California Operators in a Difficult Place this Prom Season

LCT Staff
Posted on April 11, 2007

ORANGE, CALIF. — Greater California Livery Association (GCLA) officers did not have good news to report to members last night at its monthly meeting. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) headquarters’ position is that parents may not hire limousines with a capacity of 10 passengers or more (including the driver) for prom transportation. Also, if a high school contracts directly with limousine operators, the vehicles and drivers must be school pupil activity bus (SPAB) certified — a process that requires considerable effort and expense for operators. There is also confusion over whether the state law and its current interpretation by the CHP mandates the use of yellow school buses for prom transportation.

This interpretation is causing turmoil for California operators who make part of their revenue every year through prom business. GCLA operator members reported at the meeting that they have received mixed messages from CHP field offices throughout the state; some CHP officers are interpreting the law differently than is being done by the Sacramento headquarters office. Operators around the state are now facing whether they will conduct normal business during this year’s prom season and risk getting fines and possible vehicle impounding by the CHP.

A recent meeting with CHP officials, GCLA President Alan Shanedling, and lobbyist Greg Cook offered some hope, but no immediate resolution of the problem in time for this year’s prom season. The GCLA, through Greg Cook, is working with the state legislature, the CHP, the state DOT, and state Dept. of Education to work out a solution to the problem. Cook reported that a bill will be presented to the state senate’s transportation committee, and that he is having meetings this week with senate and assembly members to intervene on the industry’s behalf. During the GCLA meeting with CHP officials, the CHP raised concerns about safety inspections on limousines and that chauffeurs backgrounds’ may not be properly inspected. GCLA officers successfully addressed these concerns, and pointed out the irony that the state Public Utilities Commission and CHP inspect and certify the safety of limousines and buses that can carry children to a family event one day, but cannot take teenagers to prom the next day.

A portion of the CHP memo is presented below:

“This type of transportation requires the use of a school bus, or SPAB (under contractual agreement with a school). There is no exception (or “loop hole”) in statute which allows parents or other persons to hire companies (e.g. limousine operators) using vehicles which are subject to the definition of school bus in Section 545 VC, and which do not meet any of the aforementioned exceptions in that statute. Since many Charter Party Carriers indicate they have been engaging in this type of transportation, this information bulletin serves to provide clarification and a consistent departmental response. However, this does not preclude the parents from hiring a company for transportation services with vehicles having a seating capacity of 10 or less, including the driver.”

The memo was dated Sept. 19, 2006 and was sent out to a distribution list that did not include limousine operators, but did include bus fleet operators. The memo also states that anyone having questions about this issue should contact the CHP’s Mike Chaffee at (916) 445-1865.

Source: GCLA & LCT Magazine

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