Amendment of Driver and Vehicle Owner Rules

Adopted Rules: Closed to Comments

Agency:
Effective Date: 
Saturday, May 30, 2015

Statement of Basis and Purpose

 

These rules amend the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s (TLC) rules regarding limitations on license applications, amend the rules for driver license renewal to extend, at the Commission’s discretion, the renewal period of an expired driver license from 31 days to 90 days, remove the double-shifting requirement for fleet and mini-fleet medallions, amend vehicle retirement ages for taxicab and Black Car vehicles, amend the process by which drivers may reduce Critical Driver Program and Persistent Violator Program points, repeal the prohibition on power seats in Taxicabs, clarify which vehicle specification rules apply after the Official Taxicab Vehicle activation date, and amend provisions of the Critical Driver Program and Persistent Violator Program rules to mirror applicable provisions in the Administrative Code.  These rules are a result of discussions with stakeholders as well as a review by TLC staff of existing regulations that may be updated without compromising safety and consumer protections in TLC-regulated industries. The combined impact of these rule changes will positively impact the industry by making it easier to own and operate TLC-licensed vehicles in New York City.

 

Bans on Driver Applicants

 

Under TLC’s driver rules a number of specific incidents trigger automatic denial of a license application for a certain number of years. These limitations apply to all applicants for medallion, for-hire, paratransit, and commuter van driver licenses.  They were established in 2011 to clearly articulate minimum lengths of time between an incident which TLC determined causes an applicant to be unfit for licensure and the time at which the applicant may be eligible to apply for a license.  The purpose of these minimum standards was to avoid repeated submission of applications and application fees by applicants who were clearly not fit for licensure.  TLC has recently undertaken a review of the limitations and the related time periods associated with each type of incident and is changing some of the limitation criteria.   In line with the traffic safety goals of Vision Zero, TLC will continue to take into consideration all facets of an applicant’s history and background when determining if an applicant is fit to hold a license.

 

Currently, TLC does not accept a driver’s license application for two years from any person found driving for-hire without a TLC license or from any previously-licensed driver who has committed six or more violations of TLC rules.  These rules remove these limitations to permit a case-by-case review of an applicant’s fitness for licensure.  TLC does not want to delay the licensure of applicants who, although they were previously caught driving illegally for-hire, now wish to provide safe and licensed service.  Similarly, TLC does not want to delay the licensure of applicants who violated TLC rules six times without considering the specific rules violated as well as the time within which these violations occurred.

 

In addition, TLC currently does not allow a driver to reapply for a license for one year after a prior application was denied because the applicant was found not fit to hold a license. This period is measured from the date on which TLC denied the prior application.  Pursuant to these rules, this one-year period will now be counted from the date on which the applicant previously applied for a new license.

 

Finally, TLC currently does not accept license applications for three years from drivers whose TLC licenses were revoked, including those revoked under the Critical Driver or Persistent Violator programs.  This allows a driver, in the case of a prior Critical Driver or Persistent Violator revocation, to demonstrate a safe record of driving over a three-year period prior to being permitted to provide for-hire service again.  The three-year period currently begins when the TLC license is revoked by the Commission.   Since a TLC drivers license cannot be revoked under the Critical Driver or Persistent Violator programs until after the driver is convicted of the underlying DMV or TLC violations, there can be a delay in time between when the underlying violations occurred and when the driver’s TLC license is revoked.  TLC recognizes that a driver with no further traffic violations following the last violation triggering the revocation may be able to demonstrate three years of safe driving before the period, as currently measured, expires.  Therefore, drivers who can demonstrate three years of safe driving following the last violation triggering the revocation and prior to the end of the ban, may apply for a new license before the ban is lifted.

 

Renewal Extensions

 

TLC is increasing the amount of time a driver can postpone an expiration date on a current license.  Currently, TLC allows a one-time extension of 31 days to taxicab and For-Hire Vehicle drivers who request additional time to complete the renewal process.  TLC is extending the maximum time granted for an extension to 90 days to allow more time for licensees who may be, for example, out of the country and miss the opportunity to extend an expiration date.  Increasing the extension time will help prevent many drivers from having to reapply as new licensees.

 

Double-Shifting Requirement

 

TLC is repealing the double-shifting requirement that now applies to vehicles operating on certain taxicab medallions. Prior to this rule change, vehicles operated in Fleets and Minifleets were required under TLC rules to be driven at least two nine-hour shifts each day, including holidays and weekends.  The ability of Fleets and Minifleets to lease their medallions for two shifts per day depends on demand from drivers, and sometimes it is not possible for a Fleet or Minifleet to lease all of its medallions for two shifts every day. Other non-use rules prevent medallion owners from keeping their medallions out of service for an extended period of time, and TLC believes these are sufficient to ensure that taxis are sufficiently available.  Furthermore, Fleet and Minifleet operators have an economic incentive to lease their medallions for as many shifts as possible, and removing the double-shifting requirement enables them to use their business judgment to determine the optimal number of shifts for this purpose. 

 

Yellow Taxi Vehicle Retirement Schedules

 

In 1996, the Commission introduced retirement schedules for all taxicabs to improve the quality of vehicles on the road.  At that time, taxis were failing 71 percent of their tri-annual inspections.

