USA’s owner, George Summers, showed the Globe records that he bought the vehicles between April and June 2009.
“My position is, I should be entitled to charge the $18 for the full four years after I bought the cars,’’ Summers said.
Asked about the city’s failure to protect drivers from the overcharges, Mark Cohen, the police licensing director who oversees the hackney unit, cited the written notice his staff distributed to fleet owners. “We were proactive,’’ he said.
Beyond that, Cohen challenged the Globe to deliver the police a victim.
“Why don’t you bring us one?’’ he said.
Arthur Rose, a drivers’ union activist who began driving a Boston taxi in the 1970s after he returned from the Vietnam War, said Cohen issued a similar challenge to him when he complained in February about rampant overcharging in the industry. Rose said cabbies are fed up with Cohen asking them to bring him victims rather than directing hackney police to investigate their allegations.
The day after Cohen issued his challenge to the Globe, the hackney unit’s history of lax oversight came into sharper relief when the State Police acted on allegations of corruption in the Boston taxi industry. On Feb. 12, State Police arrested five taxi controllers at Logan Airport on charges they took bribes from cabdrivers they were responsible for regulating. Why, Rose wondered, did Cohen and the Boston hackney police not launch similar investigations in the city’s taxi garages?
Before Rose stopped cab driving last month to receive treatment for an illness possibly related to his military service, he worked seven days a week, 12 hours a day, and made, by his accounting, about $24,000 a year.
In his last 18 months as a Boston cabbie, he rented a taxi by the week from Yefim Teperman, whose son, Semyon, went to prison in 2006 for racketeering and money laundering in connection with bribing of a Boston police hackney clerk.
Rose said Teperman overcharged him $90 a week in part by requiring him to pay weekly radio dispatch dues out of his pocket — a violation of city regulations — to the Independent Taxi Owners Association.
Rose accepted Teperman’s excesses, he said, because his union activism had gotten him blackballed from other cab companies. But he finally decided to fight back, he said, after Cohen’s latest challenge to produce a victim.
Rose reported Teperman’s alleged overcharging. But according to Rose, Cohen simply told him, “That’s your problem.’’
Cohen, through a police spokeswoman, denied making the statement to Rose. And Teperman did not respond to the Globe’s requests to address Rose’s allegation.
For decades, many Boston cabbies drove rattletraps one breakdown shy of the junkyard.
Today, the fleet sparkles — late-model cars patrolling a more robust city, where new fare opportunities abound from the suddenly bustling Seaport District to redeveloped neighborhoods from Jamaica Plain to Charlestown.
But driver safety remains a concern. Although a Boston cabbie has not been killed since the 1990s, when five were slain on the job, the city’s taxi drivers continue to die and suffer crippling injuries in road crashes.
Two Boston cabbies and a passenger have been killed since 2007 in separate accidents in Somerville. In 2005, a Boston taxi driver died when he was struck by a motorist while he was trying to help a cabbie whose taxi had broken down on the Massachusetts Avenue bridge.
Two other cabdrivers lost their legs when careless colleagues lost control of their taxis in the loading lanes at Logan.
While none of those incidents was directly attributed to driver fatigue, the issue is a daily concern for industry activists. Boston police allow cabbies to rent taxis for 24-hour periods, known as iron shifts, which can test a driver’s stamina.
In a 2012 poll of transportation workers by the National Sleep Foundation, 7 percent of taxi, limousine, and bus drivers said they had committed a serious error because of fatigue. Three percent said they had been involved in accidents because of it.
Ramon Calvo, who drives a Brookline cab after his Boston license was suspended last year over an alleged credit card violation, knows the feeling. He said that as a Boston cabbie he occasionally veered off the road with passengers while dozing at the wheel.
“Fortunately, I woke up a lot of times just before I got in an accident,’’ he said.
Other times, Calvo said, he fell asleep at red lights.
“I was embarrassed,” he said, “when a passenger would have to tell me it’s green.’’ Continued...