GCLA in LA: Illegal Ops Trouble Industry

Posted on June 13, 2008 by LCT Magazine

One of the leading concerns among operators at the June Greater California Livery Association meeting near LAX is the prevalence of illegal operators in California. One operator along the Central Coast reported counting about 25 illegal limousine and sedan operators in his local phone book.

The GCLA's featured speaker, Richard Clark, director of the consumer protection and safety division at the California Public Utilities Commission, explained state efforts to crackdown on illegal operators. Since Jan. 1, Clark said the agency has focused on sting operations at airports from San Diego to Sacramento. His staff so far has netted 118 citations, caught 84 unlicensed operators, spotted 44 chauffeurs soliciting rides like cabs, impounded 69 vehicles, and generated 42 criminal prosecutions.

Clark oversees a staff of 200, with about 10 percent focused on licensing and enforcement in the limousine and chauffeured transportation industry sector.

"We are committed to leveling the playing field," Clark said. "We want to hear your voice. You should have a voice in any changes."

"There are so many bandits endangering the lives of people not looking out for those limousine companies that are unlicensed," Clark added.

"My folks are out there kicking the tires so to speak," Clark said. "We need to look at how the limousine industry is regulated in California. Your organizations will be involved in how that is done," he told association members.

While Clark was sincere and accommodating in explaining such efforts, some operators at the meeting voiced recurring frustrations with the prevalence of illegal operators and the inability to catch most of them. Legal operators pay hefty taxes and fees, follow cumbersome rules, pay for insurance, respect traffic laws, and abide by airport access regulations, yet are undercut by low-priced illegal operators who fly under the radar. What's more, many legal, above-board operators at times become the target of scrutiny and enforcement that they believe could be better directed against busting illegal activity.

Until associations and the PUC work out more streamlined rules and enforcement, GCLA vice president Jonna Sabroff, owner of International Transportation Service (ITS) of Culver City, urged frustrated operators to cooperate with PUC enforcers, since the agency obviously does not have enough manpower to police the entire state.

In reporting illegal operators, Sabroff said, "call the GCLA and we will take the information, organize it, and send it to the PUC. We will act like switchboard operators and will take it forward." She asked operators to fight back with information, pictures, and any evidence that can be forwarded to the PUC. "We can't all just starting calling Rich. We can organize ourselves and get our areas cleaned up."

"The better case you can put together, the tighter it is."

-- posted by Martin Romjue

To reach the GCLA:

Greater California Livery Association
8726 South Sepulveda Blvd., No. 2317
Los Angeles, CA 90045-0082
fax: 310-943-6582
E-mail: info@gcla.org
Web site: www.gcla.org
President: Alan Shanedling

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