By Charles J. Tortorici, Esq. and James C. Schwartz, Esq.
On September 26, 2019, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) approved the FHV Privilege Permit program, which created access fees at the agency’s three largest airports as part of a broader package of toll and fare hikes. This program, which begins April 5, subjects for-hire vehicles to a $2.50 charge for each airport pick-up and drop-off.
As many in our industry learned in Black Car News, the Black Car Assistance Corporation (BCAC) successfully worked with PANYNJ to eliminate some the program’s more onerous aspects, including a security deposit for bases doing fewer airport trips and geo-fencing requirements. We commend the BCAC’s efforts.
While this was good news, we began a dialogue with PANYNJ regarding further concessions needed for bases to comply with the program. We were able to secure the elimination of the requirement that bases maintain a general commercial liability insurance policy, and that they add PANYNJ as a third party insured to it to participate in the program. This requirement was legally dubious as it is not a TLC requirement to maintain such a policy to be a licensed base.
In addition, we helped educate the PANYNJ on the various business models bases use and the operational differences between bases that utilize vehicles operated by independent contractors versus ones that own their vehicles. Specifically, bases utilizing independent contractors cannot, without potentially incurring adverse legal consequences, exercise the same degree of control over their vehicles as bases that own their vehicles.
These efforts helped us further secure from PANYNJ the elimination of the requirement that bases have their affiliated independent contractors add PANYNJ as a third party insured to their vehicle insurance policies. Last, we convinced PANYNJ that having bases produce declaration pages from the insurance policies for each of their affiliated vehicles is unnecessary. All bases now need to do to file their permit applications with PANYNJ is provide a list of their affiliated vehicles, which is readily available on NYC Open Data. That a particular vehicle appears in Open Data shows it is properly insured in accordance with TLC rules.
While we are keenly aware this program, with its new fees and reporting requirements is yet another set of regulations that bases would prefer to not have to contend with when profit margins are slim and the current focus is solely on survival, our firm anticipates a possible silver lining: When PANYNJ begins enforcement of this program, it could pressure many of the unlicensed entities that illegally operate like bases – especially those taking advantage of evolving and emerging technologies – and force them to become licensed by the TLC, thereby helping to level the playing field for legitimate bases that follow the rules.
Charles J. Tortorici, Esq. and James C. Schwartz, Esq. are partners with Tortorici Schwartz LLP, which can be reached at (718) 280-2055 or at [email protected]. The firm’s practice includes transportation law, regulatory compliance and strategic planning. The foregoing is provided solely as general information, is not intended as legal advice, and may not be applicable to your specific situation. You are advised to consult with your attorney for guidance before relying upon any of the information presented herein.