Cab drivers want to raise fares

File photo

March 7, 2011 4:53:04 PM PST
Skyrocketing gasoline prices are hurting many drivers at the pump, but they're especially tough on people whose business depends on their vehicles. Taxi drivers say their bottom line has taken a big hit and Houston city regulations limit what they can do offset those costs. They're hoping implementation of a little known surcharge will help keep them in the black.

Every time Byron White cranks the engine on his cab, the sound reminds him of the recent surge in gas prices.

"The profit is being taken away from us pretty much with the fuel going up," said White. "So it is kinda frustrating."

It's frustrating, he says, because the city of Houston limits what he can charge a passenger. But help could be on the way.

"These cab drivers are just going from hand to mouth right now with these high gas prices," said Houston Councilmember Mike Sullivan.

According to city code though, cab drivers can add a 50 cent fuel surcharge to rates when the average price of gas rises above $3 per gallon over a three-month period. When gas hits $3.51 to $4 dollars, that fee goes up to a dollar and an additional 50 cent surcharge can be tacked for every 50-cent increase in gas price from there.

Some support it.

"Well, because I figure they're trying to make a living, too," said one traveler with whom we spoke.

Others don't.

"Everybody's cost of business is going up, so should everybody start adding on surcharges?" asked traveler Chris Walmer.

But here's the kicker. AAA says over the last three months, the price of gas has not yet averaged three dollars, averaging $2.94, which is not high enough to allow for the surcharge, leaving cab drivers with no help -- yet.

If gas prices remain above $3 for a few more days, that surcharge would likely be implemented. It could be just enough to push that three-month gas price average over the $3 mark. If that happens, the additional fees would be effective April 1.