Archived Story

City: Cab owner must comply

Published 11:04am Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A showdown between the city of Fergus Falls and Drivers on Call moved closer this morning when the public works and safety committee chose not to extend a variance to the city’s taxicab services while the city considers ordinance changes proposed by Drivers on Call owner Bob Bergh.

“He’s had a full year to come in and go through this with us,” said alderman Jim Fish, who is not on the committee but was present at the meeting. “Year after year, it’s down to the last doggone minute.”

Bergh declined to appear in front of the committee, choosing instead to send the city a letter spelling out his problems with the current city cab rules.

The reason Bergh opted to write a letter instead of addressing the committee is to get all of his complaints out in clear language, he said.

“I decided to do everything with this method so that everyone knows what’s going on,” he said. “I want everyone to know the facts.”

While Bergh told The Journal he’s open to coming to an understanding with the city, he restated his commitment to not obtain MnDOT-approved physicals from his drivers and said he won’t let the likely lapse of his cab license in the city keep Drivers on Call off the roads.

“I have no intentions of shutting down at the first of the year,” Bergh said. “I have commitments to my people and I shall continue with them.”

Some committee members (and other alderman) sympathized with some of Bergh’s complaints, particularly about the MnDOT physicals. Bergh became particularly unhappy with the physical process after he learned that one of his drivers was able to put false information into the document – making the physical relatively worthless, in his opinion. He also complained that the physical process does not include drug screening.

“I think we can drop the MnDOT requirements and do our own local physicals and (drug screenings),” said Mayor Hal Leland.

However, no council member wanted to cut Bergh slack on doing the physicals for his 2012 license, saying that if Bergh wanted to avoid penalties, he should have brought his concerns to the council earlier.

“I don’t want him to feel like he can’t bring his concern to us … but the law is the law is the law right now,” said Alderman Jay Cichosz.

Bergh has a few ideas about how to keep his cabs running after Jan. 1, the day his license will lapse if he doesn’t submit the necessary paperwork to the city. One plan is to make the company a private transportation business, requiring riders to have free “memberships” in order to ride (a plan that still might face city scrutiny). He added that he might take legal action against the city if it goes after Drivers on Call drivers.

Though Bergh would prefer that the city throw out its cab ordinance entirely, he would be happy if the city evaluated the ordinance from the top down and completely rewrote it with more modern sensibilities. Parts of it are hard to understand or hard to comply with, he said, adding that the amendments made to the ordinance have not helped the decades-old document age well.

“I’m not a professional writer,” he said of his ability to understand the ordinance. “I’m just trying to operate a business.”

  • holly

    Commercial truck drivers need to pass a physical for the D.O.T. They screen for poor vision, diabetes, high blood pressure, illegal drug use, and cardiac insufficiency. Why wouldn’t we want drivers who haul people to show that they are just as healthy as those who haul merchandise?

    • Gene

      What about any and all drivers, commercial or non commercial; where does all this government regulation stop? Illegal drug use is only screened under “General Appearance” with regard to the 2 year medical certificate; and though not in this thread, my physical cost $183 in Fergus Falls.

      • AFMama

        $183 for preventative health care, not too bad of a price. Now, what if ambulance drivers, school bus drivers, pilots, etc all decided to jump on this bandwagon? What this is really coming down to is that there are people out there who don’t like to be told what to do, plain and simple. It is not just about drug use, it is about making sure your drivers aren’t a “ticking time-bomb” when it comes to their health. I’m sure the cab companies cannot afford a law suit from a family if they have a family member hurt or killed in a cab accident because the driver has a heart attack or other fatal medical condition. I’m sure these regulations were in place when these cab companies started, so maybe they should have found another line of work?

        It is a good thing that none of these cab company owners or drivers volunteer for Boy Scouts; they would have to have a physical on file every year to volunteer for the camp outs, etc.

        • Vito

          Most insurances cover expenses from said law suits, if it is determined that the driver wasn’t negligent. Also, why isn’t it an all-or-nothing sort of mindset for requiring drivers to have physicals? A person would think that a commercial driver is just as liable as any other commuter to have health problems on the road. Personally, I think the elderly drivers who drive 5-10mph less than the speed limit because they can’t see more than 30 yards in front of them are more of a risk than the cab drivers are. I like the idea of a physical, but apply it to everyone instead of singling out a few people or don’t do it at all.

          • holly

            “Most insurances cover expenses from said law suits” – that is assuming that they HAVE insurance – today we learn that the cab company does not have insurance. Both of these entities are operating as fly-by-night ventures. They should post signs in each vehicle that say “no physicals, no insurance – we are not competent – ride at your own risk – helmets available”.

          • Vito

            You should also note that they are not operating until they figure the insurance issue out. Do not paint a picture with only half the canvas.

          • holly

            I’m not a painter, but I’ll stand by my assertion that both of these entities are operating as “fly-by-night” ventures. It’s just one thing after another with these guys. Nice to see some competitors finally coming forward – hopefully they can offer a better level of service.

      • Ron H

        I recently paid over $200 dollars for a DOT physical in Fergus Falls. The cost of the same service at Sanford in Whapeton or Fargo is $69.00. I prefer to do business locally but that is a large difference in price for something that is mandated by our wonderful government.

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