10/14 update: Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) calls for more scrutiny of stretches nationwide.
COSTA MESA, Calif. — Members of the Greater California Livery Association heard a thorough update Wednesday evening on the group’s efforts to improve the regulatory climates for limousines at the state’s major airports.
GCLA consultant Paul Haney, a managing partner at the Englander, Knabe & Allen government relations and strategic communications firm in Los Angeles, updated progress and challenges at San Francisco International Airport, San Diego International Airport, and Los Angeles International Airport. The GCLA is responding to initiatives underway at California airports that could have a profound impact on the livery industry.
The updates are drawn from Haney’s prepared remarks Wednesday evening during the GCLA Vehicle Expo in Costa Mesa:
“Our first major challenge came in 2010, when San Francisco International Airport sought to implement a Clean Limousine Requirements Policy. It would have had a devastating impact on the livery industry in the Bay Area. It is not an exaggeration to say that the SFO policy would have virtually eliminated the ability of GCLA’s constituency to serve the airport.
“We successfully challenged the policy by focusing SFO’s management on three key areas of their proposed regulations that would have harmed not only our industry but, frankly, also the airport itself and the airlines serving it.
“We reminded them that the California livery industry is already sufficiently regulated by the state of California. As you know, our state has the most aggressive motor vehicle emission and mileage standards placed on Original Equipment Manufacturers in the nation. As such, all vehicles purchased by California limousine operators already comply with the California standards applicable to OEMs.
“Secondly, we pointed out that the EPA SmartWay Green Vehicle Program — which SFO sought to use to determine which vehicles could access the airport — was a voluntary guide for retail, private consumers. It was never intended to be the basis for a local airport program regulating commercial businesses such as ours. We were convincing in our argument that it made no sense to take federal test procedure scores for light duty vehicles and apply them to the medium and heavy duty passenger vehicles used by the livery industry.
“Finally, SFO’s proposed policy contained an unrealistic and unattainable implementation schedule. There simply were and are no available vehicles that meet both the performance requirements of the then-proposed SFO policy and the very specific demands of our industry’s clientele.
"We made a compelling case and, thankfully, we were successful i getting the policy set aside — at least for now. We must remain vigilant to future attempts to impose onerous and costly regulations on our industry at SFO or other airports in the state.”
"In San Diego County, where the GCLA represents more than 300 charter vehicle companies, the Airport Authority is pressing to implement a so-called Ground Transportation Vehicle Conversion Incentive-Based Program. The GCLA is pushing back. We want the program as it relates to the livery industry suspended while the California PUC conducts a review of the program. General Emory Hagan, the new director of the PUC’s Consumer Protection and Safety Division, agreed to conduct a 120-day review of the San Diego program in response to a direct appeal from the GCLA.
“Specifically, the PUC is looking at whether airports can impose vehicle age limits on charter carrier vehicles and whether it can impose a disincentive fee structure linked to the type of vehicle accessing the airport. We believe state law is on our side. We are hopeful that is what the PUC will conclude. A favorable determination from the PUC would be of tremendous benefit to our industry throughout California.
“While the PUC review is underway, we got what can be viewed as support for our position by none other than the San Diego Airport staff. At a meeting of the Authority Board in July, the staff reported that it had — quote — “determined that there is a lack of commercially available AFVs (alternative fuel vehicles) for purchase by the charter/limousine industry. Currently, only two models are suitable for limousine use and both provide significant challenges for commercial use. One model is cost-prohibitive while the other is not operationally feasible to support the limousine owners who need a vehicle with the ability to drive long distances between fueling” — unquote.
“In our view, the recognition by the San Diego Airport staff that Alternate Fuel Vehicles are not being manufactured for our industry and that the fueling infrastructure is inadequate is alone sufficient reason to remove charter vehicles from their program — regardless of what action the PUC decides to take following its review.
“We also believe that an exemption from programs of this type would be fully consistent with recent actions of the California Air Resources Board. CARB has approved new emissions rules, up through 2025, for cars and light-duty trucks sold in California. The new regulations make emission reductions the responsibility of vehicle manufacturers, and the infrastructure needs for fueling new low and Zero Emission Vehicles the responsibility of fuel producers — NOT fleet operators such as charter carrier companies.
“Also, in the San Diego case, we are reminding the staff and the board that the MOU between the Authority and the California Attorney General — cited as the genesis of their program — does not even address our industry. The MOU only calls out operators of shuttle services which are in an entirely different class of ground transportation companies from the unique on-demand, point to point service we provide.
“Moreover, we strongly believe that neither the San Diego Airport nor any other airport in the state can defend imposing financial penalties on the livery industry for failure to operate vehicles that their own staffs concede are not available to us.
“We also strenuously object to any vehicle age limit being imposed on our industry by individual airport operators. Charter carriers are regulated on a statewide basis by the California Public Utilities Commission. We must continuously meet stringent rigorous safety, financial and operations standards. The PUC’s oversight of our industry in California is comparable to the oversight of the airline industry by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“State law prescribes that the no airport may impose vehicle safety, vehicle licensing or insurance requirements on charter-party carriers operating limousines that are more burdensome than those imposed by the PUC. Under state law, airports may only require a charter-party carrier to obtain an airport permit for operating authority at the airport. The rationale behind the law is obvious: A charter-party carrier licensed by the PUC to operate anywhere in the state could be subject to different, and possibly conflicting, regulations at each airport it serves. Such a situation could result in airport authorities controlling the types of vehicles or the age of vehicles a carrier is permitted to use in all of its PUC-regulated operations, the vast majority of which are conducted not on airport properties but over the public roadways.
“It is safe to say other airports in the state are closely watching developments in San Diego, and are poised to match or one-up it. In some cases, airports already have in place programs that will impact us in the next several years.”
“Los Angeles is a case in point. A Community Benefits Agreement — to which our industry is not a party — mandates that by 2015 100% of on-road vehicles that have a 8,500 lbs gross vehicle weight rating or more, must be alternative fuel vehicles. If such vehicles are not commercially available at that time, Los Angeles World Airports will require operators to use least-polluting available vehicles as determined by an independent third party monitor.
“2015 may seem like a long ways off — it isn’t. We are already working to make our case for exclusion from this or any similar airport program representing a threat to our industry.”
GCLA officials meet with LAX Landside Operations next week to address operator concerns.
Source: Paul Haney, GCLA
10/14 update: Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) calls for more scrutiny of stretches nationwide.
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