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MARLTON, N.J. — For my first column on industry issues and association activities, I thought I would sum up my introductory whirlwind tour of group meetings — from Virginia to Canada — during my first month as LCT’s new East Coast editor. I look forward to getting out to more associations and listening to what’s on your minds.
1st Stop: Richmond, Va. – Issues ranging from HOV lane access, unlicensed drivers, Craig’s List, and competitive rogue apps such as Uber were topics at the Oct. 14 meeting of the Virginia Limousine Association (VLA).
VLA President Glenn Stafford, Jr. (Love Limousine) invited guest speaker Tom Penny, director of Fuels Tax Enforcement, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, to update members on state compliance and regulatory requirements, and other pertinent issues.
“Our number one priority is to choke-off illegal drivers,” said Penny, who added that the DOMV has stepped-up its monitoring and enforcement at concerts and events. “Our goal is to make sure there is a level playing field for operators and to protect the consumers. If drivers are unlicensed, operate outside of their authority, or have no insurance, they will be fined. We want to protect the legitimate limousine operators.”
Regarding the DOMV’s position on Uber and other transportation cell phone app-based services, Penny noted that the agency is closely monitoring these new services. If drivers operate without proper licenses or insurance, they will be fined, he said. “We work Dulles [International Airport] as an example, and we will write them up and make it disadvantageous for them to do business. It’s not fair and we are trying to clean it up.”
2nd Stop: Toronto, Ontario: A week later, I flew to Toronto where more than 70 operators and guests attended the Ontario Limousine Owners Association (OLOA) annual dinner and business meeting. The 16-year-old OLOA is a strong association that ranks in the top five of NLA-affiliated associations with an average of 140 to 180 members. OLOA President John Dahdaly (Cullitons Limousine) updated several issues including a successful meeting with Toronto’s Licensing Commission that addressed operator concerns. Dahdaly said he and OLOA Treasurer Joe Ironi (Global Alliance Worldwide) discussed topics such as adding a one-year extension to the vehicle age requirement for stretches and sedans, and requesting that the commission’s 2005 bylaws and regulations be updated to reflect changes in the luxury transportation industry.
The general Q&A portion of the meeting focused on the emergence of Uber in Toronto and its effects on operator business. Members held a lively discussion on the emerging public transportation app — some voicing strongly against Uber while others viewed it as a technology that could help operators compete and increase business. Members agreed that while the technology is not going away, Uber and other app-based competitors should be regulated to protect the interests of Canadian operators.
3rd Stop: Caesars Atlantic City, N.J. – Kicking off the LCT Show East on Sunday, Oct. 27 was the Congress of State and Regional Associations led by NLA executive director Philip Jagiela. The event drew association members from along the East Coast who networked and talked about issues of mutual concern. Guest speaker Anne. M. Kriegner, assistant deputy director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security, updated attendees on regional security procedures and initiatives, and urged operators to be on the lookout for and report any suspicious activity to the office.