TLC Proposed Rule Would Slash Driver Pay in Half
The Taxi and Limousine Commission has proposed new requirements that would cut the number of for-hire vehicle dispatches, and therefore driver income, by at least half starting January 1st. Your fellow drivers voted overwhelmingly to oppose this rule and Independent Drivers Guild members will be at the hearing to fight the rule in its current form – but if you care about your job, you have to join us.
People with disabilities are legally entitled to equal transportation options. The failure of the MTA and generations of New York City leaders to provide adequate accessibility measures must be addressed. However, the Taxi and Limousine Commission has proposed an unfair approach that would shift the cost of accessible transportation to working drivers who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Here is the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s proposed rule:
The TLC’s proposed rule requires that 10% of all FHV trips be dispatched to wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) starting in just a few months, in 2018 (whether the rider requires an accessible vehicle or not). Fifteen percent of trips would be required to go to WAVs in 2019, 20% in 2020, and 25% in 2019.
Here are the problems with the current version of the rule:
1) As of today, there are currently only 105 wheelchair-accessible FHVs on the road. So, if nothing changes within three months, 10% of all rides dispatched by bases will have to go to these drivers.
Specifically, out of the 445,000 rides dispatched by apps like Uber on a daily basis, 44,500 will have to go towards 105 FHV WAV drivers.
Because there are only enough accessible vehicles to service a tiny fraction of these quotas, bases would be required to dispatch FHV work to accessible taxis and other vehicles. The taxi industry, medallion owner groups, and sectarian taxi driver groups have been pushing for a rule like this in an attempt to take business away from rideshare drivers.
However, even if bases dispatch to the 400 accessible green taxis and other accessible vehicles, they STILL won’t make the quota. FHV bases would be required to drastically reduce ALL trips dispatched to FHV drivers in order to meet the quota or face enormous fines. With the current supply of accessible vehicles, this rule would reduce the number of all daily dispatched trips by at least half starting in January 2018.
2) The TLC is hoping that the market will adjust itself and drivers will switch the vehicles they are using and purchase WAV vehicles instead of their current vehicles.
Essentially, the intent behind the rules is that drivers will struggle so badly that they will rush to a car dealership and purchase a WAV, in order to continue to provide for their families. This rule is a poor solution to the city’s accessibility issues and is simply not feasible. There is no way thousands of working drivers can replace or retrofit their cars into new accessible vehicles in the next three months, and even if they could afford it, the vehicles do not even exist. Our research finds that less than 400 new accessible vehicles are even available for sale in the area. These vehicles cost $135 per day to rent now, which means a driver would not even break even on a day’s work, but given the scarcity of accessible vehicles, that rental cost would likely spike. In addition, many drivers have either financed their cars or committed themselves to three-year leases, and are unable to simply rid themselves of their payments or lease contracts.
3) The TLC is requiring FHV drivers to do in three months what took the taxi industry more than a decade to accomplish.
Fourteen years after the city’s first accessible taxi quota was signed into law and nine years after debuting the accessible dispatch pilot, taxis have converted 13% of the fleet to accessible vehicles. Yet this proposal from the TLC would require working drivers to achieve that 10% transition in just three months.
4) Yellow Taxi garages have a fund totaling more than $70 million to encourage the purchase of WAVs and offset expenses, but the current rule provides no funds to all other FHV owner/operators.
Accessible vehicles are much more expensive to purchase, lease or rent, the fuel costs are much higher, as are other maintenance expenses. Most drivers have multi-year leases or car payment plans they are working dangerously long hours away from their families to pay off.
What does this mean for FHV drivers?
In sum, this rule would dramatically reduce business and earnings for FHV drivers. On its face, it looks like a 10% pay cut, but it would actually be much worse. This rule would slash the business and earnings of New York’s 100,000 FHV drivers.
Because there are not nearly enough accessible vehicles to cover 10% of all trips, bases would be required to either drastically reduce ALL trips dispatched to FHV drivers in order to meet the quota, while drivers who purchased Toyota Camrys a year ago sit idle. With the current supply of accessible vehicles, this rule would reduce the number of all daily dispatched trips by at least half starting in January 2018.
The Independent Drivers Guild stands with disability advocates in demanding true accessibility for all, but shifting the burden to drivers who are already struggling and driving them deeper into poverty is not the answer. It is time for the TLC to go back to the drawing board with drivers and their families in mind.
New York City’s drivers came together with the Guild to fight and win various campaigns, from fighting for bathrooms at the airport lots to forcing Uber and other FHV companies to add in-app tipping, putting millions of dollars in drivers’ pockets in just the first few months. With your help, we can win fair pay too, if we unite and get active about the issue. But the threats and attacks to for-hire vehicle workers will never end unless we all join together and do our part.
Visit IDG.ms/BCNjoin to join the Guild or text DRIVE to 64336 for more info.
Jim Conigliaro, Jr. is the founder of the Independent Drivers Guild, an affiliate of the International Association of Machinists, which represents and advocates for more than 60,000 app-based drivers in New York City. We’re Uber, Lyft, Juno, Via workers united for a fair industry.