OCEAN CITY – Local taxi drivers received some relief in the face of rising gas prices last Thursday, when the Police Commission voted unanimously to add a $1 fuel surcharge per trip through November.
Only recently are gas prices showing signs of leveling out, but after months of skyrocketing prices and uncertainty regarding the future of the prices at the pump, taxi drivers remained concerned about the rising cost of operating their businesses.
In response to the concern, nearly 25 taxi cab drivers and owners gathered at last Thursday’s Police Commission meeting, seeking any sort of help, from an increase in fares to a fuel surcharge.
Large cities, such as Atlanta and Philadelphia, currently allow a 40-cent and 50-cent fuel charge, respectively.
In 2007, a fuel surcharge was approved in Annapolis to go into affect when gas prices exceeded $3.50. The fuel surcharge now stands at 50 cents for trips within Annapolis and $1 within Anne Arundel County.
Montgomery County and Frederick County are currently allowing temporary fuel surcharges as well. Montgomery County recently approved a $1.50 temporary surcharge through Aug. 27, while Frederick County approved an optional, 90-day temporary surcharge.
Local taxi drivers varied in opinions at Thursday’s meeting, but most agreed that some assistance was needed, with many pointing out that fares in Ocean City had not been increased since 2006.
In 2006, the town passed an ordinance setting taxicab fares at $2 per mile, with an initial fee of $3.
Several suggestions were mulled over at Thursday’s meeting, ranging from an increase in rates to the addition of fuel surcharges via meter to one set fuel surcharge, to be enforced uniformly.
The commission, as well as many of the drivers present, agreed that allowing drivers to add a fuel surcharge, via meter, at their own discretion could cause increased fees and dishonesty.
The commission noted that increasing fares mid-summer would be too cumbersome.
Another option, to add a set fuel surcharge of $1, to be posted on taxi windows and reinforced with a certified letter from the town, gained the most concurrence.
“I like the idea – and that was my thought – do a fuel surcharge and not adjust the meter,” said Council member Jay Hancock.
“I certainly think it’s time to adjust this,” agreed Mayor Rick Meehan.
Some taxi drivers remained hesitant however, suggesting that the additional $1 would only be deducted from their tip.
“Everybody is affected by the price of gas. I think everybody is sympathetic to that today,” said Meehan.
Other drivers wanted assurance that the extra dollar would go the drivers, who are generally charged with filling the tank, rather than to the company.
“I don’t want to get into dictating how somebody runs their company,” said Council member Lloyd Martin.
The commission agreed to pass an emergency ordinance, allowing for the $1 fuel surcharge per trip, through November. A sticker must be displayed on the taxicab in order to charge the additional fee. A certified letter from the town will also be provided to each driver, to be available to customers questioning the surcharge.