For months now, I have been encouraging drivers to sign up for the FREE vision and health benefits and deep discounts now being provided by The Black Car Fund (BCF) and the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG). I was stunned to learn recently that only a fraction (about 19,000) of the 130,000 drivers eligible for these benefits in New York state are using them.

I realize that drivers are notoriously busy, and when something sounds “too good to be true” it generally is – but that’s not the case here. The Fund’s vision and telemedicine programs are paid for by the same surcharge on every ride that gives independent contractor drivers their workers’ compensation insurance. Perhaps some drivers have access to benefits through a spouse or a second job, but healthcare can be incredibly expensive and, as a driver, having the correct glasses to improve your vision could literally save lives… yours among them.

The BCF and IDG fought hard for these benefits, but the industry risks losing them if more drivers don’t take advantage of them. You don’t want to wait until you NEED them to sign up – and signing up is quick, easy and FREE at:  https://driversbenefits.org/activate-now/?utm_source=WB. Additional information is available at http://www.nybcf.org/or https://driversbenefits.org/benefits/, or by calling 212.269.4800.

There is a bill currently sitting on Governor Cuomo’s desk, waiting for his signature, which will clear up any ambiguity over the BCF’s work to provide stability and improve the lives of independent contractor drivers and their families. As a reminder, the following benefits are available to every Black Car and Luxury Limousine driver who works for a Fund member’s base:

Vision:Eligible drivers receive free annual eye exams, free glasses or a free 6-month supply of contact lenses – plus ongoing customer service and more at no cost. Drivers only need to meet a monthly hourly threshold in New York. Members who maintain benefits eligibility can get new glasses once every 12 months.

Telemedicine:All drivers AND THEIR FAMILIES can speak to a board-certified doctor for free in their native language by phone, secure online video or MDLIVE Appfor a non-emergency consultation – anytime, anywhere, 24/7. Doctors can call in prescriptions (no controlled substances) and diagnose and treat non-emergency conditions including allergies, sore throat, cold/flu, fever, nausea/vomiting, backaches, joint pain, rashes and more.

Although the call with the doctor is free, drivers are responsible for the cost of any doctor’s visits needed for situations that can’t be solved over the phone, as well as any medications.

Discount Prescription Program:Although medications are not free, drivers can save up to 85% on prescription medications for themselves or a family member. This particular feature is provided by the IDG. Drivers receive a discount card accepted at over 65,000 pharmacies. Card holders save hundreds of dollars a year, on average, often paying less than a typical co-pay.

Legal Assistance:Deeply discounted legal assistance is available from a qualified traffic lawyer to help fight New York TLC and NYPD traffic violations. Most NYC, NYPD, and TLC tickets can be fought for as little as $100, with discounts for more complex and costly cases. Legal assistance is also available if you’ve been in an accident while at work.

If you’re unsure how to deal with a TLC ticket, or need assistance with one you already received, let them know ASAP. Violations include: speeding, disregarding a red light or stop sign, not having proof of insurance or registration, not having your certificate in the vehicle, talking or texting on a cell phone while driving, not wearing a seatbelt, making an illegal U-turn, and more.

Classes: You not only get free safety and health & wellness classes to help you become a better driver – you can actually EARN UP TO $300 by taking a defensive driving class, and up to $150 by completing a driver’s safety and wellness class.

Accident Support:If you’ve been in an accident, you may need help paying medical bills, replacing lost wages, or filing an accident report. The BCF can help report an accident and apply for workers’ compensation. FYI: Some claims for injuries and lost wages must be filed within 30 days of the accident, so make sure to call as soon as possible.

Dental Discount:Save 30-60% on routine care and any dental procedures for you and members of your family. Simply enroll, download or print out a membership card and bring it to a participating dentist to receive a discounted rate. This benefit is provided by the IDG through a partnership with Metrodent USA.

Driver Death Benefit: If a Black Car Fund driver passes away while on the job, their loved ones are eligible for a $50,000 payment to help them recover from the tragedy.

As you may know, legislation was recently passed in California to turn Uber and Lyft’s independent contractor drivers into employees, but the app-based companies already pledged tens of millions of dollars to fight it. It could take years to iron this out, when reality, the state could simply use the model the BCF built to give drivers the protections, guidance and benefits they so richly deserve for their hard work.

Before I sign off, I wanted to offer a quick update on the “restricted” FHV licenses being sought by traditional Black Car, Luxury and Livery bases that I discussed in last month’s editorial. The restricted licenses are still in a holding pattern, but City Council has asked for more information and the TLC is considering them as well. It doesn’t matter whether it happens by law or rule – if something isn’t done, all of the traditional bases are going to be put out of business. That’s not good for anyone, including the general public. Both Uber and Lyft have been hemorrhaging investor cash since they opened their doors, with no path to profit in sight, making them both vulnerable in the long term. What happens if the city allows all of the traditional bases to go under, and then Uber and Lyft also fail? It would be catastrophic on so many levels, and absolutely preventable.

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Article by Neil Weiss

Neil Weiss is the Editor/Publisher/Owner of Black Car News and Livery Times. He has been involved in the ground transportation industry since 1991, writing thousands of articles on a wide variety of subjects.

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