BROWARD COUNTY

Cab drivers stage protest at Fort Lauderdale airport over safety cameras

 

cteproff@MiamiHerald.com

A protest at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport by taxi drivers upset with technology installed into their cabs that monitors problem driving ended with two drivers being arrested, and several passengers looking for other modes of transportation.

“We have to stand up for our rights,” said Davincy Metayer, 50, who has been driving a cab for 15 years and works for Yellow Cab. “We can’t make a living like this.”

As news of the protest traveled, taxi drivers across Broward County gathered at the airport about 8 a.m. Wednesday, but refused to pick up fares from the dispatcher.

Although the protest was peaceful, police arrived after 10 a.m. when two taxi drivers blocked the entrance to the lot on Perimeter Road, said Broward Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Keyla Concepcion. Tow trucks were called to move the vehicles, and when the trucks arrived, the drivers laid in front of the trucks blocking them from removing their cars.

“There is no problem with peaceful protests, but blocking the way of traffic for the cab drivers who don’t want to participate created a problem,” she said.

Those drivers were arrested, but their names and the charges they face are unknown.

John Camillo, president and CEO of B&L Service Inc., which operates Yellow Cab of Broward County, said the protests originated from two drivers who became unhappy after the company installed DriveCam technology in all 547 of its cars.

The DriveCam cameras are equipped with a GPS device, video recorder and cell modem that transmit information to DriveCam.com. They were installed in the Yellow Cab cars at the beginning of February after a test group used them in December.

They detect deceleration and braking, excessive acceleration, going around corners at high speeds, going quickly over speed bumps and other problematic “events.” Video of these events is transmitted to professionals at DriveCam, who analyze it and identify risky driving.

One of the upset drivers was involved in a rear-end accident and two more events that indicated he was not paying attention, Camillo said. Despite going through Yellow Cab’s free internal coaching sessions, he was not showing signs of improvement. That’s when Camillo suggested he attend a National Safety Council class, which costs $100, as an alternative to giving up his job at Yellow Cab.

But the driver became incensed, Camillo said.

The other unhappy driver also has a spotty driving history, including a time when he covered up his in-car camera and “threw his keys on the table,” Camillo said.

Camillo said the technology and services for DriveCam will cost his company almost half a million dollars each year. But it’s all in the name of public safety.

“I’m guilty of wanting them to be safe drivers, to go home to their families and not be hurt, and not having them hurt other people,” Camillo said. “I’m guilty of all those things.”

But drivers have a different account.

“We can’t even use our brakes,” said Wilson Charles, 38, who recently completed the 8-hour National Safety Council class.

Ithamar Matador, who took part in Wednesday’s protest, said he one of two cab drivers who were brought into the Yellow Cab office Tuesday after his red light activated. He said he was taking a fare from the airport when he slammed on his breaks after a car cut in front of him, avoiding an accident.

He was given two options; “They told me I can either pay $100 for the course or hand over my keys.”

“I handed over my keys,” said Matador, 38, who has been driving a cab since 2003, adding that with that kind of light system he, and other drivers, would be called in every week. “I can’t afford that.”

Some cab drivers pay as much as $585 a week to drive their cab, they said. They also have to pay $3.50 per fare from the airport, which is up from $2 last year, they said. They also have to pay $1 for every time someone pays with a credit card.

Most drivers say they work seven days a week and about 15 to 18 hours a day. After all the fees, they say there is little left for them to take care of their families.

Greg Meyer, the spokesman for the airport, said Wednesday’s protest did not have a huge impact on travelers.

Instead of the cabs being dispatched from the holding lot, they were sent directly to the airport Meyer said. He said normal service returned at about 1 p.m.

Read more Broward stories from the Miami Herald

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