NHTSA Reveals Impact On U.S. Economy From Crashes

NHTSA Summary of Unit Coasts and Police-Reported and Unreported Crashes, 2010 Dollars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released a new study illustrating the high economic and societal impact motor vehicle crashes have on all U.S. citizens. Commenting on the study, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that “While the economic and societal costs of crashes are staggering, today’s report clearly demonstrates that investments in safety are worth every penny used to reduce the frequency and severity of these tragic events.”

“The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes 2010”, used various factors in calculating the enormous toll these accidents have on every aspect of society, including property damage, medical/rehabilitation costs, congestion costs, legal fees, emergency services, insurance costs, productivity losses and employer costs. Based on the 2010 calendar year data, the study found that vehicle crashes cost the U.S. economy $277 billion, equating to $900 per every person living in the U.S. When the economic impacts are paired with the social impacts of vehicle crashes, such as harm from the loss of life and decreased quality of life due to injuries, that monetary loss jumps to $871 billion.

Some of the report’s findings include:

  • Drunk drivers accounted for 18% of the total economic loss, and cost the nation $49 billion ($158 for every person);
  • Speeding vehicles accounted for 21% of economic loss, and cost the nation $59 billion ($191 for every person);
  • Distracted driving accounted for 17% of the economic loss and cost the nation $46 billion ($148 for every person); and
  • Pedestrian and bicycle-related crashes accounted for 7% of the economic loss and cost the nation $19 billion.

On a positive note, seatbelt usage prevented $69 billion in medical care, lost productivity and other injury-related costs.

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FMCSA Debates Commercial Vehicle Insurance Minimums…Including Limos

 

The medical consumer price index inflation rates would make the inflation-adjusted levels of financial responsibility significantly higher for carriers of 15 or fewer passengers.

In April 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a report examining the appropriateness of the current laws regarding minimum financial responsibility requirements for motor carriers of property and passengers, including insurance requirements. The new report to Congress cites several recent studies indicating that inflation has greatly increased medical claims costs and related expenses, and FMCSA has determined that the current financial responsibility minimums for the different transportation sectors are due for reevaluation. The current minimum financial responsibilities for passenger carriers have been in effect since November 19, 1985.

For passenger transportation vehicles, the study focused primarily on the areas regarding the number of passengers (1-8, 9-15 and 16+) and the type of vehicle (motorcoach, school bus, minibus, passenger van and limousine). The current minimum financial responsibility levels are: $5 million for carriers operating vehicles with a seating capacity of 16 or more passengers, and $1.5 million for carriers operating vehicles with a seating capacity of 15 or fewer passengers.  The industry consists largely of small companies operating 6 or fewer vehicles, totaling more than 75% of the nation’s passenger carriers.

According to FMCSA, the study’s findings have provided preliminary support for increasing the current levels of financial responsibility for passenger carriers. The medical consumer price index has outpaced overall inflation rates by 4.9% annually, which would make the inflation-adjusted levels of financial responsibility significantly higher for carriers of 15 or fewer passengers – from the current $1.5 million to over $6.3 million. 

The Agency has formed a rulemaking team to further evaluate the appropriate level of financial responsibility for motor carriers, and has placed this rulemaking among the Agency’s high priority rules. FMCSA will continue to meet with stakeholders as it moves forward with developing a proposed rule for this issue.   

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Google Glass Distracted Driving Case Dismissed

 

Google Glass Lawsuit

A California woman appears to be the first person in the nation charged with distracted driving using Google Glasses as the source of her distraction.

A California woman cited for distracted driving for wearing Google Glass while on the road has had her case dismissed. She appears to be the first person in the nation charged with distracted driving using the computer-in-eyeglasses device as the source of her distraction. The woman, a software developer who was selected to try out Google Glass before the devices will be in the hands of the public later this year, was cited under a code banning operation of a video or TV screen at the front of a vehicle that is moving. The Traffic Court Commissioner who ruled on the case said that the code is broad enough to apply to Google Glass, but there was no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the device was in the “active” mode when the woman was driving. However, he refused to rule that it is legal to wear the device and drive while it is turned on. The woman said that despite the glasses being “on,” she was not using them in the “active” mode at the time.

Her defense attorney argued that anything could be a distraction, even something as common as changing radio stations. He contended that if lawmakers did not rule definitively that Google Glass can be used safely while someone is driving, the code used to cite his client would be left up to the interpretation of individual judges, causing some confusion. Google glasses, which can be voice-activated or turned on with a wink, have a hidden camera and thumbnail sized, transparent display above the right eye. The device can be used to do things such as check email, do research on items the wearer is looking at, take a picture, record a scene and even get driving directions.

