Hello to all. With only a few weeks left, this summer really seems to have flown by. August is generally a pretty quiet month but there have been some interesting new developments since last month’s column. I’ll jump right into it.

A lot has been happening at the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). Early in August, the TLC voted to indefinitely extend the cap on new for-hire vehicle (FHV) licenses that has been in place since last year. Additionally, they passed a new rule that limits the amount of time FHVs can spend cruising in Manhattan without a passenger.

As I mentioned in last month’s article, the response to this decision has been mixed throughout the ground transportation industry as a whole. While the yellow cab industry supports the decision, the Independent Drivers Guild, representing FHV drivers, has been staunchly opposed to the cap. They have continued bringing attention to the predatory lease prices that many high-volume FHV drivers are forced to pay in order to work, since they can no longer get their personal vehicles licensed due to the cap.

The Black Car Assistance Corporation, which represents the legacy bases that operate traditional black cars and luxury limousines, has also continued their push to create a new restricted for-hire vehicle license that would allow black car companies, luxury bases and liveries to add new vehicles that would be limited to operating within their specified classes. Since the TLC moved forward with their decision with no regard for the testimony that was given at their hearing in July, it would seem that this new restricted license may only become a reality if it is established through the legislative process in the City Council.

While the extension of the cap and the new cruising rules are a done deal for the TLC, the hunt for their new Commissioner is still very much up in the air. Last month, Mayor de Blasio had nominated Jeff Roth to serve as the TLC’s next Commissioner. However, after a disastrous City Council hearing, de Blasio withdrew the nomination, leaving a big question mark as to who will end up at the helm.

Recently, it was written in the Daily Newsthat Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, the current Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Transportation, has been gaining support from stakeholders in the ground transportation industry to be the next Commissioner. I believe he is one of the few, if not only, Council Members who is truly on the side of the ground transportation industry and would work to establish fairness and parity in how the TLC governs the different sectors of this industry. It remains to be seen who will ultimately end up with the gig.

In mid-August, The Black Car Fund traveled to Buffalo to meet with Bill Yuhnke of Liberty Yellow Cab of Buffalo and speak with his team about some of the newer benefits that The Black Car Fund has added for its Covered Drivers. As you may know, our Covered Drivers now have vision coverage that allows for free annual eye exams and a free pair of glasses, or 6-month supply of contact lenses, provided by our partner General Vision Services. They can also receive a 30% discount on a second pair of eyeglasses or any services outside the vision plan area. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this by activating their benefits through www.driversbenefits.organd then scheduling an eye exam at a convenient location nearby through their website at https://generalvision.com.

Another one of our newer benefits is the telemedicine coverage that is provided to both drivers and their families. This provides free, 24/7 access to board certified doctors through phone and video conferencing in over 150 languages. You can speak with a doctor to quickly diagnose and treat non-emergency conditions and can even have prescriptions called in. (Please note that any prescribed medicines are not covered under this benefit). Again, I encourage everyone to activate and take advantage of these additional benefits by signing up at www.driversbenefits.org!

The excitement and buzz around these new benefits continues to grow and The Black Car Fund has been the subject of some very positive features in the last few weeks. First, I sat down to record a podcast with Mitchell International to talk about our unique model and how it has worked in the context of the rapidly growing gig economy in New York. You can listen to the podcast on their website at https://www.mpower.mitchell.com/gig-economy-workers-compensation/and learn about how we protect our drivers with Workers’ Compensation and additional benefits. I also wrote an article for the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions’ (IAIABC) quarterly magazine Perspectives which touched upon the effect of mental health on Workers’ Compensation and what we have been doing to address the issue. We were also featured in their Member Spotlight article for August and you can read it on their website at https://www.iaiabc.org/iaiabc/Member_Spotlight.asp

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or would like to learn more. That’s all for now. Until next time!

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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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