Hello to all! As we get closer to Spring weather, the COVID-19 numbers continue trending in the right direction. Now that the indoor mask mandate has been lifted for businesses and schools, there is certainly a renewed sense of hope that the worst of COVID-19 is behind us. However, with all this news about mask mandates being lifted, some of you may be wondering how this applies to drivers and passengers.

Well, the Federal Mask Mandate is still in effect until March 18th, 2022, and so the TLC has not changed its mask mandate for drivers and passengers. This NYC law supersedes any action by the state and the TLC has told us that if there is any change in this TLC policy, a notice will go out and their website will be updated. It’s possible that may change this month, but until you hear otherwise, masks are still required for drivers and passengers while in a TLC-licensed vehicle, regardless of vaccination status.

I also want to remind everyone about the new Department of Transportation (DOT) rule that requires drivers to come to a complete stop, rather than yield, for pedestrians. After some initial uncertainty, the TLC has clarified that this applies to any crosswalk, whether or not it is painted, where there are no stop signs or traffic lights present. Drivers must come to a complete stop and can only proceed once a pedestrian has completed crossing. Mayor Adams has repeatedly warned that NYPD will be enforcing this with increased presence throughout the city.

The city and state’s focus on increasing traffic safety continues to grow. Last month, the NY State Senate’s Transportation committee passed the “Sammy’s Law” bill, introduced by State Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Richard Gottfried. This bill would allow New York City to lower speed limits to 20mph citywide, and as low as 5mph on streets with traffic calming measures, such as those participating in NYC’s open streets program. In 2014, NYS legislation allowed New York City to lower the citywide speed limit to 25 mph. However, current state law still mandates a minimum speed limit of 25mph and 15mph in school zones.

Although the bill has passed the Senate Transportation Committee, it still needs to be passed by the full Senate and the Assembly before going to the Governor’s desk to be signed. In the previous legislative session, the bill died in the Assembly, so it remains to be seen what happens this time around.

A bit of good news for drivers this month was that New York City raised the minimum driver pay rate for Uber and Lyft. Both companies will have to pay their NYC drivers a minimum of $1.161 per mile and $.0529 per minute, which ultimately equates to about a 5.3% raise. While this can be seen as a good thing, it is unclear that this increase in the minimum pay rate will result in an immediate increase in driver pay because the rates that passengers are being charged have increased since coming out of the pandemic.

At the end of the day, The Black Car Fund is far and away the greatest benefit of driving in New York. As a black car driver, you are entitled to free health, wellness and education related benefits that no independent contractor in any other U.S. state receives.

These benefits range from 24/7 telemedicine coverage to our mental health & wellness program (administered by the Independent Drivers Guild), to the opportunity to earn while you learn by being paid to take our Wellness STEP program or our enhanced defensive driving class. Just last year, we also introduced several new benefits which include:

Vision Insurance

  • Free eye exam once every year
  • Free eyeglasses every year or a 6-month supply of contact lenses
  • 30% discount on a second pair of eyeglasses

Dental Insurance

  • No cost or copays for dental exam, x-rays and cleanings
  • Emergency treatment for tooth pain
  • Discounts on dental work! For example, a crown costs just $50, instead of the usual $600-$2,500.

You can also access massive discounts on prescription medicine, as well as urgent care visits and diagnostic imaging. New York’s drivers are essential to our economy and there’s no question that you keep our city running, especially during this pandemic. The Black Car Fund and I truly believe that you deserve access to benefits, at no cost to you, in order to ensure that you can work and remain healthy. We want to erase the fear that lack of coverage will lead to long periods of unpaid time away from work, or preventable health conditions. I urge everyone, who hasn’t already, to visit https://ny.driversbenefits.org to learn more about all of these benefits, and begin using them!

On a final note, don’t forget that if you’re a Covered Driver with an accepted Workers’ Compensation claim and have been receiving your indemnity payments by paper check, you can now receive them via Direct Deposit! If you would like to enroll in Direct Deposit, please visit www.nybcf.org/directdepositand sign up!

Until next time!

Article by Ira Goldstein

Ira J. Goldstein is the Executive Director of the New York Black Car Fund and Advisor to the Black Car Assistance Corp. (BCAC).

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