Operations

Are You Ready For The Unexpected?

Martin Romjue
Posted on March 3, 2017

The fiery stretch limousine seen around the world on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2017, will go down as one of the most shocking and painful images ever linked to the limousine industry. At LCT, visitor traffic to news coverage on our website and Facebook page spiked to record levels.

We all know the backstory by now: A Muslim immigrant family business owner who says he did not vote for Trump lost a stretch limousine to the irrational fury of anarchist rioters on a Washington, D.C. street. You couldn’t make up this many ironies and contrasts, even in a Hollywood script.

The savage, veiled cowards who torched the limousine also smashed up storefronts. In the singed minds of this deranged cohort, the limousine is one of many symbols of what they consider to be corrupt wealth and cultural vehicles for injustice and inequity, whether actual or not. This is blind rage against earned success, and you can’t appease or control it.

We should not be too surprised given the degenerate rise of mob violence, attacks on police officers, and hostile protests across cities nationwide.

Operators in certain cities I’ve spoken to already have dealt with unrest in real-time, re-routing fleet vehicles and whisking clients out of risky areas. No system or protocol is 100% foolproof, and Jan. 20 provided the perfect storm for thuglets to turn on a black vehicle.

So how do operators navigate this twisted new world disorder, and protect life, limb, and property? The reputation of this industry is vested in safety and security.

With its duty of care, chauffeured service is the safest form of ground transportation. I’ve fielded some helpful suggestions from various industry sources in the aftermath of this iconic incident:

  • Review your fleet vehicle insurance policies. Following the incident, media reports and social media comments exploded on whether the stretch limousine is covered, or should be. We’ll have more information about this topic in the April issue, but operators should double check their policies and determine how insurers define “vandalism,” “riots,” “civil unrest,” and “terrorism/acts of war,” all of which could involve varying coverage thresholds and/or exclusions. You may need clarification on your policy or added coverage. As one insurance vendor pointed out, most of us don’t fully read our insurance policies, including ones for businesses. Although most operators will never experience a torched limousine, the realities of urban unrest could still result in vehicle damage.
  • Devise emergency plans. Operators in Charlotte, Dallas, Baltimore, and St. Louis already are well aware of potential disruptions from riots. Make sure someone on staff can monitor local media and social media at all times, or check-in regularly. Create an action plan with clear procedures for unexpected civil unrest. Many operations already follow such plans for vehicle accidents; now it’s time to prepare for the “unexpecteds.”
  • Unexpecteds lead to unthinkables, and the unfortunate related concern to civil unrest is terrorism. The Transportation Security Administration provides training courses and counterterrorism guides for highway transportation carriers, including for motorcoaches. In a 2016 appearance before Congress, an adminstrator said “direct responsibility for securing surface transportation systems falls on the owners and operators of those systems.” The TSA’s role is to help them identify risk and adopt security programs. As one operator bluntly put it: “You’re not just making sure people aren’t attacked; you’re making sure your bus is not taken and filled with explosives.” More information on this topic can be found here: www.tsa.gov/for-industry/surface-transportation.
  • Chauffeurs should not double as bodyguards. If one is needed, a company may contract for one if able to handle the liability. The role of chauffeurs is to provide safe transportation. In areas near potential unrest, a chauffeur should never leave a vehicle out of sight and take pictures of where it’s parked and the surroundings. When providing transportation in a cordoned off or “hot zone,” operators and chauffeurs should meet with authorities to fully understand any procedures and safety parameters ahead of the event.
  • Look for chauffeurs and drivers among the ranks of former military members, law enforcement officers, and emergency personnel. Such workers are more likely to come with ingrained alertness, common sense, grace under pressure, precision, and reliability. Those qualities can prevent a serious real-time problem.

The responses to the Inauguration Day limo fire should be rooted in confidence and prevention, not fear. The goal is to be bold while playing it safe.

Related Topics: limousine fires, limousine safety, passenger safety, Safety & Insurance, security, vehicle security

Martin Romjue Editor
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