Legal experts are now arguing that this ruling could be the start of many court battles in the courts, as state lawmakers try to come to terms with existing laws and the rapid arrival and ever-changing new technologies coming to market. Vivewk Wadhwa, a fellow from Stanford Law School, agrees that the battles have just begun, because the lower court ruling does not set a legal precedent, but rather marks what he expects will be numerous, similar challenges. Included in those challenges will be other wearable devices and certainly, driverless cars, all coming to the marketplace in the near future. Wadhwa offered a scenario in which a driverless car is being operated on the road and then hits someone. Who is the responsible party? The “driver” (now being referred to as the “passenger”), the car manufacturer, the roadway network or the software developer? The possibilities for finding fault could be a long list. After the California ruling, Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia have introduced bills that would ban driving with Google Glass. More states are expected to follow.

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Tens Of Thousands Of U.S. Bridges In Serious Need Of Repair

The deficient/critical bridges carry more than 29 million vehicles per day and are over 60 years old, which exceeds their original projected life expectancy.

A recent analysis of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) National Bridge Inventory conducted by the Associated Press (AP) Investigative Team, has revealed that more than 85,000 of the nation’s bridges are in dire need of repair and replacement. The review is extensive, finding that out of the 607,380 bridges listed, 65,605 are classified as “structurally deficient” and 20,808 are listed as “fracture critical.” Of these bridges, 7,795 fall into both categories, indicating a dangerous level of disrepair and a risk of collapse.

Among the bridges that are deemed both structurally deficient and fracture critical are the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge into Washington, D.C., the Brooklyn Bridge
in New York, the Route 495 Lincoln Tunnel Helix in New Jersey and the Main Avenue Bridge in Cleveland. The deficient/critical bridges carry more than 29 million vehicles per day. Most of those bridges are over 60 years old and have exceeded their original
projected life expectancy. The northeastern states face many more challenges than the rest of the country because of an older infrastructure and more severe weather conditions.

Many of America’s aging bridges carry more vehicles than they were originally expected to handle and many are heavier than the earlier models, causing more frequent damages.  Bridges are very expensive to fix and in some cases, almost prohibitively costly to replace. Some estimates range in the billions of dollars for replacing a single bridge and finding the money to finance repair or replacement is a critical issue. State and national officials inspect bridges often and the engineers say that the structures are safe and even bridges that are deficient/critical should not collapse if monitored and maintained properly. But it’s still an issue that causes a great deal of concern, especially for professional drivers who use these structures on a daily basis. But regulators say that if a bridge is open to traffic, it is safe. Weight restrictions are being placed on some bridges that have been identified with safety issues, and those bridges are often more frequently inspected than others.

If you have specific concerns about the bridges you frequently use, there is an excellent interactive map on the Transportation for America website. You can search for bridges in all 50 states and the site provides a report on every structure, including condition rating, number of cars crossing per day, age and frequency of inspections.    

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Will NHTSA Finalize Back-Up Camera Rule?

In a April, 2013 statement, NHTSA said that the Agency “remains committed to improving rearview visibility for the nation’s automobiles.”

In 2007, Congress approved
legislation, backed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), mandating that all passenger cars, trucks, minivans and buses
manufactured in the U.S. with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less be equipped with back-up cameras. The legislation required the government to finalize rear-visibility rules by 2011, but the ruling has been repeatedly delayed. NHTSA missed proposed deadlines requiring 10% compliance for automakers’ fleets by 2012, 40% by 2013 and 100% of new vehicles to be equipped by 2014, the latest deadline on track to pass.

