Hello to all! 2023 is off to a running start. A lot happened in January and there is a lot that I am excited to tell you all about, particularly with regard to The Black Car Fund! Before we dive into all that, I just wanted to take a moment to remind you that until the end of this month, drivers who are signed up with Drivers Benefits can receive a voucher for a free flu shot, paid for by the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG). While the number of flu cases has been trending down, it’s still very high relatively speaking and the flu is not to be taken lightly.

Early in January, a State Supreme Court judge blocked the TLC’s pay increase for Uber and Lyft drivers, that was set to go into effect back in December, based on a legal technicality. Judge Arthur Engoron of the Manhattan Supreme Court granted Uber’s petition to reject the city Taxi and Limousine Commission increases that would have required the company to spend an additional $21 million to $23 million per month.

Engoron rejected the increases because of the agency’s “complete lack of explanation” for why it departed from how it typically calculates such hikes. In its rulemaking, the judge said, the TLC also failed to spell out the new formula it used to determine the rates, making the decision “not even close.”

TLC Commissioner David Do however, is still feeling positive and working to preserve this pay raise. He has said: “The written ruling makes it clear that this is a technical delay, not a defeat. We’re considering all options, including a more detailed rule as the judge recommends, to strengthen this critical pay standard for the city’s hardworking drivers as soon as possible.”

In other TLC news, at the end of January, the TLC voted unanimously to approve the 1,000 new FHV licenses for electric vehicles (EVs). As had been planned, the TLC will issue up to 1,000 new licenses that can only be used with a battery electric vehicle. 400 of these will be unrestricted and issued on a first-come first-served basis to any applicant that meets the eligibility criteria. What was unexpected however, is that the TLC is initially capping the number of unrestricted licenses an applicant can get to just 25. Depending on how it goes, the TLC may decide to increase this number.

The other 600 licenses will be restricted as planned to individual owner-operators. These will be limited to one per driver and will not be transferrable. The TLC has stated that the application for these licenses will open in mid-March.

Last month, I wrote about a piece of legislation that had been introduced in the City Council that could end up hurting drivers. Council Member Lincoln Restler’s bill would give citizens the power to report vehicles blocking bike and bus lanes, as well as vehicles that block entrances or exits of school buildings, sidewalks and crosswalks. Citizens would then be entitled to 25% of a $175 proposed fine for each instance. As you know, TLC drivers are allowed to quickly stop in bus lanes to pick up or drop off passengers, but overzealous citizens looking to make a quick buck probably won’t know this. They’ll simply snap a picture and then drivers will pay the price.

We immediately recognized the dangerous consequences this bill could spell for drivers so we have made sure that our concerns are heard during the legislative process. We have received initial feedback that the current amendments being considered would address our concerns but it’s definitely something we will keep an eye on!

Now onto some exciting news from The Black Car Fund. As you know, last November we launched a new benefit called the Accident Disability Insurance Plan. This benefit helps provide income protection in the event an eligible Covered Driver is injured outside of work in a covered accident, and is unable to work because of the injury. Eligible drivers can receive payments of up to 70% of their net driving income, up to a maximum of $1,500 per month, for the length of their disability, up to one year!

What happens though if you suffer a covered accidental injury or event that requires medical services? Well as of February 1st, 2023, our newest benefit, Personal Accident Insurance, is available at no cost to you! This benefit will help provide an extra level of financial security by providing a lump sum payment, ranging from $50 to $40,000, depending on the severity of the injuries and related medical expenses. This applies regardless if you have any other insurance, but ONLY if you are enrolled in Drivers Benefits!

What does that mean? Well, let’s say you suffer an accident in March, and you aren’t enrolled in Drivers Benefits. You cannot enroll after the fact and be eligible for the Personal Accident Insurance, or the Accident Disability Insurance Plan! You must be signed up BEFORE anything happens! So don’t wait until it’s too late. Make sure you are enrolled in Drivers Benefits and spread the word to your fellow drivers. You can enroll by visiting ny.driversbenefits.org.

The Personal Accident Insurance benefit covers a wide range of injuries and events such as eye injuries, broken teeth, concussions, broken bones, ruptured discs, lacerations that need stitches, 2nd and 3rd degree burns, skin grafts, coma and dislocations. I encourage everyone to visit ny.driversbenefits.org/benefits/personal_accident_insurance/ in order to learn more about the benefit, and read and understand the fine print!

Finally, for the past few months, I’ve been teasing a new opportunity to Earn While You Learn and I’m excited to announce that our new Black Car Fund Driver Education Course will officially launch on February 6th. This class was designed with the intention to ensure all Covered Drivers are aware of and understand all of the health, wellness and education-related benefits we provide at no cost to you! We have also included some additional safety tips and instruction because at the end of the day, you can never be too safe!

As we prepared for the launch of this course, we were very happy to have TLC Commissioner David Do visit our new Driver Education Center in Long Island City. We gave him a tour of the new facility, as well as our new headquarters on Jackson Avenue, and had the opportunity to explain all the benefits and learning opportunities we provide our Covered Drivers. He even had the chance to speak to a classroom of drivers who were taking our Enhanced Defensive Driving Course and stuck around to answer their questions. I thank Commissioner Do for taking the time to visit us and I am certainly looking forward to continue working with him and the TLC to spread awareness to drivers about all the benefits you are eligible for.

As always, our newest course is free to our Covered Drivers and you can receive a payment of $200, once every three years, for completing the course. Registration is open and you can sign up for a class by visiting drivered.nybcf.org. The class will also soon be offered online, so keep an eye out on our social media channels to find out when that option is available!

That’s all for now, 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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