CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Eyewitness News looked at the inspection records for some limousine companies that do business in Charlotte and found almost half of them aren't properly licensed.
Limousine companies are busiest this time of year with weddings and proms. At one recent prom, T.J. Outlaw and his date chose to get there in a limousine. Their parents even checked to make sure it met the latest safety regulations.
But Eyewitness News found in city records that not all limousine companies are up to date on their inspections.
Joe Vanderlip is the manager for Charlotte's passenger-vehicle-for-hire program. He showed Eyewitness News the list of companies that do have permits. Of the more than 60 companies in the area, only about 35 are certified to do business in Charlotte.
"That's a problem because we only know who's driving vehicles for those 35 companies. We don't know who's driving the vehicles or the quality of the vehicles for the companies that are operating but not registered," said Vanderlip.
"Does that concern you?" asked reporter Blair Miller.
"Very much," said Vanderlip.
The yearly certification looks for several things: criminal background checks of drivers, safety inspections of vehicles and adequate insurance coverage by the companies.
Limousine Central, a company in Charlotte with a fleet of limousines and Hummers, routinely follows the rules, paying the hundreds of dollars to be certified. Owner Tony Mizzi is frustrated that other companies aren't certified.
"It's unfortunate," he said. "There could be a variety of reasons why you wouldn't want to entrust your kids with someone who hasn't been checked out and that's what the regulations do."
In Eyewitness News' investigation, they went looking for the companies that aren't certified. Most of the limousines that showed up at one local prom were certified.
One limousine company, Blacktop Limousines, did have a certification sticker on its vehicle's window, but it expired with the city of Charlotte in 2002. When asked about it, the driver admitted his company, out of Monroe, isn't certified in Charlotte.
"As far as right now, we're based out of Union County. Certification does not go out that far and we're in the process of getting everything taken care of on that," said the limousine driver.
Vanderlip disagrees. He said if companies operate in Charlotte, they should face the same regulations and should be certified. Companies that don't have certification can be fined $200 or more.
City leaders say it's up to the passengers to know whom they're riding with. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has the most up-to-date list of limousine and cab companies that are certified to operate in the city of Charlotte.