Regulations

GCLA Loads Up For Legal Fight Over Painful Green Rules

Posted on June 17, 2011

[UPDATED: 4:22 p.m. PDT June 15 w/ vehicle specifics]

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — California operators are gathering support for a potential legal battle against strict green rules at the San Diego International Airport (SAN) that would essentially render every large luxury black vehicle now in use as environmentally unacceptable.

Livery vehicles older than seven years would no longer be permitted while younger standard limousine vehicles would be fined if they are not converted to alternative fuels. The combined effect of these policies could put many chauffeured transportation companies out of business.

Negotiations on the policies, which take effect on Jan. 1, 2012, have mostly failed, and the Greater California Livery Association is asking members to support a legal fund. The GCLA leadership believes the situation has reached the point where chauffeured transportation companies have no option but to fight back.

Legal counsel for the GCLA has reviewed the San Diego policy and believes that the GCLA has solid legal ground to fight its implementation. The proposed policy is preempted by federal law, and therefore would be unenforceable if challenged in court, the GCLA maintains.

Green power grab
The overriding issue is the fact that SAN and the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) are proposing stringent green policies that discriminate against chauffeured transportation companies. For the past two years, both airports have attempted to implement environmental emission standards that are higher than the standards imposed by the state of California Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and California Air Resources Board (CARB). California also does not have adequate fueling infrastructure for propane, natural gas, electric, and hydrogen.

The San Diego Airport Authority at first adopted its set of emissions policies in March 2010, suspended them in November 2010, and reinstated them last month. If the authority succeeds with full implementation, it could further encourage similar efforts at SFO and possibly influence governing authorities at other major airports nationwide.

The goal of the San Diego airport plan is to convert 100% of the public commercial ground transportation vehicles operating at the airport to alternative-fueled vehicles (AFVs) or clean-air vehicles (CAVs) by 2017. To meet this goal, the airport will track vehicle conversions and reassess its incentive program annually.

What vehicles are allowed?
Under the incentive program, beginning in January 2013, a chauffeured transportation company would receive fee reductions for operating AFVs or CAVs. So far, none of the luxury livery vehicles, except one, used by operators nationwide would qualify under the conversion program, and therefore be subject to fees.

Vehicles that would pass muster under SAN rules include: the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, the Ford Fusion Hybrid, the Toyota Prius, and the propane and CNG versions of the Lincoln Town Car.

Of those vehicles, only the mid-sized MKZ is part of Ford's official luxury livery program with warranties and livery upgrades. The mid-sized Fusion is not a luxury vehicle or label. The Prius is a compact more suited for commuting than luxury chauffeured service and has never been widely accepted by the industry as a credible limousine vehicle.

The alternatively fueled Town Cars must be at least 2010 models, according to SAN rules. They cost substantially more than gasoline Town Cars, making them prohibitively expensive for many operators. What's more, they have shorter fuel tank ranges and the state lacks enough fueling stations to enable flexible long-range use of the vehicles.

As a luxury-based service sector, the chauffeured transportation industry overwhelmingly operates vehicles that are in the Medium Duty Passenger Vehicle (MDPV) and/or Heavy Duty (HD) categories. None of the vehicles being manufactured in these categories meet the requirements to qualify for the conversion incentives, making entire fleets subject to the non-conversion penalties beginning in 2013.

The annual fee to register a livery vehicle at SAN this year is $50. Next year, it will be $100 per vehicle.

Conversion incentives

• 2013: 75% reduction in fees

• 2014: 50% reduction in fees

• 2015: 25% reduction in fees

• 2016: 10% reduction in fees

• 2017: Zero reduction in fees

Non-Conversion Penalties

• Starting 2013: 25% Increase in fees

• 2014: 50% increase in fees

• 2015: 75% increase in fees

• 2016: 100% increase in fees

• 2017: 150% increase in fees

• 2018: 200% increase in fees

Wreaking havoc
The most immediate effect of the SAN policies on the industry would be the ban on livery vehicles older than seven years, which GCLA research estimates at 46% of the 780 livery/limo vehicles now registered and licensed to pick up and drop off passengers at the airport. However, many of these companies receive overflow farm-out work from other larger operators.

“This will be a huge impact on operators in San Diego who have no knowledge that as of the beginning of next year those vehicles will not be able to get a permit,” GCLA President Mark Stewart told LCT this week.

While almost half of all livery vehicles serving SAN are older than seven years, most reputable and legal operators who belong to the GCLA and NLA run younger vehicles that are swapped out with newer models well within a seven-year time frame.

Legal fund information
Operators and industry supporters who would like to contribute to the GCLA’s legal fund should contact either:

Mark Stewart, GCLA President, [email protected], (714) 546-6737

Jack Nissim, GCLA Treasurer, (800) 487-4255 x140.

The GCLA accepts donations via monthly credit card pledges. To join the GCLA, operators and industry friends should go to www.gcla.org or call (866) 392-4252.

Labor seminar
The association is also offering its first labor seminar designed to help operators stay informed and maintain compliance with federal and state labor laws. Operators also can learn how to create effective and legally sound workplace policies.

For more information, go to the Greater California Livery Association website.

— Martin Romjue, LCT editor

Related Topics: airports, California operators, GCLA, green regulation

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