SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The California State Auditor on Tuesday confirmed what many limousine operators have known and pointed out for years: The agency that enforces transportation rules on charter party carriers wastes money, fails to collect enough penalties, lacks leadership and adequate procedures, drags out or bungles investigations, misapplies rules, and misuses branch staff.
In such an overall derelict and disorganized atmosphere, charter party passengers on California roads may encounter more safety risks while illegal limo operations proliferate.
The scathing audit targeted the enforcement efforts of the California Public Utilities Commission, the state agency that licenses and regulates the 8,800 charter-party carriers in California, which includes limousine operations. Key findings of the audit spanned the areas of citizen complaints, procedures, agency leadership, follow-up on violations, deployment of staff and program goals, among others.
California State Auditor Fact Sheet Summary here
California State Auditor Full Report here
Among the most serious findings is the fact that in 2013 the CPUC took in $2.2 million more than it spent on actual regulatory enforcement. That hits limo operators right in the gut, since collectively, legal operators pay an estimated $3 million of the total $5 million in annual fees collected each year from licensed charter-party carriers, according to estimates from Gregg Cook, the lobbyist for the Greater California Livery Association.
"We have complained that the PUC is not doing the job it’s been paid to do," Cook told LCT. "Limo operators need to go through the current laws and regulations and provide direction for the PUC. We might have to do that through legislation if the [CPUC] doesn’t respond to the audit in a positive way."
Cook, who called the audit "devastating," said it nevertheless presents a positive opportunity for the GCLA in that the group can help the CPUC by pointing out which regulations are either not being enforced or are unnecessary.
"The Legislature’s willingness to authorize an audit by the State Auditor of PUC transportation enforcement as it relates to charter-party carriers is very helpful in informing legislators about our business and the need for adequate enforcement that we are paying for," Cook said. "This audit will come into play in virtually everything we do because it spells out that the PUC is not putting appropriate emphasis on our business."
For reactions and other safety-related angles in the media coverage of the audit findings, go to:
Los Angeles Times article here
San Jose Mercury News article here
-- Martin Romjue, LCT editor