CLEVELAND, Ohio — After months of work, NewsChannel5 chief investigator Duane Pohlman discovered many of the limousines in northeast Ohio are operating illegally, and that could put many passengers at risk. Pohlman said that the difference between a legal limo and an illegal one is easy to spot. Passengers should look for a sticker on the license plate that reads "livery vehicle."
Limousines and Town Cars were once reserved only for the wealthy but now they compete with taxis to give people a ride to and from the airport, or carry teens on prom night. But how safe are passengers in a hired car?
All limousines in Ohio are required to have those stickers, and if they don't, according to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), those drivers are breaking the law. To be legal, limousine companies have to prove their cars carry a minimum $300,000 coverage on a commercial insurance policy, enough to protect passengers if there's a crash. However, it is expensive. Commercial insurance costs three to four times more than normal insurance. One local limousine driver said, "It can cost about $4,000 per year on average per car."
Pohlman said that's what the law requires to get that sticker.
A spokeswoman with the BMV said she would not get into a limousine that didn't have livery vehicle plates. "It would be like knowingly going into a car that you know is not insured. You don't want to do it," she said.
NewsChannel5 sent an investigative team to the Embassy Suites in downtown Cleveland to catch a ride with a limo. The limo arrived without the sticker.
NewsChannel5 met the owner and driver of Rid N 4U Transportation. His name is Daryl and he said he has a $300,000 insurance policy to cover passengers he carries, adding, "You gotta make sure the people are covered."
But when pressed about the plates. He said, "You don't have to have the livery plates."
Pohlman said that's not according to Ohio's law. He said even if Daryl or any other limo drivers buy insurance and don't disclose they're driving a limo, the passengers aren't covered.
The president of Insurance Diversified, Terry Carson verified this. "So in fact, if they have an accident while they were carrying a passenger for a fee, the damage to that vehicle, even if they had collision coverage, would not apply," Carson said.
Pohlman said that the law is not being enforced.
At Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, which is owned by the city of Cleveland, Pohlman watched an endless stream of illegal limos picking up and dropping off passengers as police officers stood watch nearby. Not one officer approached or confronted the limo drivers, he said. Pohlman confronted the drivers himself.
"I was noticing your plates don't have livery vehicle. Why not?" Pohlman asked.
"Well, because this car isn't used regularly. Just one we had to substitute for our livery today," one driver said.
The driver said his name is Jim and said he didn't have the plates because he's using a personal car. However, the company name was etched on the outside. He picked up his passenger a few minutes later.
Then Pohlman confronted a different driver. He said there was no livery sticker.
The man who said his name is Greg said, "This is my personal car. When we get busy, I use my own vehicle." Pohlman watched as Greg dropped off his passenger.
Other limo drivers NewsChannel5 approached didn't want to answer Pohlman's questions. They drove away instead.
The airport now issues an announcement over the public address system that warns passengers not to ride in unlicensed livery vehicles.
Source: WEWS News