SAN DIEGO — Talks between the Greater California Livery Association and officials at the San Diego International Airport (SAN) over proposed vehicle green rules have broken down, prompting the GCLA to consult with a law firm on its next course of action.
The specific rules, detailed in a June 17 LCT E-News article, would eliminate license renewals for all chauffeured vehicles older than seven years as of Jan. 1, 2012, and gradually phase in incentives for operators to use vehicles that meet stringent mileage requirements.
The GCLA e-blasted a message to California operators on Tuesday urging them to help fight the rules, which would debilitate half of the chauffeured transportation industry that serves the airport. If SAN’s green rules move forward, about 50% of the 800 livery vehicles now licensed at the airport would be rendered ineligible.
“Our last talks were in May,” GCLA President Mark Stewart told LCT. “They are very adamant on their program. There is nothing more to discuss. We will respond similar to how we did with SFO (San Francisco International Airport).”
Stewart stopped short of implying any formal legal action, but said the GCLA leaders would consult with their attorneys at the firm of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard Smith to send a strongly-worded formal response to San Diego airport officials that “details why the program should be suspended.”
That strategy worked in getting similar stringent rules suspended at the San Francisco International Airport. The GCLA sent a letter to SFO officials citing a legal opinion from the California Public Utilities Commission, a U.S. Supreme Court decision, and examples of how the airports green vehicle mileage rules exceed federal EPA guidelines or that of any other superlative agency.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined an appealed case in March that would have mandated emissions standards for taxis in New York City. The decision works in favor of ground transportation operators concerned that green vehicles are not as comfortable, durable, and affordable as conventional ones.
Of primary concern to the California chauffeured transportation industry about the proposed airport rules is that most of the current luxury vehicles on the market, even many hybrid ones, do not meet the requirements. The GCLA is asking airport officials to wait until auto manufacturers build luxury vehicle models that meet fuel mileage guidelines. The only vehicles qualifying so far would be the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, a mid-sized vehicle, and CNG-versions of the Lincoln Town Car. CNG chauffeured vehicles so far suffer from diminished travel ranges, mechanical problems, higher price tags, and a lack of consistent fueling spots.
And while government bureaucrats and environmental activists share fantasies about a Toyota Prius being a universal service vehicle, the rat-shaped compact so far only serves a handful of eco-conscious clients and is not considered a long-term viable luxury vehicle by most of the industry.
Stewart also discounted the view among some California operators that the ban on chauffeured vehicles seven years or more doesn’t matter, since most quality chauffeured operators use newer vehicles in their fleets. Many of those companies with newer fleets still need those affiliated small-fleet operators who run older vehicles, especially to handle transportation for big events, Stewart said.
“Some operators view it as getting more business for themselves, but all companies are using affiliates,” Stewart said. “Companies would have to buy additional vehicles to offset what would have been sent out in affiliate work. We have to look at this for all operators, not just large companies that have three to five-year turnarounds for fleet vehicles. If we give in to the airport on this point, they are going to look for more takeaways.”
Information on GCLA Expo
— Martin Romjue, LCT editor