Leading Industry Trade Groups Grapple With Tough TNC Issues

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NLA lobbyist Louie Perry of Cornerstone Government Affairs updated the NLA membership March 16, 2015 on the group's legislative and regulatory efforts. (Photo by LCT)
NLA lobbyist Louie Perry of Cornerstone Government Affairs updated the NLA membership March 16, 2015 on the group's legislative and regulatory efforts. (Photo by LCT)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Attendees to the 2015 International LCT Show left no doubt what industry issue was foremost on their minds and will be for at least a few years to come.

Transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber have gripped and motivated the industry in ways no prior issue could. The TNCs are proving to be what NLA President Gary Buffo calls “an existential threat” to the limousine industry business model, as TNCs flout safety, insurance, labor, licensing and operational rules that apply to chauffeured vehicle and taxicab companies. Those disparities enable TNCs to run with lower overhead costs, independent contract drivers, and discounted rates, that when combined, generate added profits based on wide revenue volume.

Underscoring the seriousness of the issue, four groups held meetings before and during the March 16-18 Show. Attendees were invited to sessions of the National Limousine Association (NLA), the leading industry trade group and a co-producer of the Show, along with Advocates for Fairness in Transportation (AFT), the Taxicab Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA), and the Florida Limousine Association (FLA), among the most active state groups on the TNC issue.

The NLA e-mailed a letter to its members March 27, signed by key industry CEOs and leaders, who met on a conference call one week after the Show. The letter cited the need for the NLA, AFT, and the TLPA to work together and speak with a unified viewpoint: “Participants on the call agreed to work steadfastly together to ensure that passenger, public, and driver safety remain of utmost importance and that any regulations are uniformly applied and enforced across all sectors of our industry.”

NLA board directors and lobbyists covered a lot of TNC policy ground during a quarterly board meeting March 15 and a general membership meeting on March 16. NLA lobbyist Louie Perry, vice president of Cornerstone Government Affairs in Washington, D.C., outlined the group’s key priority points for its legislative and regulatory efforts.

Overall, the NLA is concerned with the lack of regulation of TNCs and is seeking legislation to promote public safety by ensuring these companies comply with the common law principle of a duty of care, Perry said. The NLA team has developed the following principles:

Drivers should be properly screened, licensed and trained, which includes the following:

  • Criminal background and security check by a certified agency or equivalent.
  • Pre-hire drug testing and random testing program, when required by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • Driver training program that includes driver duties, customer service, safety and defensive driving skills.
  • Certified medical examination, as required by local, state and federal regulations.
  • Proper supervision, retraining and discipline when appropriate.
  • Also, ground transportation vehicles should be properly licensed, safe, and commercially insured, which includes:
  • Commercial insurance with liability coverage, as required by local, state and federal regulations.
  • Proper licensing permits.

Perry summed up recent and ongoing NLA actions:

  • Reaffirmed the NLA’s commitment to the common law principle of a duty of care.
  • The Passenger Bill of Rights, as established by the Ride Responsibly initiative, highlights the standard of care that all passengers of ground transportation vehicles are entitled to receive.
  • Created a coherent and consistent policy on TNCs to help members across the country to guide consumers to make an informed decision (in line with the Ride Responsibly initiative).
  • Planned the NLA Annual Day On Hill lobbying event in early June to educate lawmakers on the necessary steps to make sure TNCs fall under the same standards as other livery services.
  • Working as a leadership team to standardize marketing and communication efforts nationwide.
  • Helped state lobbying efforts to promote legislation that puts passenger safety at the forefront by standardizing the regulation for ground transportation vehicles, including TNCs.
  • Explored the creation of public advocacy campaigns at the state level to raise awareness of the issues mentioned above.
  • Advised the NLA board on legislative options for dealing with TNCs at the federal level.
  • Helped with NLA’s communications with the national trade association of the insurance industry to impress upon them the need for commercial for-hire operators to purchase commercial liability insurance.

Following the general membership update, NLA leaders and representatives from its hired public relations firm, Evins of New York, detailed the Ride Responsibly national campaign to create safety awareness among the American riding public about TNCs. NLA members got to see video clips arranged by Evins of Buffo appearing on national cable TV business news networks promoting Ride Responsibly. The NLA and Evins plan to announce more publicity efforts in coming months.

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