For the first time in quite a while, I find myself cautiously optimistic watching City Council and the Taxi and Limousine Commission work together to try and fix our badly broken ground transportation system in New York City. Shortly after City Council first took action this past summer, passing an initial package of bills, an additional bill package was introduced and discussed at length at their September meeting and the TLC introduced a slew of new rules that will be discussed at its October 3 meeting (which will likely have come and gone by the time you read this).
In his column this month, Ira Goldstein, Executive Director of the New York Black Car Fund and Black Car Assistance Corporation does a great job of bringing us all up-to-date on these important new rules and pieces of legislation, so I will not repeat what he so eloquently wrote. I just want to bring something important to everyone’s attention: The process of fixing our industry needs to be a work in progress.
I’ve been encouraged to see that City Council and the TLC are genuinely listening to the drivers, stakeholders and vendors serving the industry – and it seems obvious that they are doing their best to protect drivers and help people who have taken a big financial hit these past few years. However, I am already hearing complaints of what I can only imagine are unintended consequences as the industry moves forward with these massive and profound changes.
For example, I have heard from multiple people that the cap on new For-hire Vehicles (FHVs) is hurting small Luxury Base owners that would like to expand their fleets to accommodate new clients. I think it’s safe to say that the legislation was not intended to prevent a 30-car operator from purchasing five vehicles for their fleet, but that’s what seems to be happening. The car dealerships that would like to sell these people cars are quite frustrated as well. Something needs to be done to prevent further harm to those who were never at any point the cause of the problems our industry now faces.
I have also been hearing that one of the new rules, which will seek to provide a benefits fund for drivers in various segments of the industry, is problematic. While we would all like to see TLC-regulated drivers enjoy benefits to protect their health and financial well-being, there are some issues that need to be ironed out before the TLC proceeds with their plan for a flat, per-trip fee to pay for it. It seems a little odd to charge the same fee on a $9 trip to the store and a $125 trip in a luxury vehicle to a business meeting.
As I mentioned, I think the TLC’s intentions are good, but I would advise working with leaders from the various segments of the industry to determine what is fair for everyone. Each industry segment has its own risk profile, after all – and the livery segment of the industry historically performs a high percentage of cash trips, making it difficult to nail down what they should be contributing to provide benefits to their drivers.
Also at issue: There is expected to be a new rule requiring bases to pay their drivers within a week of a completed trip. This could cause issues for Black Car bases that offer their clients 30- to 60-day terms on money due. In some cases, vouchers aren’t even submitted until days after the trip is completed, further reducing the amount of time they have to pay their drivers. Driver pay is also often dictated by co-op contracts and franchise agreements, and all of that has to be addressed.
IMPORTANT: The FHV WAV program is expected to launch in January, which means bases need to choose an AVD (Accessible Vehicle Dispatcher). This is not something you want to wait for. I highly recommend forming business relationships immediately, so that you’re ready to roll when the time comes. This is no simple program, so it’s important to take the time now to fully understand what is required and how to go about following the rules.
I highly recommend taking a closer look at joining on of our industry’s associations. They have already been negotiating on behalf of the bases and will likely be able to save you money on each WAV trip, if you are a member.