Regulations

IMPOUNDED! New Limo Bill Sinks Its Teeth

Posted on January 12, 2011 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

A legal California operator learns a costly mistake in paperwork after getting snagged in a limo party bus crackdown.

LOS ANGELES — A Southern California limo party bus operator got hit with stiff fines and the temporary loss of its party bus vehicle when the company lacked a license for the vehicle during a recent sting operation by state authorities.

The company, a legally registered chauffeured transportation service with a TCP license to operate in California, had just received the limo party bus from a California coachbuilder and began hiring it out to clients, said Mark Stewart, president of the GREATER CALIFORNIA LIVERY ASSOCIATION.

Unfortunately, the operator did not have a specific additional license to run larger chauffeured vehicles, so the new party bus was impounded after it was stopped by authorities during a Dec. 10 sting operation in Hollywood, Stewart said.

Limo party bus crackdowns gained renewed notoriety when the California Highway Patrol’s Commercial Enforcement Unit conducted the HOLLYWOOD AREA PARTY LIMO BUS STING on Dec. 10 that targeted illegal commercial vehicles, such as tour buses and limo party buses. [Also see a cheekier version of events in this BLOG REPORT].

[NOTE: The operator and the coachbuilder that delivered the new vehicle to the operator declined to disclose their names for this article].

Stewart relayed the incident to LCT Magazine to show the effectiveness of a California limousine bill, AB2572, passed in 2010 that offers sweeping reforms in chauffeured transportation regulations. Among its NEW RULES HELPFUL TO THE LIMOUSINE INDUSTRY, the bill boosts the scope of the California Public Utilities Commission and state and local authorities to crack down on illegal luxury limousine operators who run vehicles without a valid state TCP license.

“When people are asking what we are doing to deal with illegals, this AB2572 finally brings some impact and muscle,” Stewart said. “Word will spread out to illegals that it will be a very costly venture.”

The operator caught in the sting had insurance for the limo party bus, just not the requisite TCP/PUC license to operate that specific size vehicle. The only way it can get its limo party bus out of impound is to get the legal paperwork, Stewart said. That takes at least two to three weeks, with impound fees running about $125 per day. “This was about a $5,000 costly procedure error for legitimate company,” Stewart said. “It’s a hard lesson for a legitimate company.”

Stewart estimated that an operator who loses use of a limo party bus would likely sustain monthly revenue losses of about $10,000 to $12,000, and still have to make payments on the vehicle estimated at $3,000 to $4,000 per month.

While regretting that a legal operator made a mistake, Stewart said he was encouraged that AB 2572, which had strong lobbying and industry support from the GCLA, appears to finally be addressing the longstanding problem of illegal operators in California who undercut the legitimate chauffeured transportation market.

Illegal operators have long been the bane of California’s chauffeured transportation industry, as such operators avoid licensing fees, insurance costs, and inspection fees, while in many cases also neglecting regular maintenance on their vehicles. As a result, illegal operators charge lower rates, thereby undercutting the safe and legal limousine operators.

“There will be more sting operations statewide like the one in Hollywood,” Stewart said. “You can’t just get out of it [anymore] and pay an impound fee.”

RELATED ARTICLE: CA LIMO PARTY BUSES COULD FACE MORE STATE RULES

— Martin Romjue, LCT editor

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