Hello to all. I hope everyone is looking forward to the start of Spring this month. Except for a couple of days, we seem to have had an unseasonably warm February. Even the groundhog can’t be right every time!

Early this month, the TLC will hold a hearing on proposed amendments to its minimum driver pay rules for high-volume for-hire vehicles (HVFHVs), including increasing the minimum pay amounts to account for increased driver expenses and changing the way utilization rates are calculated and applied. If you’ve been following this saga, you’ll recall that early in January, a State Supreme Court judge blocked the TLC’s pay increase for HVFHV drivers, which was set to go into effect back in December. Judge Arthur Engoron of the Manhattan Supreme Court granted Uber’s petition to reject the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission increases based on what he called “a legal technicality.”

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. Now, the TLC has come back with a significantly more detailed proposal that, if passed, will result in an increase of $2.16, or 8.78%, from the rates in effect from March 2022 through January 2023, and an increase of $3.76, or 16.35%, from the original rates effective in 2019. The TLC did their homework and I encourage everyone to read the proposed rules to understand the data and statistics that the TLC used to arrive to and defend their proposal.

In other TLC news, in February the TLC announced the opening of their “Taxi Clubhouse,” a place that provides much-needed amenities often lacking for drivers working long shifts all over the city, such as bathrooms, food, beverages, and wifi – but also cool amenities like TVs, video games, a gym, and space to pray. The 3,000-square-foot clubhouse, located at 22nd Street and Seventh Avenue in Chelsea, is open to all TLC licensees!

Moving on, I wanted to once again touch base on the two newest benefits that we provide our Covered Drivers at no-cost to them. As you know, last November we launched 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? Personal Accident Insurance, available as of February 1, 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 this month, 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 visit our website at https://www.nybcf.org/new-page to learn more about these benefits, and make sure you’re enrolled in Drivers Benefits.

Now, for an update on our newest “Earn While You Learn” opportunity. As you know, last month we launched the new Black Car Fund Driver Education Course. This class was designed to ensure all Covered Drivers are aware of and understand all of the health, wellness and education-related benefits we provide, as well as some additional safety tips and instruction. The response to the new class has been overwhelming and the class is fully booked through the first two weeks of April. Please keep an eye out on our social media channels for when we announce more availability. The class will also be offered online in the near future so keep an eye out for that as well!

As we wrap up, I wanted to share some good news from the last month. Our Executive Chairman, Berj Haroutunian, was recognized by City & State in their 2023 Fifty over Fifty awards. Berj’s career in the black car industry began in 1984, when he began working for Vital Transportation, one of the city’s first black car bases. Over the next decade, he worked his way up through the ranks to become President and organized Vital’s drivers together to purchase Vital and convert it to a cooperative.

In the late 90’s, Berj was instrumental in the creation of The Black Car Fund and for over a decade, he served as Chairman of The Fund’s Board. Today, Berj has taken on a larger role in helping us develop new benefits and safety programs and I am proud to work with him for the benefit of all our Covered Drivers.

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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