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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A look at the agenda and achievements of the Charlotte Regional Limousine Association underscores the critical need for industry groups. At every opportunity, and if you are not constantly watching, most governments will try to tax, charge and regulate transportation to the max.
This tendency came to a head during the Democratic National Convention Sept. 4-6, when local government overregulation hampered chauffeured transportation companies, reports Tom Holden, president of the CRLA and operations director at Rose Chauffeured Transportation in Charlotte, N.C.
“As soon as the DNC announced it was holding its event in Charlotte the CRLA went to work,” Holden said. “We asked the city to get started and allow us as an association to help introduce what the needs would be for our industry to help ground transportation to succeed at the DNC. Little did we realize that city leaders really didn’t want our help. We spent the following year battling the City Council from making decisions on city ordinances that would make it impossible to operate under heavy regulations.”
Although the city granted temporary permits, the costs were high when considering background checks, drug tests, fingerprints, photos, driver permits, vehicle permits and vehicle inspections, resulting in an average cost of $400 per vehicle just for the privilege for working the DNC.
“Rose managed 160 vehicles daily during the DNC and only owns 52,” Holden said. “Rose paid out upwards of $10,000 in permit fees and many other companies paid several thousand also. All of us could have taken more work if it wasn’t for all of the restrictions.”
Tom Holden, President of the Charlotte Regional Limousine Association, leads a group of operators facing a tough regulatory atmosphere.
Now, a key problem is the time and expense needed to get permitted chauffeurs approved by the city of Charlotte. The CRLA wants to streamline the permitting for chauffeurs, since it can take 45 to 90 days. Applicants kept in limbo for a permit often find other jobs since they need to earn income, Holden said. The temporary permits issued for drivers hired to work the DNC lasted 60 days, but the process did not carry over for issuing permanent permits. “The amount we spend to hire someone, we end up losing because we can’t wait that long,” Holden said.
Under the old system, “we could have a driver apply, get a temporary permit, then they could do a background check while he takes a two-day class during that period. Up until 2012 we were entitled to a temporary permit process.”
Meanwhile, Uber and WeDriveU are able to operate unhindered by any city rules, Holden said. CRLA leaders plan to meet with city government officials to review convention-related hassles and advocate for more sensible rules.