(L to R): Doug Schwartz, NLA Board member and member of the Long Island Limousine Association (LILA); Robert Cunningham, president of LILA; and Chris Quinn, NLA board director and Greater California Livery Association board director, were among participants.
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — State and regional association presidents from around the country gathered in Las Vegas at the International LCT Show to network, discuss issues of common concern, and build a stronger collective unified voice for the limousine industry.
Hosted by the National Limousine Association, 20 national association presidents attended the event, moderated by NLA President Gary Buffo. As expected, the main topic of conversation was the industry’s strategy to fight illegal transportation network companies, and what successful tactics associations use to counter TNCs that skirt local and state private transportation rules and regulations.
One major talking point: Presidents agreed the groups must do a better job educating legislators and the public regarding TNCs and public safety.
“No one knows who we are,” said Jeff Shanker, (A1 Limousine, Princeton, N.J.) and president of the Limousine Association of New Jersey (LANJ). “Getting to the legislatures and telling them who we are is our biggest problem. We are the experts in the industry and we need to get our message out and we need to focus on public safety.”
Kevin Illingworth, (Classique Worldwide Transportation, Orange, Calif.) president of the Greater California Limousine Association (GCLA), and NLA board director, said once the NLA’s new public relations campaign kicks in, “It will wake up the public who are really naïve about the public safety issues with TNCs.”
Added Rick Versace (A1A Airport & Limousine Service, Boca Raton, Fla.), President of the Florida Limousine Association (FLA): “Education is important on both the legislative side but also we need to educate our members who need to spend more time to get out there and talk about the issues with legislators and the public.”
Versace noted that a successful talking point in Florida is letting legislators know that TNCs in New York City abide by the same rules and regulations as the taxi and limousine industry. “We raise that point all the time. If they can operate legally in New York, why can’t they operate legally in Florida? In fact, we met with the mayor of Palm Beach and he said, “So, ‘we’re not as good as New York City?’ And that resonated with him because TNC cars in New York have commercial insurance, vehicle inspections and real credentials.”
Versace reiterated a common industry talking point that limousine companies are not against TNCs. “It’s that we want to make sure they operate like we do.”
Paul Walsh (Superior Executive Transportation, Virginia Beach, Va.), President of the Virginia Limousine Association (VLA), said it is “frustrating” to get more operators involved.
“Every time we go to the capitol, Uber lobbyists are everywhere and we may only have a few people. We can’t come close to the money they spend, so we have to get more operators upset and involved.”
Buffo stressed that collaboration on the state and national levels is key to fighting TNCs going forward. “We all need to have common messaging, especially on public safety. He added that the NLA’s public relations campaign and website, rideresponsibly.org, is a tactic being used to educate politicians and the public on the difference between TNCs and private transportation companies. “We need to focus on what we as an industry do better than TNCs and point out the public safety concerns with TNCs.”
Tom Halligan is LCT East Coast editor, based in Marlton, N.J. He travels regularly to industry association meetings in the eastern U.S. Tom can be reached at [email protected]