The intent of the legislation is to try and reduce the annual number of back-over fatalities and injuries. According to NHTSA, 292 people die every year from back-over accidents, and another 18,000 are injured. But one of the problems that keeps causing delays is that official guidelines for rear-view camera technology jut haven’t come together. Rules governing the placement of such cameras and the in-vehicle displays, the minimum field of vision for the devices and what type of warning systems need to be installed, have caused so much debate that the ruling is still in limbo. There is also the question regarding the possibility that this new technology can create a driving population that is reliant on gadgets to do the driving for them rather than using safe driving training and behavior to operate a vehicle.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland says that the agency now has no firm deadline to finalize vehicle back-up camera compliance rules because “We want to make sure we get it right.” According to a recent article in USATODAY, the argument to delay implementation, however, could stem from the fact that the rule has a very high cost for the expected number of lives saved. In 2009, NHTSA estimated that it could cost currently between $1.5 billion and $3 billion to have rear-view cameras installed in all new cars. Despite the fact that new car manufacturers install back-up cameras in more than half of their new vehicles, it could still cost the consumers upwards of $10 million per life saved. The financial slant on the ruling is because all major rules must go through a cost-benefit analysis that is reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to determine if the costs are high relative to benefits. But, because children are often the victims of backing accidents, the OMB might be inclined to offer some special consideration. Representative Peter King (R-NY) who co-sponsored the legislation requiring NHTSA to issue a rear visibility ruling, posted the question: “Is it dollars or is it children’s lives?”

In a statement issued in April 2013, NHTSA said that the Agency “remains committed to improving rear-view visibility for the nation’s automobiles. The rule remains under
review.”

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License Plate Cameras Track Millions In U.S.

License plate camera readers are building a database on the movements of millions of Americans that can be traced and stored over months and even years.

Highway surveillance has become more sophisticated on America’s roadways. According to an article in the Washington Post, license plate camera readers, devices typically mounted along major roadways and on police cruisers and government vehicles, are building a database on the movements of millions of Americans that can be traced and stored over months and even years. With these readers, any vehicle, on the road or parked, can be identified almost instantly and compared against “hot lists” of vehicles that have been stolen or involved in crimes. But because most Americans aren’t car thieves or criminals, the readers, and especially the gathering of the database of information, is a concern to those who argue the issue of privacy.

Time and location information are gathered in these databases that can be searched by law enforcement or anyone who has access to the relatively inexpensive camera readers. And while some departments purge information after a few weeks or a few months, some seemingly never get rid of any of it. Privacy advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are calling on lawmakers to limit the devices and their capabilities, arguing that the accumulation of the data could be seriously misused and abused and put free speech and association in danger. ACLU also did a partial-year analysis of the license-plate data collected in Maryland and found that about one in 500 license plates registered a hit on the “hot list” and a majority of the associated offenses were minor, such as lapsed
registrations or lack of emission-control compliance. It concluded that the data collection is unnecessarily broad and is not appropriate.

Those who defend the readers have a much different take on the situation. In Washington, D.C. for example, over 250 license-plate reader cameras, separate from those used for surveillance and detection of red-light running and speeding, capture 1,800 images a minute and can download the information into a rapidly expanding archive that can locate people’s movements all over town. These readers have been credited with pinpointing the location of and capture of stolen cars and fleeing criminals in a very short period of time. Law enforcement says the readers can give them a critical jump on devastating crimes like child abduction, assault and murder by having information about when a vehicle left or entered a crime scene. And the ability to quickly identify a suspected terrorist’s vehicle as it speeds along a highway perhaps intent on getting to a target, is rapidly becoming a necessity. Officials also say that the data collected is destroyed after two years unless needed for ongoing litigation.

Law enforcement sees potential in the technology, citing the 2002 sniper shootings in the D.C. area as an example of how the camera-readers could have been used to great effect. The police could have checked whether any particular car was showing up at each of the shooting sites and might have stopped the attacks sooner.

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Report Cites Jump In Stolen Vehicles

NICB recommends drivers use common sense, have warning devices, immobilizing device & have a tracking device.

After dropping for 8 years in a row, the rate of stolen vehicles in the United States increased by 1.3% in 2012, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) annual Hot Spots vehicle report.  The western portion of the U.S. led the way with a 10.6% rise in car thefts. Of the 10 “hot spots” for vehicle theft, 8 of them were located in California, with Modesto having the dubious distinction of coming in first place, followed by Fresno.

Reportedly, California’s auto theft problem stems from a number of setbacks plaguing the state. Additionally, police staffing has been reduced at both state and local levels because of severe budget shortfalls, and California is located close to major ports and the Mexican border, making it easier to dispose of stolen vehicles quickly.

Washington State claimed the 5th (Yakima) and 9th (Spokane) spots in the top 10 areas for vehicle theft. But, despite the overall rise for stolen vehicles across the nation, the Midwest, Northeast and Southern regions all reported reductions of 3.1%, 7.9% and 2.9% respectively. The states that had the lowest number of reported thefts are Michigan and Hawaii.

