Illegal Drivers, HOV Lanes Top Concerns For Virginia Operators

Posted on October 16, 2013

Tom Penny of the Virginia DMV, (R), seated next to VLA President Glenn Stafford, Jr., fielded member questions during Monday’s quarterly meeting.
Tom Penny of the Virginia DMV, (R), seated next to VLA President Glenn Stafford, Jr., fielded member questions during Monday’s quarterly meeting.

RICHMOND, Va. — Issues ranging from HOV lane access, unlicensed drivers, Craig’s List and competitive rogue apps such as Uber were discussed Monday evening at the quarterly meeting of the Virginia Limousine Association (VLA).

VLA President Glenn Stafford, Jr. (Love Limousine) invited guest speaker Tom Penny, director of Fuels Tax Enforcement at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, to update members on state compliance and regulatory requirements, and other pertinent issues.

“Our number one priority is to choke-off illegal drivers,” said Penny, who added that the DOMV has stepped-up its monitoring and enforcement at concerts and events. “Our goal is to make sure there is a level playing field for operators and to protect the consumers. If drivers are unlicensed, operate outside their authority, or have no insurance, they will be fined. We want to protect the legitimate limousine operators, “Penny added.

One of the top member concerns focused on fuzzy regulations regarding driver access to HOV lanes when a vehicle did not have a passenger. Pam Tripp (Tripp’s Travel) and VLA Treasurer, asked Penny if there was a consistent regulation covering the use of HOV lanes. Trip said that when drivers use an HOV lane to drop off a passenger at the airport and then use the HOV lane on the return trip, they are often stopped and fined.  Tripp made the point that single-driver HOV access should be allowed because drivers are still working. Penny explained that HOV access is a “gray area” and various municipalities interpret HOV use regulations differently. He suggested, to avoid fines, operators not use an HOV lane without a passenger.

Regarding a member question about  the DOMV’s position on Uber and other transportation cell phone app-based services, Penny noted that the agency is closely monitoring these new services, adding that  if drivers operate without proper licenses or insurance, they will be fined. “We work Dulles airport as an example, and we will write them up and make it disadvantageous for them to do business. It’s not fair and we are trying to clean it up,” Penny said.

Further, Penny agreed with a member who said that rogue drivers who advertise private transportation services on Craig’s List is a growing problem. Penny said that DOMV enforcement is aware of the listings and is working to address the issue.  

“We think overall things are getting better in the limo industry because we are going after unlicensed drivers — but it’s a complicated industry. We can’t regulate competition, but we can make sure the playing field is level to protect legitimate operators,” he said.

— Tom Halligan, LCT East Coast Editor

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