Texas Senate Stiffens Penalties for 'Gypsy Operators'

Posted on April 21, 2003 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Senate recently passed legislation stiffening the penalties for operators who do not have proper licensing. The move was prompted by a newly formed task force at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport as part of an overall effort to improve security and passenger safety.

Illegal operators, according to DFW officials, “pose a threat to the traveling public as drivers may or may not be properly insured.”

If it becomes law, the legislation would raise the class of misdemeanor from “C” to “B,” allowing fines of up to $2,000 to be charged and adding the threat of up to six months in jail.

The current law is considered ineffective for thwarting operators: “It has simply become a cost of doing business for the illegal limousine operators,” officials note.

The bill passed the Senate. As of mid-April, it was still “pending before the House Transportation Committee,” added Barbara Pack, DFW public affairs coordinator for DFW.

Already, the newly formed task force has obtained an injunction against one illegal limousine operator. The task force is also working with the Dallas/Ft. Worth Limousine Association (DFWLA).

“These (illegal) operators are often caught soliciting business in the baggage claim areas,” said Gary Olson, owner of Silver West Limousine and president of DFWLA. “They are arrested, pay the small fine [usually $200] and are out there again the next day. We at the limo association are in agreement with the initiative.”

While the legislation applies to all permitted vehicles – including limousines, taxicabs and shared rides – limousine operators are considered the greatest offenders by DFW.

The airport estimates that 7% of all limousines serving DFW Airport operate without permits, and that “each illegal operator makes four trips per day to the airport, resulting in approximately $250,000 annually in lost revenue” from driver’s permits, vehicle permits and airport access fees. Currently, 15 cab companies, 1,685 taxicabs, 154 limousine companies and two shared ride companies serve DFW Airport. Operating these vehicles are 3,101 permitted drivers: 2,054 taxicab drivers, 840 limousine drivers and 207 shared ride drivers.

Before obtaining a permit through DFW Airport, operators must be permitted in another city. The application fee for a limousine company permit is $1,000, and the actual permit is $360 annually. The application fee for a limousine driver permit is $50; the renewal fee is $30 every two years.

Operators are considered to be committing an offense if they solicit business at the Airport, or pick up passengers or baggage for hire at the Airport without a permit, or without having an Airport Board Concession, License or Franchise.

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