Cabbie Saeed Ahmed says his fleet bosses overcharged him on lease fees.
It’s hard enough being a cabbie in New York City. The last thing you need is a greedy garage or fleet operator ripping you off.
Take Saeed Ahmed, 33, a married father of three young children.
Ahmed starts work at 5 p.m. and heads home at 5 a.m. when many of us are still at least an hour away from our first cup of coffee.
After expenses, after working a 12-hour overnight shift, Ahmed on average has about $130 left in his pocket.
He has to pay the garage for use of the car and fill up the tank with gas.
Working for a living ain’t cheap.
“If you are driving a cab, you can pay your expenses and live in New York City,” he said. “You can’t save. You can live and support your family and that’s it.”
Ahmed, a cabbie for 13 years, signed up last October with a Manhattan garage, Style Management, which is a ridiculously glossy name for a pretty gritty business.
The city Taxi and Limousine Commission sets maximum limits on what fleets can charge drivers to lease a taxi. Style Management, however, apparently had its own rate card. It charged Ahmed $167 more per week than permitted, Ahmed said. “I told them they were charging too much,” Ahmed said. “They told me, ‘That’s what we charge and if you don’t want to drive, just leave.’”
Ahmed isn’t just supporting his wife and kids, but his parents as well. They all share a two-bedroom apartment in Staten Island.
His father also was a cab driver. But bouncing from pothole to pothole in a Ford Crown Victoria for 15 years wrecked his back. He underwent extensive back surgery and had to retire.
“I had to quit college when this tragedy happened to my father,” Ahmed said. “I had to support my family. I had responsibilities.”
Not surprisingly, Ahmed was pretty angry about being overcharged. After two weeks, he quit and went to another garage. He also filed a complaint.
Style Management pleaded guilty to overcharging, paid a $500 fine and reimbursed Ahmed $334, the TLC said.
The good news is TLC enforcement has resulted in shady operators returning to drivers more than $42,000 in lease-cap overcharges and paying about $110,000 in fines, the agency said. The bad news is the TLC only formed the lease-cap enforcement unit a little over a year ago — and it only has one staffer.
The TLC spends a lot of time and manpower cracking down on cabbies who might be breaking any of its long litany of rules. It has hundreds of inspectors slapping drivers with tickets every day for everything and anything, including talking on a cellphone even if it’s with a hands-free headset. Surely it can assign more than one person to stand up for drivers.
By Pete Donahue