By Eric Lassiter
LAS VEGAS – Let’s say you’re fed up with not
being paid in a timely fashion – or at all – by a large
network that has sent some business your way.
What’s the solution? It’s simple: don’t accept any
referrals the next time that network comes knocking on
That’s the blunt advice that came out of a workshop
session at the LCT Show featuring top executives from
five of the nation’s largest limousine companies.
Responding to a question from an audience member
about the pay policies of the national networks,
David Seelinger, president/CEO of Empire
International, told small operators in the audience
that,“you have the power to say no,” to reject any
referrals from a national network that may be slow in
The discussion on pay policies, coming in the final
minutes of a one-hour panel discussion, was brief.
Vince Wolfington, chairman/CEO of Carey
International, added that the issue of slow payments
could, at times, be a complicated one for large
networks and local operators.
“The reality is that big [limousine networks] sometime
get into situations [where they can’t pay as promptly as
they might like], sometime customers get into similar
situations,” Wolfington said.
Other issues discussed during the session included:
* Insurance: Coverage remains “very difficult to
secure and it continues to get worse” for the large
operators, Seelinger said.
Wolfington noted that the insurance industry tends to
put limousines, which largely have an enviably safety
record, and taxis, which do not, into the same risk
assessment category. This drives up limousine
He added that monitoring drivers’ qualifications and
keeping good car maintenance and driver safety-
training records might help lower insurance costs.
Asked if they believed if an industry-wide self-insurance
program developed by the National Limousine
Association might help, several panelists said any
such program probably was not realistic in light of the
wide differences among operators’ fleets and safety
Instead, noted Carey’s Wolfington, “The onus is on us
to better educate the insurance companies” that
limousine operators deserve lower rates. He
suggested that the National Limousine Association
might help by providing positive discussion points that
operators could use when they individually meet with
* Corporate RFPs: Corporate clients
dramatically changed the shape of the travel agency
industry in the 1980s and 1990s by bringing in
purchasing officials to negotiate tightfisted national
contracts. These purchasing officials are now turning
their eyes to the limousine industry and are asking
large operators to bid on complex and demanding
Requests for Proposals.
These RFPs typically seek significant pricing discounts
from operators and rarely take such intangibles as
quality service into account, operators said.
“We are now on [purchasing officials’] radar screens,”
said Wolfington. “Many of these corporations are very
price oriented and they position us against each other.”
“We are our own worst enemy; we battle each other
over price every day,” agreed moderator Scott
Solombrino, president/CEO of Dav El Chauffeured
Transportation. He gained a round of applause from
the audience when he urged the panelists to take a
unified approach and to “stand strong” against
corporate clients’ price-cutting tactics.
“We need to
stop this back-stabbing and control our own fate,” he
* The future of SUVs: Panelists agreed that
SUVs were becoming an increasingly sizeable part of
their fleets, based on clients’ growing preferences for
A heightened focus on safety and security among
corporate clients is making them a more-popular
option,” Wolfington noted. Added Charlie Horky,
owner of CLS Transportation: “SUVs are here to
stay. They are a lot like the Town Car, which crept in
during the 1980s.”
* Drug testing: Panelists agreed that large
operators are taking an increasingly aggressive stance
on testing chauffeurs for drug use.
Berkman, executive vice president/CEO of Music
Express, said her company conducts drug tests before
chauffeurs are hired, randomly during their
employment and immediately following any accidents.
“It’s important that the entire industry be very pro-active
on this issue,” Horky added.