For the uninitiated, or for those new to taxi-land, the biggest issue these days is just how much the large taxi associations and single-owner/operators will be paying to provide L&I coverage for all of us contractual (lease) drivers. Becuase of something called Title 51, govenment interperts the service provided by the lease-drivers to be on the behalf of the associations and single-owners instead of the people who are actually paying us, that being of course the taxi passenger sitting in the back seat carping about something or the other. Earlier this year something called ESHB 1367 was passed in the Washington State Legistature which allowed for this to happen, this after years of not always friendly discussion between the folks at L&I and the various state-wide taxi associations and taxi owners. By agreeing to what the associations and single-owners thought was a benevolent and affable compromise, they suddenly found themselves immersed in an instant nightmare, with L&I first proposing an amount of nearly $800. per car per month, surprising an industry who thought they had a "gentleman's aggreement" of no more than $150. per month. Currently, the discussed amount is now down to about $380. per month, still a figure that is much higher than most find acceptable. What these monies represent is the potential pool of dollars that will cover all future potential claims. Currently it is a guessing game on what would be the most appropiate amount. Unfortunately, war clouds are now darkening the once placid taxi horizons, with grumbling about law suits and other legal actions marring the atmosphere. It was with this background that I contacted L&I with the hope of lending some assistance and fending off any and all protracted legal proceedings. This afternoon at about 4:00 PM I had a teleconference with three L & I officials. And here is a quick synopsis to that nealy fifty minute conversation.
Les, Bill and Al were all very attentive and respectful, asking many questions simply about how the taxi industry works. I gave as much detail I could about leases and money earned, information that is common currency amongst the drivers but new to those peering in from the outside. Their concern appears to be having a large enough pool of money to cover expected claims. I told them that I would expect that overall claims would be small simply because, more than ever, the drivers are being safer because current insurance requirements have translated into even the most veteran of drivers being tossed out of the business. If you have an "at-fault" accident these days, expect you to be barred from driving at the major associations. They were surprised to hear that most injuries come, at least from my experience, from our sometimes not-so-wonderful passengers. It is the rare driver that hasn't been slugged at least once. Stabbing occur far more than they should. And most of the accidents are minor, causing more damage to metal than to fragile human flesh. I encouraged them to consider the smaller amount initially agreed upon, given that if excessive claims did occur, then of course adjustments could then be made.
I also laid the blame for the many auto accidents the local industry have experienced squarely upon the Seattle & King County Licensing folks who continue to issue "taxi for hires" to people not at at prepared to be doing the job. I used my favorite anology in explaining the driver situation to my usual complaining passsengers: When lying on the operating table, you have confidence that the surgeon knows the antonomy of the body. Your taxi driver should have a similar knowledge of the antonomy of the city of Seattle. Unfortunately, most times they don't.
What ultimately was acheived by the teleconference I can not say for sure. I hope they feel more informed about the overall situation, that some of what had been discussed will help in their decision making. That is the best I can wish for. I will continue to remain involved, however marginally that might be. Hopefully the outcome will be something agreeable to everyone, minus any and all legal shouting.