When roads are closed due to snow, limo operators take a costly break. (Photo by Reuters)
For the first time in 27 years of operation, Long Island, N.Y-based Ultimate Class Limousine shut down operations Monday night through Tuesday because of the Nor’easter blizzard that dumped record snowfall and hurricane force winds that roared through New York to Maine. All ground, rail and air transportation was halted and state emergency mandates prohibited any non-emergency vehicle from being on the road threating stiff fines if stopped.
“We were lucky in that we only had about 14 inches in Nassau County compared to other parts of Long Island that got hit harder,” said Ultimate President Matt Silver. “We’re back in business today utilizing SUVs and sedans but we’re keeping the rear-wheel drive Town Cars off the roads.”
Silver stressed that employee safety was key during the early stages of the storm, noting that he was closely monitoring a Monday evening trip from Manhattan to Long Island that normally took 15 minutes but totaled about an hour and a half. “One of our last runs was supposed to take less than two hours but ended up a five-hour ordeal. I was monitoring the vehicle’s speed and it was inching along at 3 to 5 mph and its top speed was 12 mph,” he added.
Michael Campbell, CEO of Manchester, N.H.-based Grace Limousine, estimates the storm cost $15,000 a day in revenue as business was shut down due to more than 16 inches of snowfall and treacherous driving conditions.
“I'd rather the states shut down roadways than our clients expect us to magically execute safe and flawless service in the midst of a treacherous winter blizzard, which is how these situations normally go," said Campbell, also an NLA board director. "So I'm not blind to the silver lining in this unprecedented shut down. We're safe, we have zero risk of loss, and hopefully all the folks not flying today will keep us hopping through the weekend as they attempt to get to wherever they're going.”
Michael Callahan, president and CEO, Able Limousine, Hopkinton, Mass. (Boston region), was in San Francisco during the storm. “I came in on Monday to do an inspection on some buses that I bought that are going to Phoenix for the Super Bowl, and unfortunately got stuck here until tomorrow (Wednesday). From what my people have told me, we got over 35 inches.”
Callahan said he didn’t recall another time when his company was totally shut down for 36 hours. “We have had storms where we have lost most of our rides due to the airport closing, but I can’t ever remember a day where we lost absolutely everything on the schedule. We were in a state of emergency and the government threatened citations up to $500 if caught on the roadways.”
Added Charles Wisniewski, president and CEO, Teddy’s Transportation System, Norwalk Conn. “We’re back to business as usual but we never really departed. Our primary market, Southwestern Connecticut and New York City, were greatly spared the brunt of blizzard which ravaged areas starting 50 miles east of us. We got about five inches here in Norwalk. But just 19 miles up, my home got nine inches and Hartford and Boston got a whole lot more.”