Post-Show Debriefing II: Snarks & Snitches

Posted on February 2, 2009 by LCT Magazine

LOOSE LIMO LIPS:. . . There’s a shifting quotient of operators in this industry who go batty when confronted with the publicity about their competitors, former employers or business partners, rivals, ex-lovers, spouses, groupies — you name it. Sometimes I think this industry could use its own Kitty Kelly, or a LimOprah, who can dish the gossip and dirt and then talk about how spats about fleet sizes hurt feelings.

We at LCT have the privilege of receiving and then discarding allegations and gutter sniping that at the end of the day make us guffaw and chortle. We’d never share this inside drama, of course, since we couldn’t afford the legal fees to sustain it.

Vehicle and fleet totals seem to arouse the most venom, sending an otherwise courteous, customer-oriented operator into the vicious, splenetic rage of a teen-age girl who just found out her boyfriend “texted” her best friend. Remember Jan from the Brady Bunch? “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha! It’s always about Marsha!” Well, just sub in the name of a limo company, and you get the idea.

In most cases, the accuser turns out not only to be off the mark, or flat out wrong, but on the brink of some kind of a breakdown, be it legal, criminal, financial, or personal. Most can’t back up what they say, or when they do, selectively use the wrong document or argument.

As a knowledgeable operator kindly explained to us: Fleet totals are moving targets, especially given the constant buying, selling, trading, and mothballing of vehicles by operators as they adjust for customer demand and economic changes.

Insurance records are not reliable, since an operator can rent extra vehicles, declare them on an insurance policy for a set amount of time, and then make it look like the fleet is larger than it is. We even had one hapless operator who tried to prove vehicle fleet size through an “insurance quote.” The insurance company was not even the insurer, but had simply provided a written “what if?” quote for a certain number of vehicles. Talk about desperate.

Ditto for PUC or DMV records in some states; here again, temporarily registered vehicles can always be used to pad the fleet size count. Actual vehicle registrations tend to be the most accurate, but different states maintain varying timelines of the most recent records. And by the time a fleet figure shows up in LCT Magazine, the total could be based on registration records already six months old, and the operators could since then have, say, sold six vehicles, bought three, and borrowed another one from Cousin Vinnie. So what counts?

Our thinking is that a credible fleet consists of: company-owned vehicles, company-leased vehicles, and/or independently contracted vehicles that are used exclusively through your operations. Affiliated vehicles, rented vehicles, and vehicles borrowed for certain events or seasons don’t count.

So let us outline our approach: If you have some solid facts about fleets, send them to us. We love facts. Especially the ones that are on paper and take no prisoners. We’ll do our best to check out fleet totals this year through actual registration records when warranted.

And if you have some gossip, hearsay, or smack-talk, send that, too, but it will end up for our private amusement. -- M.R.

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