellow taxis, green taxis and FHVs, FHVs, by far, are adding more hybrid vehicles to the fleet than the others, with FHV hybrid counts increasing by 43%, as opposed to yellow which increased by 16%, and green which increased by 13%.

As the number of TLC-licensed Drivers increases steadily, the number of licensed bases has been falling steadily, with the exception of the Black Car sector. The livery, luxury limousine and paratransit sectors all lost bases steadily, whereas the Black Car sector added a total of 95 new bases for a current total of 373, as compared to 278 at this point last year, and 237 the year before that.

These are just a few of the very initial statistics provided in the Factbook, with many more on trip trends, vehicle age, driver demographics and more. Visit the TLC website at www.tlc.nyc.gov and search for “2018 Factbook.” To make it easier, it can be found immediately via quick Google search.

On another note, in recent weeks, I was very pleased to be a presenter at the Annual IATR Convention (International Association of Transportation Regulators) in Philadelphia. The conference, which is a gathering of regulators and Industry stakeholders from all corners of the globe, headed up by former NYC TLC Commissioner and current Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf, LLP Partner, Matthew W. Daus, is a wonderful platform for those of us within the industry to learn from others their experiences first-hand, and hopefully use that knowledge to better address industry issues elsewhere.

I presented on The Black Car Fund passenger surcharge model during the “Are the Drivers Alright? Safety, Benefits & Wages” session – the title of my presentation: “An Alternative Path for Addressing Independent Contractor Benefits.” In it, I explained the history and purpose of The Fund, as well as the success it has enjoyed in very effectively offering full workers’ compensation coverage to drivers solely via a passenger surcharge.

With regulators from around the world in attendance, and the gig economy sweeping not just across the United States but the whole global economy, the issue of providing “gig workers,” a.k.a. independent contractors, with benefits is nearly at the front lines of this entire economic evolution. As such, my presentation was extremely well received, and it only made it clearer than ever that The Fund is of extreme relevance and a source of experienced guidance internationally on this emerging issue. I look forward to continuing to spread The BCF model, and helping make sure other jurisdictions see that independent contractors don’t have to go without coverage, nor subscribe to the traditional premium-based model for coverage.

That seems to be it for this month. I will say, however, that all should be on a vigilant lookout for updates from The Black Car Fund very soon – some very important, brand new benefits are set to be announced, and it is imperative that everyone be aware of such valuable, soon-to-be available resources. As always, follow the BCAC and The Black Car Fund on social media.

Until next month! Happy Halloween!

Article by Ira Goldstein

Ira Goldstein is Executive Director of the New York Black Car Fund, Chief Operating Officer of the Black Car Assistance Corporation and Treasurer of the Coalition of Transportation Associations.

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