TRENTON, N.J. — A new state limousine law working its way to a vote in the state legislature has dealt another blow to the Avis/WeDriveU chauffeured business model.
Assembly Bill 3634 was passed unanimously by the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee on Monday and heads to likely passage in the General Assembly on June 18. From there, it likely will be approved in the New Jersey State Senate and signed by Gov. Jon Corzine before the legislature’s summer recess starts June 29.
Most importantly, according to the measure, Avis and anyone else using their WeDriveU template must now operate under the exact same rules and regulations as the limousine industry in New Jersey. Avis WeDriveU had been operating exempt from the regulations, fees, and other costs associated with running a legal chauffeured transportation company.
The transportation committee’s approval follows on the heels of a ruling by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey last month that Avis/WeDriveU violated its agreements with the port authority and would be prohibited on port-operated properties, including the major airports of metro New York. Avis WeDriveU has met a similar fate in Miami-Dade, Houston, Atlanta, and Phoenix.
“It will show the rest of the country you can get a state legislature to pass legislation that will deal with the Avis template,” said Barry Lefkowitz, executive director of the Limousine Associations of New Jersey and a longtime chauffeured transportation industry lobbyist.
Lefkowitz and LANJ members testified in front of the committee on Monday. Tomorrow, the group will again head to Trenton to see the Senate Transportation Committee vote on an identical bill, S2617.
LANJ had spent more than a year working with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and the State Legislature to formulate the bill and advance it through the legislative process. The Avis provision was inserted into the bill during the last two months. It will become effective within 90 days of the Governor’s signing.
LANJ is the first industry association in the nation to be able to get its state legislature to respond to industry concerns about WeDriveU operating under the regulatory radar screen.
A3634 also will do the following, according to Lefkowitz:
• Amends the existing New Jersey law to allow for increasing the number of passengers up to 14, not including the driver, in modified vehicles that have been certified by the manufacturer
• Allow for probable cause for the State Police and other law enforcement officers to go on-site to illegal operators
• Clarify language that extends the $50 fee for a company to include $10 per vehicle for registration in a municipality. For most LANJ members, this actually helps since many of the municipalities have tried to interpret the old law to mean $50 per vehicle. This will save LANJ operators a lot of money.
New Jersey is the fifth highest ranking state in chauffeured transportation business, according to LCT Fact Book findings.
On June 16, LANJ along with the Luxury Base Operators Association and the Philadelphia Regional Limousine Association will award to the Port Authority of NY/NJ and the Philadelphia International Airport plaques recognizing their professionalism in working with the organizations to further the cause of the industry while serving the public.
Sources: Email update from Barry Lefkowitz; Martin Romjue and Linda Moore, LCT Magazine