There has been much public press in the past few days,
particularly in New York, on the threat of a new terrorist
attacks via limousines.
Due to FBI warnings, the federal government is looking into
state licensing regulations as they relate to screening
limousine and black car licenses. Because of this negative
publicity, the limousine industry may experience reactions
from clients demanding reassurance.
This is what some Northeast operators are saying today
* “There have been a lot more random road blocks at the
tunnels and in midtown next to landmark buildings recently,
and they do seem to be targeting limos more than sedans.
This obviously causes delays. I have been telling my limo
clients to allot an additional half-hour for their trips,
depending on where they are traveling.
David Stone, president of Hollywood Limousine and Global
Security Services in New York
* “On Tuesday (Aug. 10), one of our drivers was going
through the Lincoln Tunnel when he hit a road block. He was
pulled over, asked for his credentials, and even though
everything was in order, the vehicle was searched, and the
driver and clients were asked to step out of the vehicle.
They opened two bags of luggage with consent from the
passengers. The passengers were good about it, but they
called to tell me how bad they felt that my driver had been
harassed so badly. I think it’s probably because he’s
Egyptian. Now he doesn’t want to go to New York anymore,
which is a problem because he’s one of my best New York
“Due to the delays we’ve been experiencing, we temporarily
changed our rate structure to the New York airports. We
used to do flat rates to the airports, but we are doing
hourly rates until after the Republican Convention.”
Michael Barreto, owner of Imperial Limousine &
Transportation in Aston, Pa.
* “We have been experiencing delays, but nothing too
terrible. I think it helps that our drivers all have the
proper credentials. We have been doing national background
and social security checks for over a dozen years. Of
course, delays can come up at any time, so we tell our
clients to add 15 minutes onto their travel time.”
Amy Birnbaum, CEO of Royal Coachman Worldwide in Orange,
New York is the hub of the livery industry and for U.S.
commerce. The city is a likely target if another terrorist
attack should happen.
In Manhattan alone there are more than 10,000 vehicles in
service. The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) believes
its screening of limos drivers is sufficient, but not
according to an article that ran Aug. 11 in the New York
Following is a compilation of several articles that have
appeared in newspapers across the country.
Could Limos Be the Next Terrorism Weapon?
In New York, Drivers Are Checked Only for Crimes
Committed Within State
Terrorists could try to use limousines filled with
explosives instead of trucks, feds warn.
A terrorist heading the FBI's Al-Qaida watch list could be
trying to become a licensed limousine driver in New York
City right now -- but city officials never would know.
A prospective limo driver could even have a murder
conviction or have pleaded guilty to rape charges in
another state -- but the city's limited criminal background
check would not necessarily catch that information.
With new FBI alerts pinpointing limousines as possible bomb
carriers, glaring holes in the Taxi and Limousine
Commission's security checks could easily be exploited by
To become a licensed limo driver in New York: You must pass
a Department of Motor Vehicles defensive driving test; be
at least 19 years old; have a New York, New Jersey,
Connecticut or Pennsylvania chauffeur's driver's license;
have an original Social Security card; and be fingerprinted
for a criminal background check.
Fingerprints are then sent to the state Division of
Criminal Justice Services, which conducts a state criminal
But only people with convictions or arrests within New York
State would be detected. People with convictions in other
states who move to New York would not raise red flags,
unless they told their parole officer they were headed to
"It's pretty messed up when you can't get the basic
background checks across state lines," said Stephen Flynn,
author of "America the Vulnerable: How Our Government Is
Failing to Protect Us From Terrorism."
New York State has the authority to conduct FBI background
checks. Applicants for Civil Service jobs in New York City
and for any job with the city's education department must
undergo a federal background check.
Those requirements do not apply to limo drivers. On Aug. 6,
the FBI sent out a bulletin warning that terrorists have
considered using rental vehicles -- singling out for-hire
limousines -- to conceal bombs.
The limos would not attract as much suspicion as a cargo
van, but would have enough trunk space to hold a sizable
bomb, the FBI warned.Al-Qaida’s plans included driving bomb-
laden limousines into top U.S. targets, according to
computer disks seized July 25 during anti-terrorist raids
The computers and disks contain chilling details of how
vulnerable some landmarks are and how terrorists could use
limo bombs, hijacked helicopters and other schemes to
White House Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend said
that even though some of the plans are years old, "It's the
detailed nature of them that ought to frighten us."
