Towne Livery's David Bastian lobbying with the Limousine, Bus, and Taxi Operators of Upstate New York (LBTOUNY) last year to repeal a sales tax on limo services in the state.
So what’s top-of-mind for industry associations throughout the country as we get deeper into 2016?
Obviously, rallying members to step up vocally — and financially — to fight illegal transportation network companies (TNCs) at all government levels tops the list. Last year, the industry gained traction as associations mobilized members to ratchet up lobbying and public relations to counter freewheeling TNCs.
By all accounts, this year is viewed as the industry drawing the proverbial line in the sand to “level the playing field” — the rallying cry for legislative pursuits.
Underscoring the TNC fight, groups are working hard to recruit new operators, not just against TNCs, but to support other local regulatory reforms as well. Further, associations are adding more benefits to lure new members, such as education, networking opportunities and special vendor discounts.
For example, the Limousine Association of New Jersey (LANJ) increased its membership 19% during 2015 to more than 133 members by offering education panels at its meetings and more vendor support. There was also a new association launched in Florida spurred by the growing number of operators in the Naples-Fort Myers region who wish to band together. The new Southwest Florida chapter of the Florida Limousine Association held its first meeting last October attracting more than 30 area operators. Other associations around the country report new ways to drive membership and increase value-added benefits.
Here’s a sample agenda various association presidents are setting in 2016:
Limousine, Bus & Taxi Operators of Upstate New York (LBTOUNY) President Kevin Barwell, director of sales/vice president, Giorgios Limousine Service, Lancaster)
“We are fighting a proposed bill in New York state that would allow TNCs to operate freely with less insurance, and no restrictions. We are fighting this with the taxi, limousine and black car groups. We also will be reintroducing a bill to fight the sales tax issue of being double taxed. This bill would help reduce the burden on operators.
“In addition, LBTOUNY is working to create better parking in the city of Buffalo for operators, and working with regional cities on permits and policies about wine trails and sightseeing. We’re also supporting all National Limousine Association (NLA) issues we believe affect us as well.”
Charlotte Regional Limousine Association (CRLA) President Tom Holden, director of operations, Rose Chauffeured Transportation, Charlotte, N.C.
“Two items are on our agenda for 2016. We have been working with the Charlotte Douglas International Airport regarding TNCs, fees and parking, and they have been [cooperating] with us to level the playing field. In fact, the airport worked with Uber to embed a “GEO fence” in the app that immediately assesses a fee when an Uber car enters the airport zone, and also can track if the vehicle is parked in a designated area.
“In addition, the CRLA is working with the city of Charlotte to differentiate the limousine/black car industry from taxi service so that it’s only required to have a special tag and $1.5 million in insurance, which aside from Charlotte, is the standard throughout the rest of the state. Interestingly, the city requires Uber to pay an annual $5,000 fee to operate along with driver background checks.