Rules Not Made to Order

Martin Romjue
Posted on January 22, 2013

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A look at the agenda and achievements of the Charlotte Regional Limousine Association underscores the critical need for industry groups. At every opportunity, and if you are not constantly watching, most governments will try to tax, charge and regulate transportation to the max.

DNC Difficulties
This tendency came to a head during the Democratic National Convention Sept. 4-6, when local government overregulation hampered chauffeured transportation companies, reports Tom Holden, president of the CRLA and operations director at Rose Chauffeured Transportation in Charlotte, N.C.

“As soon as the DNC announced it was holding its event in Charlotte the CRLA went to work,” Holden said. “We asked the city to get started and allow us as an association to help introduce what the needs would be for our industry to help ground transportation to succeed at the DNC. Little did we realize that city leaders really didn’t want our help. We spent the following year battling the City Council from making decisions on city ordinances that would make it impossible to operate under heavy regulations.”

Although the city granted temporary permits, the costs were high when considering background checks, drug tests, fingerprints, photos, driver permits, vehicle permits and vehicle inspections, resulting in an average cost of $400 per vehicle just for the privilege for working the DNC.

“Rose managed 160 vehicles daily during the DNC and only owns 52,” Holden said. “Rose paid out upwards of $10,000 in permit fees and many other companies paid several thousand also. All of us could have taken more work if it wasn’t for all of the restrictions.”

Tom Holden, President of the Charlotte Regional Limousine Association, leads a group of operators facing a tough regulatory atmosphere.

Tom Holden, President of the Charlotte Regional Limousine Association, leads a group of operators facing a tough regulatory atmosphere.

Permit Delays
Now, a key problem is the time and expense needed to get permitted chauffeurs approved by the city of Charlotte. The CRLA wants to streamline the permitting for chauffeurs, since it can take 45 to 90 days. Applicants kept in limbo for a permit often find other jobs since they need to earn income, Holden said. The temporary permits issued for drivers hired to work the DNC lasted 60 days, but the process did not carry over for issuing permanent permits. “The amount we spend to hire someone, we end up losing because we can’t wait that long,” Holden said.

Under the old system, “we could have a driver apply, get a temporary permit, then they could do a background check while he takes a two-day class during that period. Up until 2012 we were entitled to a temporary permit process.”
Meanwhile, Uber and WeDriveU are able to operate unhindered by any city rules, Holden said. CRLA leaders plan to meet with city government officials to review convention-related hassles and advocate for more sensible rules.

Delivering Results
While the regulatory atmosphere remains challenging for limousine operators, it doesn’t mean that a trade group such as the CRLA can’t rack up some achievements through persistence. “As an association, we have worked together with the city and its regulatory department as the city was rewriting ordinances, helping them to see their way through the confusion of the taxi vs. black car industry,” Holden recalls.

  • The association helped prevail upon regulators to license chauffeured vehicles that are up to a maximum of 10 years old, and eight years for taxis. They had proposed a limit of six years for each.
  • The CRLA helped the City Council rewrite a transportation ordinance in 2010 and 2011 that eased permitting requirements to all permits for chauffeurs licensed in South Carolina and North Carolina, since Charlotte lies near the border with clients in both states.
  • The CRLA also worked with the city for 18 months to create a series of six pick-up/drop-off points for chauffeured vehicles in the downtown area, where key banks and facilities are concentrated in a one-mile radius. The city previously had not allowed such locations in the downtown district. It also agreed to set aside two staging areas for vehicles on the north and south sides of the district with a maximum 10-minute wait period.
  • The CRLA persuaded officials at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport to increase the number of red zone parking areas inside the airport parking deck, creating 50% more spaces for chauffeured vehicles parallel to the baggage claim area where chauffeurs must greet clients.
  • Association leaders also were able to stop airport authorities from increasing chauffeured vehicle access fees 10-fold. Maximum fees are capped at $2. Under the original proposal, fees for a van or minibus would have averaged about $35 per vehicle based on $1 per five-minute increments.
  • The CRLA is helping the Passenger Vehicles For Hire Unit of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department create a list of approved chauffeured vehicles and types to be permitted in the city.

Overall, Holden remains encouraged that given these achievements the CRLA can help the city government devise better policies. “Millions of dollars were spent in our industry and we are very thankful that the DNC landed in Charlotte. We welcome all large events to the city. We as a professional industry can handle any size event as long as the city gets out of our way and allows us companies that actually know what ground transportation is all about to do our jobs.”

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FASTFACTS: Charlotte Regional Limousine Association

Location: Charlotte, N.C.
Founded: February 2008
Officers/leadership: Tom Holden, President (Rose Chauffeured Transportation); Shawn Glasgow, Vice President (Peak Limousine and Car Service); Laura Canady, Secretary (CLT Express Livery); Cheryl Hosseini, Treasurer (Connections Transportation); Robert Jones, Parliamentarian (Charlotte Limousine).
Operator members: 14
Vehicle regulating agency: Passenger Vehicles For Hire Unit of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department
Annual vehicle permit fees: $300    
Annual Dues: $200 (1-5 vehicles); $300 (6-10 vehicles); $400 (11 vehicles)
Meetings: monthly
Charities support: Make-A-Wish Foundation
Contact: (704) 568-1200

Related Topics: industry regulations, limo associations, North Carolina operators, state regulations

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