Drivers from across our industry agree: Companies should not be allowed to flood our streets with too many For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) drivers, if they can’t provide enough work for them. It makes it harder for all drivers to earn a living.
Unfortunately, there are some big problems with the Mayor’s plan to make the vehicle cap permanent.
First of all, under the vehicle cap, thousands of new drivers have continued to be licensed and hit our streets, and they will continue to do so because it is a vehicle cap, not a limit on new TLC drivers’ licenses. There are NO LIMITS on new TLC drivers. They just have to lease existing TLC vehicles, of which there are plenty.
The TLC expects more and more drivers to continue to get licensed and lease out and share their vehicles, with thousands moving to shift work, like taxis. This would be a huge step backwards, when it comes to working conditions for drivers. Limiting the issuance of new TLC universal driver’s licenses – based on data (like demand, turnover and service impacts) – would be a much more effective way to reduce the hours FHVs spend roaming our streets between jobs.
Secondly, a permanent vehicle cap forces many low-income drivers into leasing, rather than owning.
What’s wrong with leasing? Most leases and rentals are priced too high, and when we limit the supply of vehicles, drivers’ expenses go even higher – just like the cost of leasing taxi medallions went up in the 1990s. A poll of our members found that the typical driver who leases or rents ends up paying $10,000 in additional expenses annually than a driver who licenses a vehicle they own.
As you may recall, we just won a raise of $10,000 per year for app-based drivers. So, forcing them to lease basically wipes out that raise.
Here is the good news: This is a problem that can be easily solved. We can achieve the shared goal of stopping the flood of excess FHVs without driving up costs for struggling drivers. We just need city leaders to listen.
The most direct way to limit driver hours on our streets is to limit new TLC drivers’ licenses (instead of limiting vehicle licenses). Driver hours are already capped by the “fatigued driving” rules, so when we limit the number of new drivers’ licenses, we are limiting driver hours. When we limit new drivers, we also make existing drivers more valuable to companies, which should translate into pay increases or offers for other incentives to woo them.
Finally, it is unfair to both new and existing drivers for the city to continue to add unlimited new drivers at a time when there is not enough work for all, and at a time when the city and state are enacting drastic policies and taxes to reduce our hours on the road.
There are a few other alternatives that might also improve the TLC’s policy proposal, so drivers aren’t beholden to predatory leasing companies. The TLC can create a path to ownership for existing drivers so that we don’t end up with an industry of leasers, where all the capital is in the hands of a few leasing companies. The TLC can also use the revenue from the new taxes on High Volume For-Hire Vehicle companies to provide upfront financial incentives to help existing drivers buy electric or wheelchair accessible vehicles. While we lobbied for higher pay for accessible vehicle drivers, it’s clear the financial incentives are insufficient, and if the TLC wants drivers to purchase WAVs – which are much more expensive to operate and maintain – the TLC needs to provide financial incentives out of the hefty new taxes on app companies.
Fixing an unjust system for drivers starts now! We urge everyone who wants driving to again become a solid middle-class job to join us on July 23, at noon at 33 Beaver Street, 19th floor and get on email and text message lists for updates at drivingguild.org.