Houston Operators Target Illegal App Operators, Consider Legal Action

Posted on February 25, 2014

HOUSTON, Texas -- The Houston Area Livery & Charter Association released a statement Monday regarding illegal operators of smartphone apps who the group contends are operating in Houston illegally without required permits. HALCA is targeting the Houston City Council and regulatory staff for not properly enforcing relevant ordinances.

“Our main concern is public safety," HALCA President Erich Reindl said in the statement. "When you have an operator who has to do 100 trips per week to break even, properly maintain vehicles, secure proper insurance coverage and licensing, the math doesn’t add up. What ends up happening is the operator cuts corners, ignores maintenance issues and can even put a different, unlicensed driver in the vehicle to keep the income coming in.”
The group states such apps pose a greater risk to the traveling public because background checks on drivers are not done frequently enough, and are the screenings often are insufficient. "This presents a problem, as we have seen in other cities that have had sexual assault instances not properly identified before a driver is allowed to transport passengers," according to the statement.

Hours of service are a big issue for all operators of limousine services, but the app-based transportation services do not manage how many trips per day, hours per day, etc. are legally safe for a person to drive. Safety and quality are compromised when a driver has to work many demanding hours just do make operating expenses, HALCA said.

The Houston traveling public isn’t aware, as in most cities, how the apps function, or if the service provider is operating legally, HALCA said. They think that this is approved by the city regulators. Recently, the apps began operating illegally in Houston while city regulators have attempted to lower the standards for operating a company in Houston.

Lobbyists representing Uber, the most prominent app-based transportation service, have been courting city officials for the past several months. They are asking that four main things be changed in the ordinance, known as Chapter 46, which regulates limousine services in Houston. Their requests include:

1) Eliminate the minimum fare for limousine trips.
2) Eliminate the minimum fleet requirement for limousines.
3) Update and clarify the vehicle manifest regulations and dispatch locations in the limousine sections of the ordinance.
4) Relax vehicle age requirements for all vehicles.

Each of these requests has the potential to hurt the legal, legitimate limousine industry overall, HALCA said. "Our organization believes that the current Chapter 46 regulations are the minimum standard set by the joint efforts of the limousine industry and city regulators. The minimum fare regulation ensure that taxis remain a protected utility, and service is citywide and not pigeonholed to specific parts of town. Additionally, the minimum fleet requirements for limousines ensures that an operator is a true participant in the industry, not just some fly-by night operation. Eliminating this requirement would allow Uber drivers to permit a single vehicle and enter/exit the market with little investment. This would also hurt the taxi industry, as they are protected by the use of “medallions” which limit the number of cabs, as more cab drivers would exit the taxi industry and enter the limousine industry. Finally, on relaxing the vehicle age requirements for all vehicles, our industry has one of the best safety records. We feel strongly that allowing a vehicle to go beyond the current six-year period would result in more accidents from lack of maintenance."

Information: Erich Reindl, HALCA President, [email protected]

Source: HALCA

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