NICB recommends that drivers follow four “layers of protection” to help guard against vehicle theft:

Use Common Sense

  • Remove your keys from the ignition
  • Lock your doors and close your windows when the car is not in use
  • Park in a well-lit area

Have Warning Devices

  • Audible alarms
  • Steering column collars
  • Steering wheel/brake pedal/wheel locks
  • Theft deterrent decals and identification markers in or on vehicle
  • VIN etching

Install Immobilizing Devices

  • Smart keys
  • Fuse cut-offs and kill switches
  • Starter, ignition, fuel pump disablers
  • Wireless ignition authentication

Have a Tracking Device

One that emits a signal to police or monitoring station when a vehicle is stolen. If the vehicle is moved, the system will alert the owner and the vehicle can be tracked via computer.

An interactive map is located on the NICB website giving specific information about
every state, including a breakdown by rank of towns with reported vehicle thefts and the number of stolen vehicles.

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JD Power Study Measures Quality Of New Vehicles

The study concluded that consumers view design difficulties as just as important as defects and malfunctions if not more so.

JD Power, a global marketing information services firm, has published its 2013 Initial Quality Study, an examination, in great detail, of what consumers can expect in new and also used vehicle quality. The emphasis in this 27th year of analysis has been on the problems experienced related to new technologies and features now being offered to new-vehicle owners. The overall conclusion is that nearly two-thirds of the problems owners experience in the first 90 days of driving a new car are interior design-related features, few of which can be fixed because they are inherent in the car’s design.

More than 83,000 owners responded to the JD Power survey, representing 34 car brands and 209 models. More than 64% of complaints were those related to technology enhancements where the components didn’t actually fail, but were poorly designed. For example, responses indicated that the devices were difficult to operate, they were poorly located within the vehicle, or the customer had a hard time understanding its function and operation. Since consumers are demanding all the latest buzzes and whistles within their vehicles, especially the high-end models that professional limousine drivers normally operate, the manufacturers are happy to oblige. However, those customers are becoming frustrated and confused by some of the often complicated technology and are reported back to the dealers that there is a problem with the vehicle.

The study concluded that consumers view design difficulties as just as important as defects and malfunctions if not more so. When asked to evaluate the severity of the problems they are reporting to the study, most drivers gave design problems a higher severity rating than defects and malfunctions. This further frustrates the consumers since these design problems cannot be “fixed” by returning to the dealer.

The manufacturers are also frustrated by the results of the study. They are investing billions of dollars into designing and building their vehicles. Yet they seem to be struggling with satisfying the consumer for the latest gadgets, and can’t seem to provide them in such a way that they are easy for all groups of drivers to operate. Features that are difficult for drivers to use or hard to understand will likely remain a problem for drivers and for the life of the vehicle. The vehicles themselves get high ratings for safety, comfort and design, but the issue of easy to use technology is still a few years into the future.

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Highway Fatalities Rise In 2012, First Time Since 2005

The NHTSA’s Traffic Safety Facts study estimates that 34,080 people died in motor vehicle crashes across the country in 2012.

After a first quarter review last year, projections that traffic fatalities would rise in 2012 have become a reality. This reversal of declining fatality rates since 2005 represents the second largest year-to-year increase since National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)  began recording fatalities in 1975. The largest recorded year-to-year rise in highway fatalities was in 1979.

Published in the NHTSA pamphlet Traffic Safety Facts, the study estimates that 34,080 people died in motor vehicle crashes across the country in 2012. It is an increase of 5.3% over the 32,367 traffic deaths in 2011. Each quarter of 2012 also showed an increase in fatalities per quarter from 2011. The data did show a significant increase in the first quarter of 2012 with declining numbers of fatalities for each of the three subsequent quarters. Preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2012 increased by 0.3%, or about 9.1 billion miles more than in 2011, perhaps a reason for the rise in fatality rates as well.

Information used to compile the data for the report is gathered from police accident
reports, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and other sources. The data was also broken down by national regions. Eight of the ten regions experienced rises in
traffic fatalities, with the New England Region, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire,
Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, showing a greater than 15% increase in fatalities from 2011. The two regions that showed declines in traffic deaths in 2012 were the five states of the Northwest, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, and the three states in the New York Metropolitan area, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, each down by 1%. Actual fatality counts for 2012 will be reported through FARS in the fall of 2013.

