Texas Law Takes Aim at Gypsy Operators:

Posted on July 8, 2003 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

Local association applauds stiffer penalties for DFW Airport

AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation that increases the penalties that can be imposed on unlicensed ground transportation operators at Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport.

The legislation, which had the support of the local limousine association, allows fines of up to $2,000 and adds the threat of up to six months in jail for those who plead guilty or are convicted of violating the law.

The move was prompted by a newly formed task force at the Dallas 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.”

The old law governing gypsy operators was considered ineffective for thwarting operators: “It has simply become a cost of doing business for the illegal limousine operators,” one official noted.

Already, the newly formed task force has obtained an injunction against one illegal limousine operator. The task force was also working with members of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Limousine Association.

“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 new legislation applies to all non-permitted vehicles, including taxicabs and shared rides, airport officials consider limousine operators the greatest offenders.

They estimated that 7% of all limousines serving the airport operate without permits. It was estimated 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, the licensed companies serving the airport include 15 cab companies running 1,685 taxicabs, 154 limousine companies and two shared ride companies. Operating these vehicles are 3,101 permitted drivers: 2,054 taxicab drivers, 840 limousine drivers and 207 shared ride drivers.

Before obtaining an airport permit, operators must be licensed in a local city. Airport officials charge an application fee of $1,000 for a limousine company, in addition to an annual $360 permit fee.

Limousine drivers are assessed an initial fee of $50; with renewal fees of $30 every two years.

Operators are considered to be in violation if they solicit business at the airport or pick up passengers or baggage without a permit from the DFW Airport Board.

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