Taxi and Limousine Commission
33 Beaver St
New York, NY 10004
Dear Acting Commissioner and the Board of Commissioners,
As representatives and advocates for more than 70,000 app-based drivers in New York City we are writing to request urgent enforcement action with regard to a high volume for-hire vehicle company in violation of Commission rules.
Yesterday, Lyft informed its New York City drivers that effective June 27, 2019, the company will be subjecting them to new rules that violate the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s pay protection rules, which passed in December of 2018 and went into effect in February of this year.
In a message to New York City drivers as well as a blog post, Lyft announced that it plans to eliminate driver access to the app in periods and areas of low demand and will require drivers who wish to access the app to drive to a location of higher demand or wait until demand increases to access the app. By logging drivers off the app and requiring them to travel to an area of higher demand in order to pick up their next trip, Lyft would be shifting the costs of travel and waiting time onto the drivers and in so doing, violate this commission’s rules.
In the Commission’s statement of basis and purpose for the pay rules, it clearly states that these rules establish a minimum per-trip payment formula that takes into account “drivers’ total working time, both time spent driving passengers as well as time waiting for a dispatch and then traveling to pick up passengers.” Drivers are paid by mile and minute rates which are determined using a utilization rate which works as a multiplier so that drivers are compensated for the minutes and miles with and without a rider in the vehicle.
If an app company simply stops counting the miles and minutes when a driver is waiting for dispatch or traveling to their next pick up location by logging drivers out of the app, the company is not making dispatch more efficient. The drivers are still driving those miles and waiting those minutes. But now those miles and minutes are not accounted for in the pay formula, so driver pay rates go down. If all of the drivers’ miles and minutes are not counted toward the utilization rate, it means drivers aren’t getting paid for those miles and minutes.
Given the competitive, race to the bottom nature of the high volume app-based for-hire vehicle services, we urge the Commission to take swift action to stop Lyft and any other app companies tempted to follow suit from enacting policies that manipulate access to the app in a way that would obscure and fail to account for the “drivers’ total working time, both time spent driving passengers as well as time waiting for a dispatch and then traveling to pick up passengers.”
Furthermore, we call on the commission and city leaders to switch the power dynamic that enables app companies to manipulate thousands of hard working drivers in our city. By limiting new TLC drivers’ licenses instead of limiting vehicles, the city can empower the more than 70,000 New Yorkers who drive for-hire vehicles for a living. Instead of having app companies kick excess drivers off their apps, companies would have to compete for workers with better pay or policies. Amending the cap policy in this way would also give workers the option of ownership rather than being beholden to predatory leasing companies.
Thank you in advance for your swift attention to this issue as it serves all parties to ensure there is a universal understanding of the app companies’ obligations not to obscure drivers’ working time in a way that will reduce drivers’ rightful compensation.
Independent Drivers Guild