Many Las Vegas cab drivers ripped off passengers to the tune of at least $15 million last year by "long hauling" -- taking roundabout routes to run up fares, a Nevada report concluded.
About a quarter of the trips to and from the desert city’s airport were too long. In some cases, the fare was more than double what it could have been if drivers took the most direct route, according to a Nevada Legislative Auditor’s report issued this week.
However, a major taxicab company is disputing the report, saying its conclusions are faulty and auditors failed to take into account the complexities of real-life situations. For example, the shortest route might not be the fastest route, especially if it passes through the gridlock zone surrounding the Las Vegas Strip.
Even so, those on either side of the issue agreed that the 10 million Southern Californians who flock to Sin City every year and make up more than a quarter of its tourists should be aware of the shady practice of long hauling.
The report suggested that long hauling could be even more widespread -- the auditor only looked at rides starting or ending at McCarran International Airport. A closer look at about 300 trips between the airport and a specific resort area showed some cab drivers turned $17 jaunts into $40 journeys, the report said.
The report placed some of the blame on Nevada’s Taxicab Authority, an agency that regulates the state’s taxicab industry, which gave nearly 27 million rides last year.
A Taxicab Authority spokeswoman said the report was helpful in that it pointed out some problems.
"In some cases, existing policies and procedures were not being followed," said Teri Williams, spokeswoman for the Taxicab Authority.
However, she said there were some discrepancies the audit didn’t address.
"There have been questions that have been raised (regarding the validity of the audit’s conclusions), and those questions might be valid," she said.
Bill Shranko, the chief operating officer of taxicab company Yellow Checker Star Transportation, told NBC4 he believed the report was entirely unfair.
"What they did is that they defamed all of the 9,000 drivers that drive out here in the entire cab industry," Shranko said. "They acted as the judge, jury and executioner."
The auditor’s report couldn’t have been accurate because the auditors weren’t inside the taxis to hear any conversation between the driver and the passenger, Shranko said. Drivers are supposed to ask passengers if they want to go the fastest way or the shortest way, if there’s a difference.
The shorter way, if it goes through heavy traffic, could end up costing even more money than the fastest way because the meter ticks away at $30 an hour.
Shranko said long hauling does happen but not nearly as often as the report claimed. His company, which has 1,700 drivers and is the second-largest taxi company in Las Vegas, receives about 15 long-hauling complaints each month, he said.
He offered some tips to tourists who plan to hail a cab.
"Whenever they get into any cab in the airport, make sure they know the price and route of travel they’re taking, and always (remember) it’s their choice," Shranko said.
Below is a report from NBC3 in Las Vegas.