Terrorists also considered hijacking tourist helicopters
and using speedboats and divers to devastate New York
Intelligence sources said that terrorists believed a
limousine with darkened windows could evade security at
target buildings. Besides the trunk, the inside of the limo
could be stripped and also filled with explosives.
After casing the underground parking garage at Prudential
Plaza in Newark, N.J., a 24-story white-marble skyscraper
where more than 1,000 insurance employees go to work every
day, al-Qaida concluded that a truck or van might not get
near the building – but a black limo would have no
The terrorists' recommendation: Get a vehicle like a
Lincoln Town Car, gut it, pack it with explosives and drive
right past security.The al-Qaida surveillance information
began in 2000, but an updated photo of the Prudential
building was just added to the files in January.In New
York, expanding TLC background checks would require
approval from the state legislature.
"The current law only authorizes the [TLC] to request a
state background check," said Jessica Scaperotti,
spokeswoman for the state Division of Criminal Justice
Lynn Rasic, a spokeswoman for Gov. Pataki, said the
governor is concerned about the issue. "We take the issue
of integrity and background checks very seriously, which is
why we are going to work with the Taxi and Limousine
Commission to look into this issue," Rasic said.
Allan Fromberg, a TLC spokesman, said the commission is
comfortable with its current background check. "At this
time, we believe that what we have is very much adequate to
the task of showing the fitness of applicants for the roles
that we license for," he said.
What all this means to the limousine industry is still
undecided. But new rules may soon impact operators
throughout the country. There could be more vehicle
inspections, more extensive driver background checks,
elimination of darkened windows and heightened security
access at airports and other high-security buildings.
Operators need to be proactive in the event that continued
negative press concerning the industry causes loss of
There may be expenses incurred doing federal background
checks that go beyond current state requirements. There may
be more training needed to teach chauffeurs what to look
for when driving suspicious passengers. There may be extra
costs for delays and wait time incurred.
Operators need to be more careful profiling new clients. If
anything looks suspicious, you are advised to call your
local authorities or the FBI at 703-563-3236.
The NLA is currently setting up meetings with Homeland
Security and may hold a press conference if matters don't
simmer down soon.
NLA Executive Director Fran Shane said his aim is to “be
out front and cooperate.”
Livery Cabs, Limos, Studied for Security Risks
New York – Recent FBI warnings that limousines could be
used to conceal powerful bombs have prompted some here to
call for more stringent regulation of the metro area's
thriving black cab and limo industry.'
The intent: to discourage terrorists and make the public
In the mess that is Manhattan traffic, black cars and
limousines are a transportation staple. But now there are
new concerns that very familiarity could also make them a
convenient tool in a terror attack.
Fernando Mateo, NYS Federation OF Taxi Drivers: "We thank
God that no incidents have happened."
On Wednesday, the president of the New York State
Federation of Taxi Drivers called for some changes he says
will increase safety and anti-terrorism measures for the
limo and livery cab industry. On the list of suggestions --
mandating that black car and limo drivers post their
credentials for passengers to see, much like yellow cabbies
Fernando Mateo: "Not posting your credentials, it's
criminal. You don't know who you're getting in a car with
if that driver isn't posting his credentials. That's common
Mateo also says tougher background checks would boost
public confidence in livery drivers. The Taxi and Limousine
Commission, while admitting it has recently talked about
broadening its security checks with state officials, told
"What we have is adequate to the task but anything can be
-- Allan Fromberg, TLC Spokesman
Marco Rodriguez has been a livery driver for 13 years. He's
heard the recent terror warnings, but doesn't believe most
New Yorkers need to be worried there might be a terrorist
behind the wheel.
Marco Rodriguez, Livery Cab Driver: "I think it's
overacting, but I don't think it's bad checking up on
people. But, like I said, basically, whoever calls our
service, we're serving the community. It's a community car
service, so we're basically known all around the community."
Fernando Mateo points out that because many of city's
livery cabs outside Manhattan, in the outer boroughs, they
are often forgotten or overlooked in security planning. And
that, he says, is a vulnerability that could be exploited.