NHTSA has also published a notice reminding all motorists to safely share the road with motorcyclists. May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and despite declines in automobile fatalities since 2005, motorcycle deaths have increased every year for the past 14 years except in 2009 when there was a 16% decline. On a per vehicle mile basis, motorcyclists are more than 30 times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of cars, and five times more likely to be injured. About 5,000 motorcyclists died in 2012, which would be 14.7% of overall traffic fatalities – the highest percentage ever – and a 9% increase over the previous year. NHTSA also reminds professional drivers that trucks, buses and large limousines need to pay attention to their large blind spot areas and go slowly and carefully, especially in this season of increased motorcycle traffic.

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Behind The Scenes Of Auto Crash Tests

The series on the IIHS’ YouTube channel is called “Inside IIHS”.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is releasing a series of videos on their YouTube channel providing a behind the scenes glimpse of their Vehicle Research Center’s test programs which crash test the latest automobiles. The series is called “Inside IIHS” and three of the videos were released in May.

The first video, “Crash Test Dummies At Work,” is a three-minute look at the types of test dummies IIHS uses for their testing. They are amazing pieces of technological engineering, making every effort to re-create and calibrate the way a human body would react in a crash. A fully calibrated crash dummy can cost as much as $200,000.

“Frontal Offset Testing” is the second video in the series. It examines two frontal crashes tested with specific differences explained between the moderate overlap and the small overlap. Conclusions about a vehicle’s frontal crash rating are judged by how well the front end structure of the vehicle holds up, the measure of injuries the dummy suffers and how well the restraint systems perform.

The third video, “Measuring Roof Strength,” examines how people are being killed or injured during roll-over crashes and addresses the dangers coming from roof collapse and the risk of being ejected as the vehicle goes out of control. Also discussed is electronic stability control to reduce the chances of a driver losing control of a vehicle which can lead to a roll-over crash.

IIHS videos are taped at the Institute’s VehicleResearch Center in Ruckersville, Virginia. They are very well done and informative and running time is in the three-minute range.  Five more videos in the series will be uploaded to the channel every Tuesday through the first week in July.

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Putting Off Maintenance Can Put You Out of Business

Your vehicle is your business; taking care of it should be a top priority

As a professional limousine driver, you are well aware of the importance of keeping your vehicle well-maintained, inside and out. But according to a study by the Car Care Council, 77% of vehicles on the road require some kind of service. The Council attributes this neglect to: drivers just putting simple maintenance off until something serious happens; the extreme weather the country has been experiencing; and busy work schedules leaving little time to get the work done.

The statistics are a bit surprising, considering how simple some of these simple maintenance needs are.

Of the vehicles surveyed:

  • 22% had low or dirty motor oil;
  • 20% had low, dirty, or leaking engine coolant;
  • 19% needed a new air filter;
  • 18% needed brake work or brake fluid;
  • 14% needed at least one belt replaced;
  • 14% needed new windshield wipers;
  • 14% needed new power steering or transmission fluid;
  • 13% needed at least one lamp replaced;
  • 11% needed maintenance on battery clamps, cables or terminals;
  • 10% had worn tires in need of replacement;
  • 9% were riding on improperly inflated tires; and
  • 8% had their “check engine” lights on.

While all of these items would fall into the pre-trip inspection check list for professional drivers, it could be tempting to leave some of these issues until later. That’s never a good idea, especially when you have paying passengers who are relying on you to get them to their destinations comfortably and on time. And with summer’s heat upon us, it’s a good time to rotate your tires and check that your air conditioning system is in proper working order.

Your vehicle is your business; taking care of it should be a top priority.

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Winter Wreaks Havoc On Road Conditions

Winter weather caused road conditions to deteriorate even further from the often sorry state they were in before the harsh weather began.

The storms of this winter season have been particularly brutal across the country. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), since late October 2012, tornadoes have occurred in 42 states, temperatures went from well below freezing to record warmth, torrential rain caused much damage and unprecedented hurricane activity and blizzards put much of the country at a standstill for extended periods. The damage that sustained bad weather causes to the nation’s roadways can also create dangerous driving conditions for everyone on the road because the poor road conditions remain long after the winter turns to spring and
summer.

The Roads To Ruin
Winter weather causes road conditions to deteriorate even further from the often sorry state they were in before the harsh weather began. With all the additional damage, it will take some time for each budget-challenged state and federal agency to correct all of the problems. According to a study by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) which represents transportation departments in all 50 states, the most trouble with poor road conditions is coming from “killer” potholes. Not only can a deep pothole cause suspension, alignment, tire and even body damage, it can also cause a driver to lose control of his/her vehicle. And, according to a study by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the problems of driving on America’s highways are compounded by the fact that less than half of the nation’s major roads are in good condition, and more than 30% are in poor or mediocre condition.

