LOS ANGELES — The state agency tasked with rooting out illegal operators in California appears to be making progress in its enforcement efforts, according to supervisors who spoke at this month’s GCLA meeting.
The two officials from the California Public Utilities Commission — Moira Simmerson, a PUC enforcement supervisor in San Francisco, and Mike Nakasone, a senior PUC investigator for the San Diego region — reported that the PUC conducted 13 strike forces in the second quarter. Working with local law enforcement agencies, PUC officers busted illegal operators at airports in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Diego while catching some in Hollywood, Del Mar, the U.S.-Mexican border, and at two casino resorts.
As part of the crackdowns, Simmerson and Nakasone reported that the CPUC is impounding more vehicles, and not just at airports and the border. “The best disincentive is to tow the cars away, even if it’s just up until the trial,” Nakasone said.
Illegal operators are the bane of law-abiding operators in California, the state with the most chauffeured transportation activity. The gypsy limousine drivers avoid insurance and licensing fees, thereby clipping the industry with artificially low rates. Their illegal actions only compound the economic losses suffered by operators in a state that has a 12.2% unemployment rate and is experiencing the worst of the U.S. recession.
Nakasone also said that the PUC is: 1) Cultivating relationships with the District Attorney’s Office in San Diego to make incremental improvements in enforcement; 2) Working with authorities at the San Francisco International Airport to set up a permanent enforcement office, an effort that has been going on for 18 months.
The update marked a turnaround from the last GCLA meeting in May held in San Diego where GCLA lobbyist Gregg Cook threatened to “go after the ass” of CPUC chief Richard Clark over lackluster enforcement efforts. Because the GCLA previously agreed to an increase in operator licensing fees to fund stepped-up enforcement, Cook wants to ensure operators are getting their money’s worth.
At the most recent meeting, Cook, who works for Government Affairs Consulting in Sacramento, acknowledged progress by the PUC in enforcement efforts and looked forward to working with the agency further to crack down on illegal operators.
Cook’s lobbying colleague, Rob Grossglauser, told GCLA members that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is about to sign legislation that would levy a $1,250 “release fee” per illegal livery vehicle towed by authorities. The stiffer penalty would make it more difficult for illegal operators to help each other retrieve impounded vehicles.
Source: Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine