Hello everyone. As we head into the dog days of summer, some of the issues that I have been reporting on for several months have come to a conclusion and there is good news for everyone in the Black Car industry.

The Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) finally came to its senses and agreed to a settlement with the For-hire Vehicle (FHV) industry on the FHV wheelchair accessibility mandate. As previously reported, the TLC passed rules which would require 25% of all FHV trips to be dispatched in a wheelchair accessible vehicle, regardless of whether the passenger needed or wanted an accessible vehicle or not.

When negotiations with the TLC were unsuccessful, the FHV industry remained united, and after two lawsuits (federal and state) and a massive lobbying effort in Albany for legislation to prohibit the TLC from enforcing these onerous and impractical rules, the TLC agreed to a centralized dispatch option which relieves drivers of the burden of having to purchase wheelchair accessible vehicles.

The centralized dispatch option allows an FHV base to retain an accessible vehicle dispatch base to perform its wheelchair accessible vehicle requests within a strict timeframe, as an option to the 25% mandate. This option guarantees prompt and efficient service through its strict service level requirements without costing thousands of drivers their livelihoods and hundreds of bases to go out of business.

While we are happy with the settlement, it is sad that the TLC was so stubborn that it took a judge with remarkable mediation skills and a whole lot of patience to bring the TLC to a position the FHV coalition proposed over six months ago.

One final note on the settlement: The entire TLC Board of Commissioners must vote to approve the settlement. If not approved by the TLC Board, the settlement is void and the lawsuit is allowed to proceed.

The victory on the FHV wheelchair accessibility issue would be enough to make it a good month but the Black Car Fund has an exciting announcement on new benefits for its covered drivers. Effective July 1, eligible drivers affiliated with Black Car Fund member bases will be able to receive two new exciting benefits. These drivers will now be able to receive an annual eye exam, and if needed, a free pair of eyeglasses once a year. If the driver wears contact lenses, they will be eligible for a three-month supply. We will also have a large van that will be able to perform eye exams on the spot and will visit areas where our drivers congregate.

The other exciting new benefit is no-cost, 24/7 telemedicine (Call a Doctor) services for drivers and their families. Eligible drivers can call (in your language) a doctor by phone, secure video, or app anytime from anywhere for a non-emergency consultation. Drivers Telemedicine gives you access to board certified doctors who have over 15 years of experience.

Drivers Telemedicine doctors can diagnose and treat a number of health issues, including allergies, asthma, the flu, cold, arthritis, backaches, joint pain and much more. Prescriptions can be phoned in to whatever pharmacy is most convenient for you. While the call with the doctor is free, you will be responsible for the cost of any medications or any doctor’s visits you might need for a more serious situation, if an MD Live doctor can’t solve your issue over the phone, or if it is not related to an accepted workers’ compensation claim. To make this benefit even more valuable, our Drivers Telemedicine benefits include not only our hard-working drivers, but their families as well.

These benefits were formulated as a joint venture between the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) and the Black Car Fund and will be administered by the IDG. I would like to thank Jim Conigliaro Jr. and Andrew Greenblatt of the IDG for all their hard work and cooperation in bringing these additional benefits to fruition.

 

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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