Unavoidable Consequences
Age, weather, traffic, moisture, heavy vehicles and delayed maintenance are causing road conditions to decline at an alarming rate. Newly formed cracks, ruts, potholes and foundation deterioration are common in late winter/early spring. These conditions often cause gravel, stones and other debris to accumulate, increasing the chances of cracked windshields and body damage from flying rubble. FHWA data shows rough roads affect all 50 states, and the available funding from federal and state initiatives never seems adequate to address the unending problems. Besides the maintenance costs, vehicle operating costs are higher from accelerated vehicle depreciation, added repair costs, increased fuel consumption and tire wear.

What Can You Do?
You can help minimize the dangers of driving on rough roads. One of the most effective things you can do is to slow down. Higher speeds kick up more debris, making it harder to avoid problems that appear on damaged roads and making it more difficult to stop when faced with unexpected, often hidden dangers. Keeping your vehicle well-maintained and frequently checking your tires for proper pressure, splits, tears and wear, especially as required during your pre- and post-trip inspections, will help you avoid additional damages and costly delays.

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EOBRs and EDRs: Is Big Brother Riding With You?

 

This legislation would impose civil penalties against individuals who remove or dismantle the EOBR equipment.

While some of us may think of the “Big Brother” viewpoint as just an Orwellian theory, believing we can’t possibly be headed for a life in which every move we make is being watched, news reports have announced that even within the privacy of your limousine, actually within your place of business, everything you and likely your passengers do, can be scrutinized. Now, this isn’t limited to professional limousine drivers, but also personal vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has backed legislation to make Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs), also known as Event Data Recorders (EDRs) and “Black Boxes,” standard equipment on all new vehicles beginning with the 2015 model year.

Already passed in the Senate and expected to be approved by the House, this portion of the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” (Map-21) legislation would impose civil penalties against individuals who remove or dismantle the EOBR  equipment. The devices are meant to record certain information from a vehicle immediately before and/or during most serious crashes, but NHTSA wants them to also be capable of recording longer and more detailed vehicle, driver and even passenger information.

What may be surprising is that, according to an article from USA Today,  the black boxes are already recording driving behavior in 96% of newer cars and in 150 million older vehicles. And unless you thoroughly read your owner’s manual, you may not be aware that the device is even in your car, with the added possible complication that you do not necessarily own the device or the data it is recording. This is causing much controversy with regard to legal and privacy issues and, as the public becomes more informed and aware that the devices are installed in their vehicles, the conflict will only intensify.

For example, there is a question as to whether the EDR and the data can be confiscated without a warrant. In New York, two courts ruled that warrants are not needed and the prosecutors argued that drivers have no expectation of privacy on public roads. One judge said that the EDRs are akin to having an on-scene witness testimony. A California appeals court tossed out a drunken-driving manslaughter conviction because the police failed to get a warrant for the box. Approximately a dozen states require that at every car sale, the existence of the black boxes be disclosed
to the buyer. Privacy advocates are, however, increasingly nervous about how, no matter where we go or what we do, can be located through GPS tracking in cell phones and from our vehicles. This is exacerbated by everyone sharing their locations on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, and the traditional ideas of privacy are changing rapidly.

NHTSA contends that the EDRs do not collect any personal identifying information, record conversations or run continuously. But as a professional limousine driver, you know that one of the devices you most likely have in your vehicle is windshield mounted and does contain one or more of these features. It seems likely that in the near future, technology will be mandated to improve safety and help with determining the factors that contributed to a crash.

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Map Checking Ruled Prohibited Driving Behavior

The court ruled against the driver and made map-checking a GPS app on your smart phone while driving illegal behavior in California.

In March, 2013, a California court denied an appeal by a driver who had been ticketed for using his cell phone while driving in January, 2012. The driver went to court contending that he was not texting or talking on the phone, which, when not hands-free, is illegal in California. Rather, he said, he was using a GPS navigation application to find his way in unfamiliar territory, and since the laws are specifically about taking on a phone, texting and/or surfing the net while driving, the map-checking should be allowed. The court disagreed. In its decision to rule against the driver, the appeals court effectively made map-checking a GPS app on your smart phone while you’re behind the wheel, illegal behavior in California, because it is no different than texting or dialing a phone number.

