DRIVER’S SEAT: Michael A. Tartaglione founded Corporate Transportation in Providence with one vehicle and one driver – himself. Above, Valerie Viens, assistant general manager of Corporate Transportation, dispatches vehicles.
Michael A. Tartaglione has lived a familiar version of the American dream, working long, hard hours in Rhode Island’s taxi industry while starting at the bottom in 1976. Now he owns the place.
“In 1984, I bought my first [car] unit and kept it for a number of years. “I worked at a number of other places until I realized that I would like to have my own business,” he said. “In 1998 that’s what I did: one car and one driver.”
Corporate Transportation Inc. has two divisions, the sedan and the taxi services.
The sedan division specializes in intermodal transportation, giving passengers a ride to the airport, train and bus station. It accounts for about 75 percent of the company’s income.
He said business has been “OK,” due in part to an economy he hopes will rebound. Cars are bought every 12-18 months and are usually driven in excess of 100,000 miles before it’s time for a new vehicle. Due to mileage constraints, vehicles need to be purchased and not leased.
“Unfortunately we are a convenience and not a necessity. What we try do is that when things get a little slow, I try to do a little more advertising,” he said.
The service is open all day on weekends and holidays. “The only time we close is when weather conditions do not permit us to travel,” Tartaglione said.
As for the perception that driving a taxi is dangerous, nothing could be further from the truth, according to Tartaglione. “That’s a rarity,” he said of drivers being put in dangerous situations.
He says his taxi drivers are independent contractors who usually speak English as a second language. “These are good people that need to make a living but because of that [language] barrier are limited in their ability to apply for other jobs,” he said.
The company is regulated by the state’s Public Utilities Commission’s Motor Carrier Division.
“The PUC wants to work with us, they want to keep us in business,” he said. “They also need guidelines for those companies that don’t follow the rules. They also need some enforcement so that everyone complies with them.”
For example, all employees except cab drivers must be paid as a staff member, not a contractor. According to Tartaglione, some companies don’t follow that regulation. “I have figured that doing business the correct way costs me about $150,000 per year more than my competitors,” he said. “Anyone with a public [license] plate needs to be an employee.” That usually means vehicle drivers, managers, marketers and administrative positions.