SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- After a nearly four-year campaign, the Greater California Livery Association (GCLA) on Oct. 2 won a major victory for limousine operators serving San Diego International Airport.
The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority Board voted unanimously to exempt limousine companies from SAN's alternative fuel and clean air vehicle requirements. The decision spares limousine companies from paying higher user fees for failure to fully comply with those mandates.
Through persistent lobbying by GCLA board members and consultants, the airport staff and Authority board members were convinced that viable and acceptable clean air or alternative fuel vehicles that meet limo industry standards for purchase price, cost of ownership, and customer preferences are not available in today's vehicle market.
Also, San Diego lacks adequate clean air vehicle fueling infrastructure, which is widely dispersed or unavailable at all times throughout San Diego County. This situation denies limousine operators the access to fuel sources required of 24/7 transportation service.
"It's hard to believe it’s been four years. We didn’t give up,” said Mark Stewart, who served as GCLA President from 2011-2014, and advises the group as a consultant. "They finally got the points we were stressing over and over."
Since SDA announced the green program in 2010, GCLA officials met repeatedly with board staff and directors, Stewart told LCT. He partially credits the breakthrough to a change of CFOs at the airport and increased staff understanding of the GCLA position.
So far, vehicle manufacturers are not making luxury vehicles that meet airport green standards. "If there were one getting 40-45 mpg, we would be buying those in a minute," Stewart said. "Fuel is a big expense. But the infrastructure still is not there."
More than 900 permitted livery vehicles access SDA. If the airport had applied the green rules to limousine services, operators would have been required to use only green vehicles at the airport as of 2017 or pay heavy fines. “Just the fee structure would have been a killer to the industry," Stewart said. "Every year, operators would have been going up in the penalty phase because of inability to meet green standards.”
Before the board members voted, the staff noted that the GCLA has petitioned the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates charter-party carriers in the state, to "adopt a regulation providing that vehicle standards for limousine operators and other charter-party carriers are within the Commission's exclusive jurisdiction."
The GCLA believes vehicles should be regulated by federal and state governments, not airport authorities. Los Angeles International Airport, for example, plans to enforce new rules in January 2015 that would require any livery vehicle 8,500-pounds or more to use alternative fuels, Stewart said. While not affecting chauffeured sedans and SUVs, the fuel rule would apply to vans carrying 12-14 passengers or more and mini-buses. The GCLA is working with LAX officials to modify the rules, he said.
In addition to Stewart, the following GCLA leaders and operators coordinated the effort to secure the SDA exemption: Steve Levin, past board member, Jack Nissim, GCLA Treasurer, Anne Daniells, GCLA Secretary, and Rich Azzolino, GCLA President.
Sources: GCLA; Martin Romjue, LCT editor
Background LCT article (Sept. 2012): GCLA Juggles Airport Rules Conflicts
Background LCT article (Sept. 2011): GCLA Alerts Operators To Vehicle Ban