Required Cab Upgrade Prompts Driver Protest
Credit installation a challenge for cabs
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 15:10
One month after the original deadline for D.C. taxi cabs to install credit card readers, GPS and a driver verification system, drivers are protesting consequences for failure to meet the deadline, which they say is not their fault.
Nearly 200 cab drivers protested problems installing the Modern Taximeter System in Freedom Square on Wednesday. The final deadline for MTS installation was yesterday.
Drivers have faced backlogged service from the eight Payment Service Providers responsible for MTS installation, which include Creative Mobile Technologies, Gleike Taxi Inc., Hitch, D.C. VIP, Transco, USA Motors, Yellow Cab of D.C. and United Ventures Consortium.
D.C. Drivers United for Equal Rights and the Excluded Worker Project, which organized the protest, reported that five of these eight PSPs are currently backlogged and that credit card readers that have been installed have often malfunctioned. The groups also complained about fees tacked on by these PSPs that go beyond the expected monthly service charge.
Additionally, the taxi driver organizations said that drivers have been turned away from their pre-assigned installation appointments. Cab meters have sometimes taken days to sync to the credit card reader, and the installation procedure requires drivers to return to the PSP multiple times.
District of Columbia Taxicab Commission spokesperson Neville Waters attributed the current PSP backlog to the looming deadline, as drivers attempt to catch up for lost time. In fact, Waters said that many drivers had not contacted a PSP by Aug. 15 when the original deadline for installation was Aug. 30.
“Many drivers tried to shop around or find other PSPs and missed the deadline,” Waters said. “PSPs are overwhelmed by installation demands from drivers in the past few weeks.”
Waters said that PSPs should have the capacity to continue installation throughout the week.
Regardless, as much as 20 percent of D.C.’s taxicab fleet will not yet have the MTS installed by today, DCTC estimated, leaving them in danger of towing, impoundment and $1,000 in fees, which will be the responsibility of drivers.
D.C. Drivers United for Equal Rights has also called into question the DCTC’s handling of the issues with PSPs, which the group claimed the commission refused to address. Rather, the DCTC has said that these problems are private contract disputes between drivers and PSPs.
In August, only 2,000 out of D.C.’s 6,500 taxis had complied with the MTS requirement, so cabs were permitted to apply for an extension, but this responsibility was placed on the PSP rather than the driver, leading to delays and missed deadlines.
Waters said that this method was to ensure that taxicab drivers had already established a contract for installation with one of the PSPs — a requirement to be granted an extension.
DCTC will not extend its Sept. 30 deadline, but the commission will evaluate claims on a case-by-case basis to address legitimate grievances.
“There will be no further extensions. Drivers have had over 120 days since June 1 to have the devices installed,” Waters said. “It’s unfortunate, but the deadline is necessary.”
Waters added that, rather than risk impoundment, some drivers would potentially switch vehicles; sedans or black cars are not required to install the MTS.
Others, Waters said, might leave the business altogether.
“I also expect we will see some part-time drivers retire, especially those who are older and simply enjoy driving, because they are unwilling to deal with the expense or hassle of installation,” Waters said.
D.C. Drivers United for Equal Rights did not respond to requests for comment.