VEGAS INC coverage
Too little too late.
By the time the Nevada Taxicab Authority finally restarted the conversation about illegal long-hauling of customers, it was too late for the board to recommend changes in the law to the current Legislature.
The best the board could hope for was submitting bill drafts for the 2013 session, members concluded.
Long-hauling, the practice of taking customers on longer rides to generate higher fares, gives the cab industry its biggest black eye.
During its recent strategy session, board members talked about how to more severely penalize drivers who are caught long-hauling.
Watchdog groups have generated documentation over time showing that some cabdrivers take passengers unfamiliar with the city’s geography for costly rides. Many allegations involve rides to the Las Vegas Strip from McCarran International Airport via the airport tunnel, a route that adds a few miles to the trip.
The statutes say the Taxicab Authority administrators can impose fines and suspensions for drivers caught long-hauling. The law spells out what can happen to a driver with up to five offenses, starting with a $100 fine and a warning for the first incident up to a $500 fine and license revocation for the fifth. Other penalties fall in between with progressively higher fines and days of suspension.
When the taxi industry commented on what could be done, one company official called for a $500 fine for the first offense. But another company exec said a $500 fine would amount to a “death sentence” for a driver.
Other circumstances play into the debate about how to deal with long-hauling.
The statute says a driver can’t take a customer on a longer route “unless specifically requested so to do by the passenger.” That phrase opens the door to a number of other possibilities. Can a driver who knows the traffic conditions recommend to the customer that he drive a longer route so that they arrive at the destination faster? Most concur that drivers should be allowed to make the recommendation, but should still comply with what the customer wants.
How should long-hauling be enforced? With about 3,000 cabs and 9,000 drivers to regulate, many suggest that the Taxicab Authority’s minuscule police force of 25 working 24/7 should focus on more important matters. Besides, if an officer stops a cab with a driver suspected of long-hauling, would the passenger take the time to fill out the paperwork necessary for such a complaint? Most people getting out of cabs in Las Vegas just want to get to their destinations and don’t want to spend time giving statements to police.
Should cameras be mounted in the airport tunnel to record the numbers of cabs so that they can be checked against trip sheets? Even with that technology, it would be an administrative challenge to contact passengers after their trips about whether they were cheated.
Another circumstance to consider: Some drivers have alleged that they’re compelled to long-haul because their company bosses demand revenue production. They argue that cab company owners have some responsibility because of the revenue quotas they require.
When the board’s discussion ended, the group decided to let its new administrator, former stimulus director to Gov. Brian Sandoval and Assistant Clark County Recorder Charles Harvey, develop a proposal for future board consideration.
Here’s an idea: Rewrite the rules so cab companies—not drivers—are penalized for long-hauling incidents. Make it a big fine—maybe $10,000 reduced to $5,000 if the driver is fired in the process.
Don’t you think companies would get a lot more serious about preventing long-hauling if it was going to hit them in the bank account?
There’s no doubt companies would have to modify their union agreements, but I’d think both sides would like to see a guilty employee fired for the first offense if that driver cost the company several thousand dollars in fines.
Maybe then, the unsavory practice of cheating our guests would end and the bad drivers who sully the reputation of the good ones will be sent packing.