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LOS ANGELES — The Greater California Livery Association wrapped up 2011 on a high note at its holiday general meeting Tuesday night, marking a year-long surge in membership from 140 to 225 operators and vendors.
Those additional members signed up just in time, however, as the award-winning association now faces a new year with some partial regulatory setbacks that require renewed efforts and unified support:
- GCLA Officials are planning to meet with representatives of the California Public Utilities Commission to establish a stronger liaison between the association and its regulatory body. These discussions will include collaborating together on new ideas dealing with enforcement and administrative issues that are occurring within the ground transportation industry on a daily basis. In particular, the association needs to address contrasting views within the CPUC on whether stricter green regulations of for-hire vehicles accessing terminals at the San Francisco International Airport can proceed.
- GCLA officials also plan to meet with airport commissioners at the San Diego International Airport to modify or overturn the Vehicle Conversion program which also includes a rule that limits the age of charter-party ground transportation vehicles to seven years, potentially shutting out half of the limousine and livery vehicles that now legally serve the airport. That rule would take effect Oct. 1, 2012, and any livery vehicles older than seven years would not be able to get renewed airport access permits. Currently the seven rule applies to all operators being issued a first time SAN Operating permit as of May 1, 2011.
- Authorities at Los Angeles International Airport will be charging a transponder fee of $50 per vehicle due to a new AVI Reader program upon renewal of the LAX access permit and presently when adding new vehicles. The transponder previously had cost nothing. LAX and GCLA representatives were able to negotiate new 2-Year permits instead of annually.
“The GCLA needs the financial backing so we are fortunate to have a lobbyist, airport consultant and legal team as we protect the 5,150 legal operators in the state from over-regulation by the airports, local and state agencies,” said Rich Azzolino, a GCLA board director and chairman of the group’s legislative committee. He mentioned that the new administration of Gov. Jerry Brown has led to administrative shuffling at the PUC, which is proving disruptive to some of the regulatory progress the GCLA had made with the agency.
To that end, EmpireCLS Owner/CEO and BeTransported.com founder David Seelinger pledged to donate a portion of revenues from his new online venture as matching funds to any money the GCLA raises for its legal, lobbying, and consulting efforts. Seelinger told operators that the GCLA “is well on its way” to emerging as a stronger association, and warned of the growing threats of labor-related frivolous lawsuits against chauffeured transportation companies.
Seelinger — a former NLA board director and a founder of a New Jersey limousine association that later evolved into the current Limousine Associations of New Jersey — understands firsthand the urgency for operators to participate in industry associations and support them financially.
EmpireCLS recently experienced another setback on the labor front, as a set of plaintiffs with a lawsuit against the company that was dismissed in federal court are now returning and asking to have 60 individual labor wage claims legally arbitrated. EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services, the largest chauffeured transportation company in the U.S. with all-owned fleet vehicles, already spent $1 million in legal fees defending against the original suit, and now must devote more resources to the fighting the claims, Seelinger said. “We’re back to square one on this. It all comes around again.”
To help educate operators on labor laws and equip them to combat frivolous claims, the GCLA started sponsoring labor seminars this year, and plans to hold its second annual series in San Francisco in June 2012.