GCLA President Mark Stewart outlines the organization's approach in the aftermath of the limo fire on May 4 in San Francisco. He spoke at the GCLA's member meeting Tuesday, May 14, 2013 in Long Beach, Calif.
LONG BEACH, Calif. — As the limousine industry faces fallout from one of the worst accidents in its history, leaders of the Greater California Livery Association are building bonds with investigators, regulators and politicians to work toward common safety goals while protecting industry interests.
The media coverage stampede following a May 4 Bay Area accident in which five women burned to death while trying to escape a stretch limo inferno has brought unprecedented national scrutiny to the limousine industry and the regulations related to stretch limousines.
An investigation by the California Highway Patrol and the California Public Utilities Commission into the accident will likely reach its conclusions on an exact cause within 30-60 days after the accident, GCLA President Mark Stewart told a general association meeting Tuesday evening in Long Beach.
“We will be proactively working with the NLA and hopefully be included in a press conference when a cause is announced,” Stewart said.
Stewart called the accident “horrific, rare and unbelievable,” leaving the industry trying to grasp what happened while sympathizing with the victims and their families.
Some type of new legislation or regulation pertaining to limousines may be forthcoming as some state politicians are criticizing the California Public Utilities Commission for its oversight role on public safety, Stewart said.
The GCLA will work with and meet with state regulators and authorities to advise and offer insights on any proposed rules changes. Stewart emphasized that the GCLA would look out for the interests of the industry and the operator members of the association.
“You need to make it a No. 1 priority that operators and affiliates are GCLA members,” Stewart said. The group so far has 230 members as of Tuesday, more than doubling its total in the last two years and now just shy of its pre-recession membership high of 235.
The accident aftermath also has focused attention on the actions of the chauffeur that night and his extensive comments to the media afterward. The chauffeur’s behavior is not characteristic of the professional chauffeured transportation industry, Stewart said. “That chauffeur would not be working for the companies in this room and no owner here would allow a chauffeur to make such comments following an accident.”
To underscore the overall safety of the limousine industry, Stewart referenced the many in-house, customized chauffeur and safety training programs set up by individual limousine operations. A recent check of violations and citations publicly listed by the CPUC did not include any limousine companies that are members of the GCLA, Stewart said.
In the week after the accident, the GCLA and the National Limousine Association, which put out this accident statement on May 10, were inundated with interview and information requests from all the major national media organizations. Stewart and GCLA Vice President Rich Azzolino, also an NLA board director representing the West Coast region, acted as official spokesmen to state media outlets.
Related LCT blog post: Watch those safety details
— Martin Romjue, LCT editor
SPONSORS: The GCLA event was sponsored by Don Brown Bus Sales, Chosen Payments, South Bay Ford, Discount Tire Centers and Luggage Bellhop.