The court ruled: “Our review of the statute’s plain language leads us to conclude that the primary evil sought to be avoided is the distraction the driver faces when using his or her hands to operate the phone. That distraction would be present whether the wireless telephone was being used as a telephone, a GPS navigator, a clock or a device for sending and receiving text messages and emails.”

The ruling makes California the first state to ban map checking while driving and more states are expected to follow. The general consensus seems to be that if a driver is looking away from the road, then the driver is looking away from the road! In that spirit, a ban on using phones while driving is meant to prevent distractions of all kinds. It would probably be next to impossible for a law enforcement officer to determine what kind of activity a person is conducting on their phone – talking, texting or map-checking – and it makes enforcement of a state’s law somewhat more difficult.

No one denies the dangers of distracted driving. The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has its own website dedicated to raising awareness to the horrors resulting from something as “innocent” as a brief text behind the wheel. Distraction.gov presents ways the general public can get the facts, get involved and take action. DOT has also puts out a booklet, “Blueprint For Ending Distracted Driving,” that you can Download and learn about the country’s comprehensive strategy for ending texting and using handheld cell phones when you’re behind the wheel. It’s definitely worth sharing with every driver you know, especially the youngest among us.

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New Gadgets Like Google Glass Portend More Distracted Driving

WVA State Representative Howell has introduced legislation to ban the use of all head-mounted displays while driving.

It’s tough keeping up with technology. Even the tech giants who develop the latest gadgets are so intent on having the most amazing innovation on the market, their own incredible gizmos seem to get outdated in a matter of months. A new product, Google Glass, scheduled to be released at the end of this year, has been causing a huge amount of pre-release excitement – and also some concern about safety.

Google Glass is, in its most basic form, an eyeglass mount with a small, voice-activated “computer” and a display attached to the right side of the frame. It’s quite an incredible product with capabilities like your smart phone, only hands-free and with advanced interactive capabilities. You can control music, get directions, take pictures, give voice commands and conduct video chats. The glasses don’t cover the whole eye, and the wearer has to look up slightly when looking at the display. And that has one state legislator very worried about the effect such a device could have on drivers.

West Virginia State Representative Gary G. Howell has introduced legislation that would ban the use of all head-mounted displays when a driver is behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. It’s unusual to ban a product that isn’t even on the market yet, but Howell sees Google Glass as an extension of the cell phone, which already has distracted driving laws on the books prohibiting using phones and texting while driving. Proposing legislation as Representative Howell has done now pre-empts the time it would take to pass the laws when the device becomes available to the public. The fines he proposed are relatively modest. The first offense would carry a fine of $100, with subsequent fines increasing by $100 each time, up to $300.

Arguments against banning Google Glass while driving are that the devices can actually
enhance driving safety by, for example, offering a GPS view that puts navigation information at eye level or accessing and listening to music without taking your eyes of the road or your hands off the wheel to look at a dashboard GPS or fiddle with a CD player or radio. But the potential for distraction is huge.

Apple has announced that it will release an iWatch, also later this year, which will perform some of the same functions that an iPhone or iPad currently provides. The display is large enough to be seen at a glance, and is said to make accessing data more convenient.

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Tips for Renting a Limousine for Your Child’s Prom

Please move cursor over image above to reveal everyone’s responsibilities.

Parents

  • Perform due diligence; thoroughly research limousine company
  • Check references and speak with clients who had same assigned chauffeur
  • Develop and approve final itinerary
  • Sign a Code of Conduct agreement for minors
  • Request & receive chauffeur’s cell phone number
  • Establish and agree upon final drop-off time and location

Prom Attendee

Sign Code of Conduct Agreement in advance, stipulating:

  • Pick-up and Drop-off times & locations
  • A detailed itinerary which clearly prohibits any side trips or unscheduled stops
  • No alcohol, illegal drugs or tobacco use in the limousine
  • Chauffeur’s permission to inspect all backpacks & packages
  • Chauffeur can terminate trip at any point for violations of the signed Code of Conduct

Chauffeur

  • Is properly licensed
  • Is well-rested
  • Limousine is properly insured and he/she has documentation confirming same
  • Arrives in same vehicle as stipulated in contract
  • Arrives with clean, disinfected vehicle
  • Will not move vehicle until ALL passengers, including him/her, are wearing 3-point seatbelts
  • Maintains agreed upon itinerary & schedule
  • Must not deviate from schedule or itinerary to enhance amount of gratuity

More Taxing Pain For Motorists?

