NY/NJ Port Authority Tells WeDriveU: Get Outta Heere!

Posted on May 6, 2009 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

NEW YORK — The Avis WeDriveU service was dealt its strongest blow yet when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recently told the rental car agency that its chauffeured drive service violated port agreements and would be prohibited.

The Port Authority ruling last week requires Avis to immediately stop running its WeDriveU operation at some of the busiest airports nationwide that serve America’s most active metro region for chauffeured transportation.

Avis must cease operations at JFK International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and Newark International Airport, as well as the authority’s major seaports, bus terminals, and commuter stations.

The NY-NJ decision follows similar regulatory rulings in Houston, Miami-Dade, Phoenix, Atlanta, and Orlando that give chauffeured transportation operators growing momentum in their city-by-city battle against a business model that evades conventional scrutiny, licensing, fees, and regulations, and thereby undercuts legitimate, legal operators who abide by local chauffeured transportation rules and ordinances.

In the case of the Port Authority, leaders of the Limousine Associations of New Jersey regularly met with port officials to inform them of Avis tactics and create an awareness of regulatory disparities, said Barry Lefkowitz, executive director of LANJ and a longtime chauffeured transportation industry lobbyist.

“They wisely put the kibosh on them, which means we may not have to do the legislation that we had been talking to the New Jersey state legislature about,” Lefkowitz said. “We have an ongoing working relationship with the Port Authority and we used it to educate them on what was going on. We had gotten a commitment from them to support us legislatively.”

In a Monday e-mail to Lefkowitz, the Port Authority’s assistant director of government affairs, Ralph Tragale, indicated that Avis had been notified of the decision over the phone and that a formal letter from Port officials was being written to be sent to Avis this week. Lefkowitz said the Port Authority has its own law enforcement agency responsible for making sure Avis complies.

While the Avis WeDriveU service has been falling like dominoes of late in major cities, Lefkowitz warned that the threat to chauffeured transportation is far from over.

“Clearly this was a major hit, but they seem to be doing so well across the country, that it will require a concerted effort of the industry on all fronts,” Lefkowitz said.

Lefkowitz said he is also advising the Maryland Limousine Association in its attempts to combat Avis tactics at the Baltimore Washington International Airport.

National Limousine Association President Ron Sorci said the NY-NJ Port Authority decision has a major impact.

“As bigger cities and states knock Avis out of contention, it becomes a big plus for the industry,” Sorci said. “We always felt that if the major hubs were to witness the Avis WeDriveU program falling down, this would have a significant impact.”

Despite recent high-profile successes, Avis remains on the front burner for the NLA, since WeDriveU has a nationwide presence in most major cities, Sorci said. “Unless we keep the pressure up, it will encourage them to try again. Our thought is we need to be relentless in approaching every location where they are trying to service customers.”

The NLA has been actively advising member associations, including the Limousine Association of Houston which hosted Sorci last week at one of its meetings. LAH President Joe Jordan also conducted a seminar on anti-Avis WeDriveU strategies that operators and associations can use to show regulators how Avis violates ordinances and/or agreements in their respective cities and states.

Sorci said Jordan’s seminar content will be useful to chauffeured transportation operators fighting similar battles in other cities and states.

Source: Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine

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