HOUSTON — Regulators in Houston and Philadelphia have indicated during the past week that Avis WeDriveU’s rental car and driver services business model fails to meet the standard definitions and rules that apply to luxury-based chauffeured transportation.
The regulators have responded to pre-emptive efforts by local operators in those cities to forestall the type of Avis chauffeured services that had taken root in other cities such as Miami. Regulators in Miami-Dade County found last month that Avis WeDriveU violated the county’s chauffeured transportation ordinance and airport concessions agreement, and told them to cease WeDriveU operations.
The WeDriveU model separates vehicles and chauffeurs into separate companies, thereby skirting the legal requirements for licenses, inspections, fees, insurance requirements, training, and certifications.
In Houston, the city’s aviation department, finance and administration department, transportation department, administration and regulatory affairs department, and the controller all sent “urgent” memos to the Mayor and City Council affirming that the Avis WeDriveU program was illegal and that immediate action was necessary, said Joe Jordan, president of the Limousine Association of Houston.
“Houston has not been one of their bigger markets,” Jordan said. “It was a pre-emptive thing on our part. We didn’t even want to think they could come in here.”
Jordan said city regulators are working to change the city’s chauffeured ordinance to state that vehicle companies can’t “require, recommend, refer or suggest” any outside driver. This does not affect traditional chauffeured transportation companies since they already have chauffeurs in-house.
To help other associations, Jordan will be hosting a seminar April 29 in Houston for association presidents and officers facing the same Avis issues. NLA president Ron Sorci plans to attend, and the NLA board of directors has been invited. Sorci also plans to speak to an LAH luncheon meeting that day.
Details: Wednesday, April 29, 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Elite Chauffeurs Club (5 minutes from Bush (IAH) Airport), 600 Kenrick Drive, #E-5, Houston, Texas, 77060. Ask for Carl Guillory at (713) 661-3222.
The Philadelphia Regional Limousine Association (PRLA) requested and received a position statement from Michael Hoffman, director of the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) operations, that concludes the activity which Avis engages in with the WeDriveU service would be regulated under the Pennsylvania PUC regulations that already apply to state limousine operators.
To date, the PUC has not seen any activity from Avis WeDriveU. Avis would need the same type of permitting required by operators in Pennsylvania, including state licensing. Hoffman stated that no action will be taken now, but it will occur should the PUC find Avis operating WeDriveU in Pennsylvania.
The PRLA is waiting for a judgment from the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which regulates limousine operations in Philadelphia, as to the regulatory interpretation of this program.
“We are happy that the PUC has taken this position and are encouraged by the willingness of the PUC to involve industry representatives when determining new and current regulations which affect each of us,” said Philip Jagiela, president of the Philadelphia Regional Limousine Association.
NLA President Ron Sorci recently said the county’s Consumer Services Department will send the NLA documents that verify the results of its decision that Avis WeDriveU must cease operations in the county. The letter will be posted on the NLA web site.
NLA board members also will be available to advise association presidents on how Miami-Dade was able to stop Avis WeDriveU based on county chauffeured ordinance and airport concessions violations.
Sorci said the NLA will be working to educate local associations and operators on how to fight Avis.
Sources: Martin Romjue and Linda Moore, LCT Magazine