LAS VEGAS – Restrictive (and often unfair) local regulations, expensive workers’ compensation, high insurance rates, illegal operators, airport access problems, and membership growth – these are among the many issues that local limousine associations are dealing with on a daily basis.
Local association leaders outlined some of the challenges they are facing and the successes they have enjoyed in a special session at the LCT Show. Among the associations offering updates on local issues were:
Operators have been “kept off the curb” at airports since 9/11, but the association has established an airport committee to work toward overturning this restriction. Barry Lefkowitz of Management and Government Resources, who serves as a National Limousine Association political lobbyist, was aiding the association. The Arizona Livery Association is facing concerns over illegal operators also.
Licensing is the top problem in Florida, with each county setting its own requirements. This means operators cannot drive from their home counties to another to pick up or drop off a client unless they have licenses to operate in both counties. In addition, Florida operators need city licenses.
“The licensing issue is getting worse and worse,” said Guy Mongello of Paradise Limousines of Tampa Bay. “Any legitimate company wants to be licensed, but don’t let it get out of hand.”
The Florida Limousine Association has been successful in obtaining reciprocity for licenses in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, and the association hopes to expand it to other counties.
Licensing in Florida costs operators an average of $5,000 per vehicle a year. “Its absolutely unconstitutional,” said NLA President Scott Solombrino. “It might take a class-action suit [to change it.]”
Airport officials in Atlanta recently permitted SUVs to enter the airport area for client pick up or drop off, so operators using such vehicles are now avoiding limousine airport restrictions, according to a representative of the Georgia Limousine Association.
Worker’s compensation is the top concern for members of the Greater California Livery Association. The NLA’s Solombrino noted that the state now has the highest workers’ comp rate in the country. The association is working to unify operators in the state to battle the problem, and leaders are meeting with attorneys. The focus has been on reclassifying chauffeurs and limousines and on obtaining a lower rate throughout the state, said Caryn Worcester, managing director of GCLA.
One issue of concern to the Limousine Association of Colorado is the state’s vehicle classification laws. For example, what separates limousine sedans from taxicabs in Colorado is that sedans must be equipped with a television and beverages and must seat six people, including the driver.
Moreover, so-called mountain carriers are the only vehicles permitted as shuttles to the mountains during the winter season, which prohibits van-carrying limousine companies from entering the seasonal competition.
Also, the association is fighting to end an restriction that forces drivers to be dispatched seven minutes after a client arrives at Denver Airport.
There was considerable interest from leaders of other associations about the Limousine Association of New Jersey’s successful efforts in 2001 to eliminate sales taxes on limousines. The key to that success was to develop and organize a strong legislative program, said Pete Corelli of Lakeview Custom Coach.
NLA lobbyist Lefkowitz added: “It’s nothing magical about what we do [in New Jersey],” adding that he would offer his insights to other associations outside of the seminar.
Mike Renehan of Allaire Limousines also noted that New Jersey has been successful in combating high worker’s compensation rates. The association fought to get limousine operators removed from the “general drivers” classification that includes, among others, UPS operators. The action cut compensation costs by 40 percent, he said.
The main concerns for the Luxury Transportation Association of Puerto Rico are illegal operators and airport officials not allowing operators to enter the airport area, the association president said.
The Minnesota Professional Transportation Association has been successful in aiding chauffeur training by offering members videos that reenact accidents. The videos are available to share with other associations upon request.
In New England, insurance and membership top the list of concerns of members of the New England Livery Association. Also, the region has 1,100 licensed operators but only 200 members, so increasing the membership is a focus.
NELA has been successful in overcoming airport issues through lobbying efforts, and by getting airport officials involved in the association. Another success has been to improve the lines of communication among members, via the association’s Web site and a newsletter.
A New Orleans licensing law requires limousine operators to have three limousines per every sedan and license, so the New Orleans Metro Area Transportation Association is working to rewrite that law. “We’re working on getting it to one to one,” said Jaime D’Amico, of A Confidential Transportation.
A great struggle in Oklahoma has been to pass Senate Bill No. 653. The NLA recently joined the Oklahoma Limousine Association in asking the state Legislature to exempt the passenger areas of commercial limousines and buses from the state’s open container law.
The local association has been successful also in recruiting new members, in large because of a letter sent to 35 operators by the NLA. Thirty of those joined the local association.
The Washington Metropolitan Limousine Association has been successful in lobbying the District of Columbia Taxicab Commission to exclude limousine operators from its governance. Also, the association has focused on educational seminars for its members.
Long Island, N.Y.
Membership is a top issue for the Long Island Limousine Association, and members voiced struggles about recruiting new members to grow the association. One concern is whether or not to allow illegal operators to join the association.
The Virginia Limousine Association has continued Maryland’s idea of a prom pledge. The assoc-iation sends pledges to all licensed companies, and the state’s De-partment of Education sends it to all high schools. The pledge reads that no alcohol is allowed in the back of the cars during proms or other runs.
Association officials also said that the association has had problems with members not paying their dues.
The Great Lakes Limousine Association started in 1997 in response to airport problems, an issue that has recently resurfaced. Another top priority is insurance. The association decided to form various committees to better focus on problems. The insurance committee is working to improve the insurance situation for the members.
“We made the members work for the members,” said association President Richard Greiner. As a result, membership has doubled in the last two years.
The association also sends out a quarterly newsletter to keep members informed and provides a computer link to the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Web site list of licensed operators.
Members are concerned that state government officials are looking at imposing taxes on services, which would have a direct impact on operators.