Germantown Cab taxis return to streets, sides still split on safety issues and background checks [updated]

 Thanks to a Monday agreement with the PPA, Germantown Cab Co. taxis are clear to return to city streets -- for the time being. (Image courtesy of NBC10)

Thanks to a Monday agreement with the PPA, Germantown Cab Co. taxis are clear to return to city streets -- for the time being. (Image courtesy of NBC10)

Update: Germantown Cab Co.’s response to the initial version of this story appears at the bottom of the page.

More than 170 Germantown Cab Co. taxis were cleared to return to Philadelphia streets on Monday after a regulatory hearing which set an Aug. 28 deadline for, among other things, paying outstanding debts and providing regulators with the results of criminal-background checks.

Bill Schmid, deputy director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s taxicab and limousine division, told NewsWorks that the regulatory hearing before Common Pleas Court Judge Sheldon C. Jelin resulted in an agreement between the PPA and Germantown Cab.

The cab company was instructed to complete all safety-inspection filings and settle its $8,225 penalty balance by Aug. 28.

PPA claimed the agreement also held that Germantown Cab Co. must provide all driver criminal-history records “within five days of receipt” from a variety of law-enforcement entities.

(Update: Germantown Cab Co. responded on Tuesday that this was an inaccurate representation of Monday’s hearing, and that “the hearing did not involve safety issues, only the issue of some outstanding contested fines and updating the criminal history of management, none of whom are drivers,” according to attorney Zachary L. Grayson.)

Of that balance, $2,000 must be paid within 48 hours. The company is also required to settle $4,671 in parking tickets with the city.

“The ultimate goal is public safety,” Schmid said. “We need to know what the cars are, the tags, who’s driving them and that they’re in compliance with all the regulations.”

Monday’s hearing came three days after Germantown Cab Co. General Manager Joseph Gabbay told the Inquirer that he was pulling 200 drivers off the road on account of the PPA’s threat of impounding the vehicles due to safety concerns.

Nobody answered the phone at Germantown Cab Co. on Monday afternoon.

Calls to an attorney who represented them in ongoing legal skirmishes regarding whether the company was overseen by the Public Utility Commission (as GCC believes) or the PPA (as the authority believes) were not immediately returned.

Updated with Germantown Cab. Co response

Providing a copy of the company’s complaint (PDF), attorney Zachary L. Grayson maintained that PPA’s version of events was not entirely accurate.

“There was no agreement or Order to have criminal background checks for drivers,” he wrote, noting that only a trio of recently submitted background checks would be updated.

“The PPA put Germantown and its drivers out of service over a few thousand dollars in fines and fees which are being protested,” he continued, “and for using a [handwritten rather than printed form … There were no safety matters at issue.”

Grayson will provide NewsWorks with a transcript of the hearing “as soon as I receive it.”

“Scores of Germantown’s cabs were just inspected by the PUC and, with the exception of replacing a few light bulbs, which was down on the spot, the PUC found no defects, safety or otherwise, related to Germantown’s cabs,” Grayson said Tuesday.

“Indeed, the only Germantown Cab chosen and subjected by the PPA to a fine tooth comb inspection just this week passed with flying colors, having no defects or safety issues whatsoever,” he continued. “This has never been about safety issues.

“Germantown is compliant with all PUC regulations and is a safe carrier which always places the safety of the public above all else. Each of its drivers meet the requirements imposed upon drivers throughout the state and each driver’s are subjected to a criminal history check.”

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