EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 17, 2013

Council renews cab licenses, but admonishes owners

Warn companies about drivers' actions

By Keith Eddings

---- — LAWRENCE — City Council renewed the licenses of eight of the city’s 11 cab and livery companies last night, but first scolded their owners about what councilors called rude and reckless drivers.

“I’m glad so many owners are here tonight so that they can hear (our) message and bring it back to their drivers,” Councilor Eileen Bernal told the owners after describing a driver who regularly travels on her South Lawrence street, makes a U-turn at the corner and pulls up to a house to pick up a passenger — sounding his horn all the way.

“Ninety percent are doing the right thing,’’ Bernal said. “They need to lean on the other 10 percent.’’

Councilors unanimously renewed the licenses last night. Two weeks ago, councilors delayed the renewals so the owners could be summoned to last night’s meeting to discuss complaints about the way their 150 drivers cover the city. Seven owners and two drivers attended the meeting, but on the advice of police Lt. Shawn Conway, who serves in a special unit that oversees the cab companies and licenses their drivers, none spoke.

Speaking for them, Conway said the owners respond quickly when they’re called into police headquarters to address complaints, then suggested why.

“If somebody comes in and complains about a rude and discourteous driver, we immediately suspend the (driver’s) license pending the outcome of an investigation,’’ Conway said. “We’ve done that.’’

Before the meeting, Councilor Sandy Almonte said all the owners and their drivers should be required to sign a document outlining the rules of the road.

Sitting in a front row of the audience as Almonte spoke, one owner waved a similar list of rules, which included several pages of cab drivers’ signatures. Almonte said another owner provided her with a similar form that he said he distributes to new drivers at orientations.

Almonte said the form includes instructions to stop at stop signs and red lights and for stopped school buses, to yield to emergency vehicles and to respect passengers. The document also tells drivers not to throw trash out their windows or to lean on their horns or stop in the middle of the street to pick up passengers, Almonte said.

“I’d add another one,’’ Almonte said. “Don’t discharge passengers on the (street) side of your vehicle.’’

Instead, she said drivers should let passengers out at the curb.

Almonte added that passengers often create problems of their own. “We need to reiterate what everybody’s responsibility is,’’ Almonte said. “It’s also the responsibility of the people who call (to be picked up). Don’t go do your hair or eat your breakfast (while the driver waits outside). Be at your window, at your door, so you don’t stress the driver when he gets there.’’

In all, 380 men and women are licensed to drive for the city’s 11 companies. Licenses for eight companies were due to expire or already had as of last night. Licenses held by three companies are due to expire over the next year.

To report a rude or reckless cab driver, call Police Lt. Shawn Conway at 978-794-5900 or email him at sconway@lawpd.com.