DENVER — Luxury transportation companies have balked at a set of proposed rules that would impose new definitions and restrictions for chauffeured cars and vans offered for hire in Colorado.
"We're back trying to save something the legislature already gave us," said Barbara Curtis, who operates Two Step Limousine in Denver and testified earlier this week before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
The limousine industry waged a six-year battle to get 14-passenger vans into their fleets, a change made possible by a 1998 state law.
But now state regulators have proposed new regulations that would require chauffeured vans to be outfitted with special chairs instead of bench seating — a change operators say would reduce the number of people and amount of luggage they could carry.
Corporate clients likely would have to hire two vans to make up for the reduced space. Because companies wouldn't be able to beef up their current fleets under the proposed rule, vans could be in short supply when the Democratic National Convention or other big groups roll into town.
Clients increasingly ask for the vans as a practical alternative to stretch limos. On a recent movie shoot, for instance, actor Eddie Murphy and his entourage hired a chauffeured van from John Hafer and his car company called "A Custom Coach."
“The client should be the one to decide what a luxury vehicle is,” Curtis told LCT.
Besides the van rules, the state commission's staff drew up a specific list of cars that would satisfy its definition of luxury vehicles.
Hybrid, or "green," cars — already popular as alternative limos in others cities — are absent from the list, as is any accommodation for vehicles that might be introduced in the near future.
"I think we should be more general," said Gene Cookenboo, owner of Presidential Limo. "If they're commonly used in the limousine industry nationwide, they should be allowed in Colorado."
Many of the metro area's largest car-service operators showed up at the hearing to protest the proposed changes and the likelihood that they will need to return regularly so the commission can amend the rules to include future models.
John Opeka, a commission investigator who presented the rules to an administrative law judge, said the staff was "not necessarily married to this idea" of changing the definition of executive vans.
But limo operators lamented they had not been consulted in a rewrite of the rules.
"The commission should have sat down with the industry," said Adam Paul, head of the Colorado Limousine Association (CLA). "I think we could have worked together."
The CLA has enlisted the help of the National Limousine Association (NLA) as well as its public relations firm, JMPR, to combat the new regulations.
The next step: a commission judge will issue a recommended decision and an appeals period will follow.
Source: Rocky Mountain News, NLA, Bobit Business Media