California Operators Grapple With Tough New Limo Safety Rules

Posted on October 23, 2013

LOS ANGELES -- The group that represents the interests of California limousine operators released an explainer and responses Wednesday regarding two safety-related bills that had emerged this year in the wake of the fatal stretch limousine fire May 4 in San Francisco.

The formal statement from the Greater California Livery Association came 12 days after Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB109, which most notably requires emergency exit retrofits on existing conventional stretch limousines (10 people or fewer incl. chauffeur) by Jan. 1, 2016, and vetoed SB338, a proposal to require fire extinguishers and mandatory paid safety inspections of stretch limousines (10 people or fewer incl. chauffeur).

GCLA leaders wanted to take their time to closely examine the legislation and meet with their lobbyists so they could craft a comprehensive and constructive response.

The bottom line on SB109 is that it has serious business consequences for operators running stretch limousines. The GCLA offers its guidance in the complete statement below signed by President Mark Stewart:

The Greater California Livery Association (GCLA) is dedicated to promoting and protecting California’s chauffeured transportation industry and its passengers.

As a result of a horrific incident this past May on the San Mateo Bridge, California now has new requirements on stretched limousines with a seating capacity of 9 or less passengers.  The catastrophic incident claimed the lives of 5 women and the legislature responded with the passage of Senate Bill 338 (Hill) and Senate Bill 109 (Corbett), both relating to limousine safety.

Senate Bill 109 by Senator Ellen Corbett was signed by the Governor and becomes law on January 1, 2014. Senate Bill 338 was vetoed by the Governor, but in his veto messaged he encouraged the legislature to return a corrected bill in 2014.  

Initial versions of both pieces of legislation applied new rules and regulations to any charter party carrier vehicle with a seating capacity of less than 9 passengers, including sedans and SUVs. GCLA’s first task was to educate policy makers to change the legislation on which vehicles should included and which vehicles should not be included. GCLA successfully eliminated SUVs and town cars from the new push-out window, fire extinguisher and inspection requirements. The bills were amended so that the requirements were solely on modified or extended (stretched) vehicles with a seating capacity of 9 or less passengers.

GCLA spent countless hours working with the authors and their staffs in an attempt to achieve an appropriate legislative response to the tragedy.  We worked diligently with both Senators Hill and Corbett.  The negotiations started in May and continued until the end of the legislative year in September.  Ultimately, GCLA was able to support SB 338 that would require fire extinguishers in the vehicle and CHP inspections of the stretched less than 9 passenger limousines.

SB 338 by Senator Jerry Hill of San Mateo County would have required the California Highway Patrol to develop regulations and conduct safety inspections of passenger limousines modified or extended for the purposes of increasing vehicle length to accommodate increased passenger capacity less than 9. In addition, it would require DMV registration to identify that the vehicle has been modified or extended, the CHP inspection to be reported to the California Public Utilities Commission. The vehicles would also be required to have two specified fire extinguishers. The bill specified that the CHP would established the inspection fee, not to exceed $75.00 to be paid by the charter-party carrier. At one point, amendments were going to be placed in the bill that would allow the CHP to increase the inspection fee on larger vehicles (10+ seating capacity) from the current $15 up to $75. GCLA successfully blocked this attempt and advocated that the scope of the legislation remain solely on the 6 and 8 pack limousines. The Governor vetoed SB 338 and according to his veto message it was because the inspection fee did not cover the “actual costs” of the CHP to conduct the inspection. Interesting fact is the GCLA, Senator Hill and the CHP were in an agreement with legislative passed SB 338. Ironically the California Highway Patrol decided in the 11th hour to throw us under the “Bus” and take a different position on this bill based on unknown inspection fees. The Governor urged the legislature to pass similar legislation next January with a provision providing for “actual costs.” GCLA will be working close with Senator Hill and monitoring this new legislation.

Senate Bill 109 by Senator Ellen Corbett, Alameda County would prohibit any person from operating a stretched limousine (less than 9 passengers) unless the vehicle is equipped with at least 2 rear side doors and two side windows that passengers may open from inside the vehicle (push-out windows) in case of emergency, one of these windows must be on each side of the vehicle. If the vehicle is incapable to housing the additional window or windows then one push-out window must be installed in the roof of the vehicle. Effective July 1, 2015 all new 6 & 8 passenger limousines must include a 5th door and one side push out window. Effective January 1, 2016 all 6 & 8 passenger limousines manufactured prior to July 1, 2015 must  include one of the following: 1) one 5th door and one push out window. 2) 2 side push out windows 3) one side push out window and one roof mount window. The CHP is required to establish regulations regarding the operability and sufficiency of the push-out windows in emergency situations. In addition, the limousine operator is required to inform the passengers of the safety features associated with the vehicle and disclose to every prospective customer of the vehicle that the vehicle meets these requirements. The requirements of the push-out windows do not affect “vintage” vehicles, those manufactured prior to 1970.

SB 109 has an implementation timeline for the various components:

January 1, 2014: Emergency safety talk with passengers is required.

July 1, 2015: All new 6 & 8 passenger Limousines must have a 5th door and one side push out window.

January 1, 2016: All 6 & 8 passenger limousines manufactured before July 1, 2015 Must include one of the following: 1) One fifth door and one push out window; 2) Two side push out windows; 3) One side push out window and one roof mount window.

GCLA strongly opposed SB 109 knowing that the compliance burdens will force many limousine operators to cease offering the service or take their business underground to avoid the cost of new vehicle modifications in July 2015 as well as the retrofit starting in January 1, 2016, thus putting more California’s at risk and without the insurance protection licensed operators carry. SB 109 is now law and we encourage each of our members to fully comply.  However, as our members prepare for SB 109’s various components to take effect GCLA will be the begin the arduous task working and discussing the technical requirements qualified Coach Builders will need to undertake as they survey the necessary changes or potential challenges and documented concerns and successes that will be reported to those California’s policy makers so that we can continue to pursue California statutes that promote everyone’s common goal: providing safe transportation services

GCLA will participate in the CHP regulatory process and will work with the legislature on potential amendments to the legislation to assist in the implementation of the new laws. Limousine safety issues will continue to be debated in the legislative arena. GCLA will continue to vigorously advocate for policies that both protect the public and the viability of our members’ businesses.

Mark Stewart
GCLA President

LCT Background Articles:

Gov. Brown Signs Limo Retrofit Bill For California Operators

CA Industry Leaders Urge Governor Veto On Limo Retrofit Bill

Tough New Rules Would Slam California Limo Operators With More Costs

Related Topics: California operators, Greater California Livery Association, legislation, limousine fires, limousine manufacturing, limousine safety, Mark Stewart, passenger safety, state regulations, vehicle safety

Comments ( 2 )
  • Werner Wolf

     | about 6 years ago

    The legislation requires the installation of pop out windows. Does such an aftermarket product actually exist or is our emotional legislature requiring the impossible? If so, I'm selling my small fleet in Arizona and moving to Texas.

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