[1]

 The oldest taxicab vehicles on the road in 1996 were more than ten years old.  Retirement requirements were established according to the operation schedule of each medallion type; vehicles operated on fleet medallions without long-term drivers were limited to three years in service, and medallions with long-term drivers (i.e., drivers who own or lease a medallion, are named on the rate card, and drive the taxicab at least 160 hours per month) were limited to five years.

 

These three- and five-year retirement schedules could be lengthened through retirement extensions offered for vehicles using Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and for minivans, incentivizing the adoption of certain vehicles through retirement extensions.  This continued when the New York City Council passed Local Law 52 of 2006, amending the New York City Administrative Code to extend retirement periods for wheelchair-accessible taxis and for hybrid-electric and other clean-air taxis.

 

Today, the retirement schedules for some taxis allow twice as much time on the road as others, even though in many cases the vehicles travel a comparable distance each year.   In fact, 55% of the taxis on the road today have a 7 year vehicle retirement.  Vehicles with different retirement schedules fail their inspections at about the same rate.  For both Minifleet and Independent Medallions, the inspection failure rate remains steady at about 30 percent after the second year of service, a complete reversal from the passing rate of 29 percent in 1995.

 

These high rates of success at TLC safety and emissions inspections suggest that most vehicles remain in good condition for many years of service.  Because vehicles perform better today, regardless of the length of time they are permitted to operate, than when retirement schedules were introduced, TLC has adopted a uniform retirement schedule of seven years for all vehicles which are Hacked-up after April 20, 2015.  This change will allow owners to keep vehicles on the road for their full useful lives and correspondingly reduce vehicle expenses, one of the larger expenses of taxicab operation.  TLC will continue to require the removal from service those vehicles that, regardless of their retirement date, fail to pass TLC’s safety and emission inspections.  Accompanying this change, TLC has removed all retirement extensions for vehicles Hacked-up after the same date, except the hardship extension provided in §67-19(a) of the TLC rules, so that all vehicles will retire after seven years.

[2]

 All vehicles Hacked-up before April 20, 2015, will remain subject to the retirement schedule assigned to them at Hack-up.

 

As to concerns that extending retirement schedules might impair TLC’s ability to meet its commitments to convert the fleet to a 50% accessible fleet by 2020, before proposing the universal seven year schedule, TLC reviewed the requirements of its commitments and, largely because of the extended retirement schedules already enjoyed by the vast majority of Taxicabs today and also because the accessibility commitment will begin as existing vehicles retire not the replacement vehicles to which the rules will apply, found that TLC can continue to meet its commitments under the proposed rules.

 

Black Car Vehicle Retirement Schedules

 

The Commission established retirement requirements for Black Cars in 2008, with the purpose of improving vehicle quality and service in the Black Car industry.  However, experience has shown that Black Car customers, who can choose among competing bases and, in many cases, even specify the type of vehicle they prefer, have substantial power to determine vehicle quality.  In contrast to yellow taxi service, where passengers do not preselect a taxi company or a vehicle model, Black Car services range from “no frills” companies to those which offer high-end service.  Black Car customers in some cases even pay a premium for a newer or higher-quality vehicle.  There is no single operational model in the Black Car industry, and applying a single vehicle retirement schedule for all companies is unnecessary due to existing market incentives to replace vehicles at a rate which satisfies customer demand.  Therefore, TLC is repealing the retirement requirement for Black Cars beginning with model year 2013.  For Black Cars model year 2012 and older, TLC has adopted a uniform seven-year vehicle retirement.  TLC will continue to require the removal from service those vehicles that, regardless of their retirement date, fail to pass TLC’s safety and emission inspections.    

 

Critical Driver Program and Persistent Violator Program Point Reduction

 

TLC is amending the point reduction provisions of the Critical Driver Program and Persistent Violator Program rules to allow drivers additional time to complete an approved point reduction course.  Sections 19-507.1 and 19-507.2 of the New York City Administrative Code govern the Persistent Violator and Critical Driver Programs, respectively.  Both provisions of the Administrative Code require that, for such a course to reduce a driver’s penalty points, the course attendance must be “voluntary.”  To avoid confusion and increase consistency in the adjudication of Critical Driver summonses, TLC amended the Critical Driver Program rules in 2011 to require that a course be completed prior to the issuance of the Critical Driver summons.  In order to encourage drivers to take proactive steps to improve their driving, TLC is amending the Critical Driver Program and Persistent Violator rules to permit drivers to reduce their points by voluntarily completing a point reduction course up until the hearing on a Critical Driver or Persistent Violator summons.

 

Power Seats

 

Finally, TLC repeals the prohibition on power seats in taxicabs to reflect the current fleet of available taxicab models.  In 1996, TLC prohibited vehicles with powers seats from being placed into service as taxicabs.  TLC is repealing this prohibition so that owners may purchase vehicles with this feature that would increase drivers’ comfort. 

 

These rules are authorized by Section 2303 of the Charter and Sections 19-503 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York

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New material is underlined.

 

[Deleted material is in brackets.]

 




[1]

NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission. Hearing, January 18, 1996.

[2]

Local Law 52 of 2006, which requires extensions for accessible and clean-air vehicles, includes a provision which repeals the law for all vehicles going into service after April 17, 2014, enabling TLC to make the change to vehicle retirement schedules.