Hello to all! I hope everyone made it through the winter safely and is looking forward to the spring and warmer weather! February was a big month for The Black Car Fund, with the launch of our new free benefit for Covered Drivers: S.A.F.E. iD. I will touch on that later in this article but for now, let me jump into some recent newsworthy developments.

In local news, The New York City Council passed the Reckless Driver Accountability Act this month. This landmark bill is designed to make our roads safer by mandating that drivers who receive 5 red light camera violations or 15 speeding camera violations in a 12-month timespan, be required to take a safe vehicle operation course that is being administered by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Also, please note that the New York City Sheriff’s office has been granted the authority to impound vehicles of owners who fail to take the required course, until such time that they complete it. As you may know, the DOT is installing close to 60 new speed cameras per month throughout the City, so it’s more important than ever to drive safely and ensure you are not violating speed limits!

Another interesting development this month was the realization that New York’s efforts to establish the country’s first congestion pricing zone are facing a big hurdle: Federal approval. In order to begin the final design and construction of the tolling infrastructure required to charge vehicles entering the Central Business District, the MTA must first obtain permission from the Federal Highway Administration.

Before that can happen however, the critical question that needs to be answered by the Federal Government is, should New York State and City conduct a quick “environmental assessment” or a full scale “environmental impact statement”? If the latter were to be required, it would be a process that could take years, throwing a wrench into the plans to implement congestion pricing by January 2021.

Federal officials have yet to provide an answer to this question and Governor Cuomo has begun casting doubt on whether they ever will. “I’m not holding my breath for them to approve congestion pricing,” said Cuomo. This is especially concerning for the State as their entire capital plan to fix the MTA depends on the projected $15 billion in revenue that would be coming in from congestion pricing. Ultimately, that money will have to come from somewhere and there should be concern that the FHV industry could be targeted. After all, even if this next phase of congestion pricing doesn’t go through, that doesn’t mean that the congestion fees that are already in place for FHVs and taxis will be repealed. This issue is far from over.

Another headline this month was the confirmation of the new TLC Chair and Commissioner, Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk, by the New York City Council. She previously served as Chief of Staff to Deputy Mayor Laura Anglin, where she worked directly with the TLC and Department of Transportation (DOT) on crafting policy. Diana Clemente, President of the Black Car Assistance Corporation, and I met with Commissioner Jarmoszuk before her confirmation and she was eager to hear what our industry needed. We are hopeful that we will have a good working relationship with her, and we will always advocate for fairness for the black car industry when it comes to new regulations or initiatives.

Her official confirmation was no surprise as she was fully prepared for her nomination hearing with the Council and had previously met with most of the Committee members. Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, had kind words to say about Commissioner Jarmoszuk, stating that she “has demonstrated high competence and qualification in her ability to perform her duty as TLC Commissioner to the highest standards.” He also expressed that he “hopes to tackle the issues impacting the Livery and Corporate Black Car industries, as well as ensuring that we create the Livery and Corporate Black Car Task Force.”

Now, onto the news from The Black Car Fund. The launch our new free benefit for our Covered Drivers, called Safety Advancement for Excellence in Driving (S.A.F.E. iD), has been incredibly successful, with hundreds of drivers signing up to be a part of the Program. To recap, our S.A.F.E. iD program uses telematics technology, in the form of a dashboard camera and/or an on-board diagnostic device (OBD) to keep you connected with The Black Car Fund for Workers’ Compensation purposes and help you to take steps towards becoming one of the safest Drivers in the industry.

Telematics is the fusion of two sciences: telecommunications and informatics. At its core, it is the “communication” of “info,” which can be applied in many ways. While you may have never heard of it, the technology is so common that you may not even realize you’ve been using it. If you’ve ever used GPS, then you’ve used telematics! We also often see the use of telematics in shipment delivery updates, emergency warning systems for vehicles, fleet management software and even car sharing!

With S.A.F.E. iD, in the unfortunate event that you are involved in an accident on the job, the S.A.F.E. iD device will notify us immediately and help jump-start the claims process! There are also many more perks that the program offers. You will have the ability to see your driving statistics, receive tips on the areas in which you can improve your driving, participate in fun program challenges and even earn rewards for your accomplishments. With the dashboard camera, you may also be eligible for an insurance discount with Hereford Insurance Company, and there is a possibility for future discounts with other insurance companies.

S.A.F.E. iD is scheduled to run as a pilot program for six months before launching as a permanent free benefit for Covered Drivers. The first Drivers that register for the program will receive a large bundle of exclusive S.A.F.E. iD branded safety gear. Therefore, I encourage every driver to visit www.nybcf.org/safeid and sign up for this program. But hurry, there are a limited number of spots in the pilot program and they are filling up quickly.

As I mentioned last month, we are also excited to be working on launching some new health related benefits, such as adding hearing to our vision coverage and expanding telemedicine to also cover online therapy and counseling. We expect to start rolling them out by the summer and hope to have additional information about them soon. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or would like to learn more about The Black Car Fund and the benefits we offer to black car drivers throughout New York. 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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