By ARIEL HERNANDEZ
For-hire vehicle (FHV) drivers are expected to receive an additional $10,000 a year, following a Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) ruling passed Tuesday morning.
Earlier this year, the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs and the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California conducted a study that found that 96 percent of high-volume FHV drivers — who are employed by apps such as Uber, Lyft, Via, Gett and Juno — earn less than $17.22 an hour.
The analysis also shows that drivers’ median earnings declined more than 10 percent between 2016 and 2017, and that drivers spend more than $400 a week on the operation of their vehicles.
Rene, 43, told the Queens Tribune that although Uber pays a percentage of his E-Zpass, it doesn’t pay the toll when he crosses a bridge without a passenger in his vehicle.
“If I’m taking a driver from Queens to Manhattan and the passenger is in my car, Uber will cover it. But if I don’t have a driver in my car and I’m going from whatever borough I’m in to Staten Island where I live, Uber won’t cover it,” said Rene. “They only cover the costs when there’s a passenger in the vehicle.”
The TLC said drivers could expect a 96 percent raise based on the per-mile and per-minute minimum trip-payment formula it implemented in the Tuesday ruling.
To ensure that companies are paying their drivers accordingly, riders will be able to use a driver pay calculator made available to them by Dec. 6 that will determine the pay drivers deserve.
The new rules include $27.86 per hour pay, a $10,000-a-year raise, higher minimum pay for wheelchair-accessible vehicles, detailed pay information, and a decrease in the amount of tax fleets charge drivers for credit card processing.
“One of the Council’s main goals in bringing a regulatory framework to the for-hire–vehicle business in the city was to help drivers in every part of the industry, and today marks a milestone in our continued efforts in this area,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “App-based drivers will now earn at least the equivalent of the city’s minimum wage, bringing more fairness to a gig economy that too often leaves working people behind. The Council is proud of the progress we have made and will continue working to help drivers, reduce congestion and increase fairness in the for-hire–vehicle industry.”
Jose Rivera, 37, said this ruling will mean that he can work less and spend more time with his family.
“Driving Uber is good because I could choose my own schedule,” Rivera told the Queens Tribune. “But I miss all my children’s milestones. My wife stays home with our three children while I work.”
Rivera said he’s worked 24-hour days on numerous occasions to provide for his family.
“Rides from borough to borough don’t amount to anything, so I accept any and every ride leaving New York City,” said Rivera. “My wife gets mad because sometimes I stay signed on overnight and if I’m in bed and my app says someone needs a ride, I hop right out of bed no matter what time it is because I need the money.”
Rav, 28, said he works four jobs: two of them five days a week, one on the weekends and Uber seven days a week.
“I depend mostly on my Uber and Lyft money because it’s not like I have to wait a whole week or two to get paid like corporate jobs,” said Rav.
Rav said he gets paid by Lyft as promptly as by the end of the day. He said although it’s beneficial, the pay isn’t consistent.
“If a have a bunch of $4 trips, I’m not making anything off of that,” said Rav. “POOL is good for the rider but it kind of sucks for the driver if the passengers are taking short trips. During the winter, Uber and Lyft add surges to the rides, mostly during snow or rainy days and during rush hours. But for the most part, a lot of my riders are taking trips from their home to the subway.”
Rav said the ruling is good for drivers like him, who sacrifice their time and sleep to make very little money. But he thinks something should be done for the riders. Rav said that during the winter he gets a lot of trips in Queens because many commuters live far from public transportation and have to resort to FHVs.
“The prices fluctuate during rush hours,” said Rav. “I’ve gotten a few rides from Bayside to Flushing and it’s sometimes over $20. It’s insane what people in Queens go through because of the lack of public transportation.”
Rav said before he started driving with Uber and Lyft, he was an average Queens commuter, and he understands the struggles firsthand.
“I just hope that the city comes up with a comprehensive plan that will benefit everyone,” said Rav.
The TLC’s new rules will go into effect mid-January 2019.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org or @reporter_ariel