City taxi drivers given 30 days to renew permits

City taxi drivers given 30 days to renew permits

March 4th, 2011 by Pam Sohn in News

According to Topping:

• O'Dell had been driving without a valid driver's license.

• Ledbetter was found at fault for following too closely, and he had been involved in two traffic accidents.

• Brooks was discovered driving a taxi while his city taxi permit was suspended.

Sending a message that it means to get tougher with "crawfishing" taxi companies and drivers, the Chattanooga Transportation/Taxi Board on Thursday set a 30-day deadline for all drivers and companies to submit applications for permit renewals.

J. Bartlett Quinn, chairman of the board, and board attorney Ken Fritz told a roomful of cab drivers they are responsible for staying informed about requirements for driving a taxi and for meeting those rules.

"There is a whole lot of crawfishing here [about who knows what and when]," Quinn said. "This board will no longer allow this to go unaddressed."

On Thursday, the board approved a motion that any driver who doesn't submit a complete permit application within 30 days will be suspended.

During the meeting, Quinn questioned city taxi inspector Chuck Topping about the response to a city ordinance passed last year that requires all drivers to apply each year for a one-year permit.

The permit application requires cabbies to give their traffic and criminal histories, which helps Topping and the board make sure they have valid driver's licenses and no serious pending criminal charges.

Topping said he's seen few renewal applications so far because many drivers seem to think they fall under an older requirement that doesn't call for yearly renewals.

"I'm having to start from scratch, telling everyone they have to reapply," Topping said.

In recent checks of about 75 of the city's 300-plus drivers, about 20 percent have no valid license or have criminal histories the board must review, Topping has said.

The city's former taxi inspector, Guy Satterfield, addressed the board to defend himself and the drivers who have not sought permit renewals.

Many drivers believed that, if they already had a permit, they would be grandfathered in to the city's new law, he said.

"The new ordinance says they have to have a permit but, as usual, like a lot of things in the city, it got put off," Satterfield said.

In other business, the board revoked the taxi-driving privileges of three drivers: Winston Andrew O'Dell, Andrew Ledbetter and Dean Brooks.