Hello to all! The weather wasted no time in transitioning to Fall and I hope everyone is enjoying the relief from the Summer’s heat wave. The Fall, however, also brings with it renewed fears of a second wave of COVID-19. This fear is made worse by the continuing struggles other states are facing with their COVID-19 numbers.

Last month, we hit a grim milestone as we reached 200,000 deaths throughout the country. Although there are a few worrisome hot spots in New York City and Western New York, overall, we are still doing incredibly well, with the third lowest positive case percentage of all 50 States. As New York City continues to reopen different sectors – such as schools, gyms, and indoor dining – we must continue to be cautious.

September was a busy month and I have a lot to update you on, so I’ll jump right into it.

In New York City, the biggest news of the month was that the TLC has officially extended the freeze on issuing new FHV licenses for another six months, which as you know has been the case since August 2018. They issued their biannual report reviewing the various factors that they considered with regard to the issuance of new FHV licenses – including congestion levels, driver pay, license attrition rates, and the availability of outer-borough service. Based on their review of these factors, they made the decision to extend the freeze. If you’re interested in reading their review, you can click here.

In February 2021, the TLC will conduct another full review and determine whether or not to further extend the cap.

Also in the City, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that the speed limit will be lowered by 5 MPH on nine of the most dangerous streets across the five boroughs. The speed limit will be lowered to 25 MPH on eight of those streets, including parts of Riverside Drive in Manhattan, Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, Northern Boulevard in Queens and Bruckner Boulevard in the Bronx. The limit will also drop to 25 MPH on Shore Parkway Service Road and Dahlgren Place in Brooklyn, Webster Avenue in the Bronx and Targee Street in Staten Island. On Rockaway Boulevard in Queens, the limit will drop from 40 MPH to 35.

For more information on this, including specific boundaries for the speed limit changes, click here.

With all of the speed cameras that have been, and continue to be, installed throughout the City, now is not the time to have a lead foot.

Despite the promises of de Blasio’s Vision Zero, and the City being shut down for a large portion of the year, more drivers, passengers, and motorcyclists have been killed in 2020 than all of last year. Officials are pointing to reckless driving as the culprit, which I myself have seen a lot more of this year. New York City just keeps becoming a more and more difficult place to drive.

On the Federal level, there was a major development that will affect the way states treat the independent contractor versus employee classification issue. The Department of Labor (DOL) issued a proposed rule to clarify when a worker is an employee covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), or an independent contractor. This proposed rule would establish an “economic reality” test that would aim to determine whether a worker is in business for themselves as an independent contractor, or if they are economically dependent on an entity for work which would make them an employee.

In order to make this determination, two main factors would be considered the most: the nature and degree of a worker’s control over their work, as well as the potential for profit or loss based on initiative or investment. Three other factors will also be considered: the amount of skill required for the work, the degree of permanence of the job, and whether the work is part of an integrated unit of production.

At the outlook, it appears that this proposed rule would make it easier to classify workers as independent contractors, although it would be superseded by worker-friendly state level laws such as California’s AB5. This is the first time that the DOL has truly addressed this issue and it remains to be seen what action states will take now that this rule has been proposed. The Society for Human Resource Management has a great write-up on the proposed rule which, I would recommend reading if you’re interested, by clicking here.

Now, I’ll move into some news from The Black Car Fund. Last month, I wrote about our newest, free benefit for drivers: S.A.F.E. iD. The response we received was tremendous and we have now officially filled all of the spots in the program for drivers requesting the Nexar dual-sided dashboard camera. We understand that many drivers are still interested in this however, so we encourage you to opt-in for S.A.F.E. iD with the on-board device (OBD). If you opt-in and actively participate in the program, you will be placed on a waiting list for the Nexar camera. Spots for the OBD device are also filling up quickly and are over 70% full at the time I write this, so don’t wait! To opt-in please visit www.nybcf.org/safeid.

On a final note, as we continue our mission to provide health and wellness benefits, as well as education to our Covered Drivers, we are continuously seeking new benefits and opportunities to support them. All of our free benefits, including full Workers Compensation coverage, have been funded by a 2.5% passenger-paid surcharge. Prior to the pandemic, New York State passed legislation officially authorizing The Black Car Fund to use up to 0.5% of its surcharge to provide additional health benefits. As we work to introduce some great new benefits in the coming months, the decision was made to raise this surcharge by half a percent, bringing the total surcharge to 3%.​ This rate increase, only the second in our history, will go into effect as of November 1st, 2020. The safety and well-being of our Covered Drivers is our top priority, and we look forward to announcing the launch of new benefits in the near future. Keep an eye out for news on this!

Until next time!

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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