Border Wars Highlight Issue Of Reciprocity

Denis Wilson
Posted on July 9, 2013

If you give, you should get. And if you get, you should give. That’s the most basic definition of reciprocity, the term used to describe the standing agreement that allows limousine companies licensed in one area to operate in a limited way in another area.
Although “reciprocity” isn’t a very sexy term, it is an important standard. Throughout history, reciprocity has been an organizing force for society. We band together in groups with those we have mutually beneficial relationships with. Reciprocity leads to social cohesion. It keeps the peace.
I’ve got the first round, if you’ve got the second. Isn’t reciprocity great?

When it comes to business and interstate commerce, the same principles apply. Reciprocity in the limousine industry is possible because of federal and state laws which have helped eliminate (in part, at least) a tribal mentality between states and between municipalities.

But recently, the basic principle of reciprocity — and the laws mandating it — have come under fire in the New York City metropolitan area. Specifically, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has been seizing vehicles of operators in New Jersey, as well as those in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, based on what many say are unfounded claims of illegal point-to-point service within New York City. It’s been a point of focus for both the Limousine Associations of New Jersey (LANJ) and the Long Island Limousine Association (LILA).
In 2002, President Bush signed The Real Interstate Drivers’ Equity Act (RIDE) into law, establishing interstate reciprocity. The RIDE Act prohibits a state or licensing jurisdiction, other than the home licensing state or jurisdiction, from enacting or enforcing any law, rule or regulation requiring a license or fee on a motor vehicle that is providing pre-arranged interstate ground transportation service, as long as it meets certain requirements.
In basic terms, a New Jersey company can legally make trips across the border into New York City, without having to register with the NYCTLC, as long as it doesn’t conduct point-to-point trips within New York City. The victory for the industry was that operators were protected from many of the unreasonable fees and levies which airports and regulatory agencies try to assess.
Similar agreements exist between municipalities or licensing jurisdictions within states. New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 498 established reciprocity for inter-jurisdictional trips.

Unfortunately, reciprocity agreements are being ignored and/or misunderstood and operators are paying the price.

LANJ executive director Barry Lefkowitz said the current state of affairs reminds him of the pre-RIDE Act days. “The whole reason why the RIDE Act originally came about was because New York City was one of the most blatant violators of interstate rights. What’s sad is that there is supposed to be reciprocity between New York and New Jersey. New Jersey does not harass, does not seize vehicles and has attempted to honor New York law. Yet it’s not reciprocated.”

Jason Sharenow, COO and director of operations for Broadway Elite of East Hanover, N.J., has had eight chauffeured vehicles seized by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Jason Sharenow, COO and director of operations for Broadway Elite of East Hanover, N.J., has had eight chauffeured vehicles seized by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Jason Sharenow, COO and director of operations for Broadway Elite Chauffeured Services Worldwide of East Hanover, N.J., has had eight cars seized by the TLC during the past six months for doing interstate work that is legal according to the RIDE Act. “No question in my mind they are intentionally violating the agreement,” Sharenow said. “They have stepped up an aggressive enforcement against the entire limousine industry. The agents that are stopping the cars, using their ‘gestapo’ tactics, are basically saying, ‘I don’t care, tell it to the judge and he can dismiss it if he wants.’”
One could surmise that an intermediate stop and drop off within New York may appear to be a point-to-point trip. However, TLC agents are making many seizures based only on this prima facie evidence. The problem with this shoot-now-ask-questions-later approach is that it puts undue financial burden on operators conducting legal business.
Some feel that’s exactly the plan — that the TLC is seizing vehicles unlawfully in the hope that operators will settle the issue by paying fees instead of incurring the greater costs of contesting the seizure and loss of vehicle use.

Several LILA operators claim their chauffeurs have been unfairly stopped and intimidated by TLC officers based on unfounded claims of illegal point-to-point service within New York City. Second vice president Matt Silver of Ultimate Class Limousines has had two vehicles impounded by the NYCTLC.
LILA plans to investigate what legal options it may have to contest TLC seizures and assert operators’ rights when dealing with TLC officers.

For its part, LANJ sees the case Sharenow is fighting as central to ensuring reciprocity agreements are not eroded. “We need to get a ruling from the TLC on my matter so it becomes a template going forward. This has a very wide reach. It affects thousands of cars that go in and out of New York City on a daily basis.”

Related Topics: Barry Lefkowitz, LANJ, long island limousine association, New Jersey operators, New York operators, New York Taxi & Limousine Commission, regulatory enforcement, state regulations

Comments ( 3 )
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  • Eric

     | about 6 years ago

    Don't forget the Westchester TLC! Ridiculous!

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