A recent investigation reveals a few rotten bad apples in the industry mix.
Article updated 2:30 p.m. PDT/5:30 p.m. EDT with comments from GGA.
BURLINGAME, Calif. — WeDriveU, Inc., a professional driver staffing service that works with the Avis rental car agency, recently partnered with Global Ground Automation, Inc. (GGA), a supplier of ground transportation reservation software.
The partnership combines Chauffeur Drive by WeDriveU with GGA’s online ground transportation marketplace. Corporate travel managers, agents and employees can add a WeDriveU chauffeur for meetings, business travel, event shuttles and social occasions through global distribution systems (GDS) or corporate booking tools powered by GGA.
WeDriveU, a separate company from Avis but that does regular business with the rental car agency, offers chauffeurs and security drivers throughout the U.S. and Canada to drive clients in their vehicles or in an Avis rental vehicle for itineraries that range from a full day of meetings to a week-long event.
“WeDriveU has an innovative offering that’s transforming the way corporations think of full day car and driver use,” said Gregg Tuccillo, president of Global Ground Automation, in a news release statement. “Integrating WeDriveU’s Chauffeur Drive service into an overall travel management plan offers considerable cost savings.”
The Avis/WeDriveU business model has been fought intensely by chauffeured transportation industry leaders and advocates who contend it skirts regulatory, licensing, and safety measures in states, municipalities, and airports nationwide. During the last few years, the National Limousine Association and assorted state associations have successfully advanced legislation at the state level and regulatory reforms at local airport levels that have effectively invalidated the Avis chauffeured venture in many areas. Those include the states of New Jersey and California, the cities of Philadelphia, Atlanta and Houston, the county of Miami-Dade in Florida, and at airports and ports under the jurisdiction of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
By separating chauffeurs and vehicles into distinct incorporated companies, Avis and WeDriveU offer the same services as traditional luxury limousine companies but are not held accountable to the same regulatory costs, licensing, insurance, and safety standards. This enables them to undercut the chauffeured transportation market with lower rates. Chauffeured transportation companies must then compete at a disadvantage.
NLA President Diane Forgy said that outrage about the venture was rippling among operators throughout the industry this week as they became aware of the partnership.
In a statement to LCT Magazine, Forgy said: “There have been numerous conflicts with WeDriveU, and regulators around the country determined their business model not to comply with licensing and insurance requirements. This agreement with GGA provides another avenue to access their services, but it does not change the fact that they may be operating illegally and those challenges will probably continue.”
Barry Lefkowitz, the executive director of the Limousine Associations of New Jersey and a longtime industry lobbyist and advocate at the national and state levels, called GGA’s alliance with WeDriveU an act of greed worthy of shame.
“The short-sightedness of them is unbelievable,” said Lefkowitz, who was instrumental last year in getting anti-Avis/WeDriveU legislation passed in the New Jersey state legislature. Lefkowitz made his comments in an e-mailed statement to LCT.
“It is a deal contrary to all of their other clients,” he said. “They must have somehow been out of the loop and missed all the articles written about the industry's deep concern about how Avis was skirting the laws that our industry has to follow in order to protect the public. Fortunately in New Jersey, they have to follow the same laws and regulations as limo operators with the new law we passed in the last legislative session. Shame on them for putting greed first. Other state associations need to pass legislation to protect their members against this and other attempts to undercut our industry's interests.”
In an interview Wednesday with LCT Magazine, Tuccillo said the partnership is simply providing a connection for those companies already doing business with WeDriveU. These include major firms and companies requesting chauffeurs for specific vehicles.
“We’re providing content that corporate clients are asking for,” Tuccillo said. “They said, ‘We are using the services already. We want a better way to connect.’ We connect divergent computer systems. Any provider that wants to provide chauffeur services can connect with us. Any limo company that wants to provide a chauffeur without a car would be connected as well.”
Tuccillo said he understands that the Avis WeDriveU arrangement is controversial among chauffeured transportation operators, but pointed out that most such companies would provide a chauffeur only as well, if asked by a client.
“I would argue that most limousine companies would provide that,” Tuccillo said. “I know most of the industry is very upset about WeDriveU about it being illegal in some areas. That’s not for me to say. It’s not up to me to be a policeman and determine who is right or wrong. We are a neutral provider. This is not exclusive to WeDriveU. Any limousine company that wants to provide the service, we would gladly plug them in.”
Global Ground Automation is owned by Rearden Commerce, an eCommerce platform company that offers Smart Apps, services, content and powerful personalization capabilities that enable relevant and meaningful transactions. The company connects millions of consumers and more than 7,300 business customers across every market segment to more than 1.2 million suppliers.
Sources: Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine; Rearden Commerce
LCT background articles on the industry’s Avis WeDriveU battles:
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
A recent investigation reveals a few rotten bad apples in the industry mix.
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