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BALTIMORE – When area high school students pile into stretch limousines for a stylish ride to the prom this spring, the last thing on their minds will be the status of their driver’s for-hire license. But with a rash of unlicensed, uninsured limo drivers operating throughout Maryland during prom season, the state’s limousine association is calling for stricter standards to keep “scab” chauffeurs off the street.
“They’re everywhere,” said Mike Ballard, owner of Hire Quality Limousine in Bel Air and president of the Maryland Limousine Association. “If you see a company listed in the Yellow Pages, it’s not necessarily legal.”
The Public Service Commission governs the state’s limousine industry, requiring applicants for a for-hire driver’s license to undergo a criminal background check, and interview with a member of the PSC’s transportation division. Licensed vehicles are also required to undergo two inspections a year, one just before prom season, PSC spokeswoman LaWanda Edwards said.
While the licensing process is demanding, Ballard said it’s the enforcement that’s lacking. The PSC’s transportation staff includes five vehicle inspectors and three field investigators, the state agency said. “The only reason nothing more has been done is because no one has been killed yet,” Ballard said.
The PSC maintains on its website a list of approved for-hire limousine services in Maryland. The commission currently licenses 210 companies that operate about 650 vehicles, Edwards said.
“The commission encourages customers to go on our website... and select a limousine service from the licensed drivers,” Edwards said. “If there is any dissatisfaction with a limo service, please let us know your concern.”
Ballard and the MLA have encouraged state lawmakers to increase Maryland limousine insurance standards to those on the federal level. For a Maryland limo company to cross a state line during service, its insurance must be at least $1.5 million per vehicle. In Maryland, some companies have as little as $120,000 of insurance, said Joanna Fridinger, owner of The Limo Lady in Baltimore and vice president of the MLA. “In every industry, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly,” Fridinger said. “It’s scary. It’s an absolute public safety issue.”
With prom season in full swing and weekends full of weddings, this is the time when unlicensed drivers know they can make their money because demand is so high, she added. “They just come out of the woodwork at this time of the year,” Fridinger said.
Source: Baltimore Examiner
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