After decades of underinvestment in the country’s infrastructure resulting in enormous maintenance bills and, in an effort to avoid public backlash for raising the already high price of gas, states will now have to reconsider raising taxes for the needed revenue.

Because lawmakers are always looking for ways to raise revenue, it’s surprising that state and federal governments don’t often use the fuel tax option. In fact, the last time a state gas tax increase was signed into law was in 2009, when lawmakers in North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia all agreed that their gas tax rates needed to go up.

What this lack of funding caused was decades of under-investment in the country’s infrastructure, resulting in many states now being faced with enormous maintenance and repair bills…and no money to do the job. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the U.S. will face an $846 billion shortfall in funding for road and surface upkeep by 2020. In their efforts to avoid a public backlash from an irate public blaming lawmakers for the high price of gasoline if they raised gas taxes, the states now have no choice but to seriously debate the issue and, most likely, raise fuel taxes to raise revenue.

In February, Governor Matt Mead of Wyoming signed into law a 10¢ per gallon gasoline tax increase in his state, and, following that action, the floodgates seemed to open across the country. Lawmakers in 8 more states are in the process of raising gasoline taxes in 2013: Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington. The legislation in 4 of the states are allowing the tax to rise over time, automatically adjusting the tax rates as the cost of asphalt, concrete, machinery and everything else tied to inflation goes up. Other states that are now debating the gasoline tax issue and also expected to raise the rates this year are Minnesota, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Critics of the taxing legislation say that with gasoline prices already high and the economy not exactly booming, this is the wrong time to hit working Americans at the pump. Especially hard-hit will be professional drivers who face uncertainty when trying to forecast budget expenses. Proponents of the hikes say that these taxes are needed to keep a vehicle-dependent economy rolling along smoothly.

The debate will continue. The days of kicking the gas can down the road as our roads and bridges crumble appear to be coming to an end.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

U.S. Traffic Congestion Is Confounding & Costly

In 2011, Americans travelled 5.5 billion additional hours and purchased 2.9 billion additional gallons of fuel than in previous years because of congested roadways.

A recent study released by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), in partnership with INRIX, a leading provider of traffic information, directions and driver services, reports that traffic congestion in the United States is costing the country billons of dollars a year in wasted time and fuel.

The 2012 Urban Mobility Report (UMR) released in December, uses data collected from 2011 statistics. The overriding conclusions are:

  • The congestion problem is huge. In 2011, Americans travelled 5.5 billion additional hours and purchased 2.9 billion additional gallons of fuel than in previous years because of congested roadways. The cost to consumers amounted to $121 billion.
  • In order to arrive on time for important trips, travelers had to allow for 60 minutes to drive a trip that would normally take 20 minutes in light traffic, something that is of particular concern to professional limousine chauffeurs.
  • The peak of congestion over the last several years was in 2005. The 2011 levels are below this peak, but, as the economy is expected to improve, traffic congestion will increase proportionately.

The list of the most congested cities varies from year to year, but the larger cities routinely in the top 10 are:

  • Washington,D.C.
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco –Oakland
  • New York,NY –Newark,NJ
  • Boston
  • Houston
  • Atlanta
  • Chicago
  • Philadelphia
  • Seattle

The report also provides a detailed illustration of traffic problems in a total of 498 U.S. urban areas.

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Are Gas Pains Cramping Your Budget?

The average U.S. price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas has increased more than 13%.

When a report comes across the TV news that a Maryland car dealer has begun requiring customers to pay a gasoline charge for a test drive, it can’t be good news, especially for people like professional limousine drivers whose very business foundation is based on gasoline.

Just since mid-January, the average U.S. price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas has increased more than 13% to $3.75 per gallon. Prices in most areas of California have gone over $5.00 a gallon for regular gas. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA),  despite projections of increased production of U.S. crude oil output over the next 2 years, prices for gasoline this year will continue to rise until July when they will level off, and then stay relatively flat until July 2014.

Driving the historically high gas prices are several factors:

  • Rising crude oil prices overseas. Two-thirds o the cost of a gallon of gas comes from the price of crude oil and the price grew by 10% in the last two months;
  • Cuts in production. Speculation is that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has cut production by approximately 1 million barrels a day over the last several months because of rising oil production elsewhere in the world;
  • Several refinery closings. Normal maintenance has already shut down refineries and more closures are expected as companies prepare the process of switching to so-called summer gasoline, which has a different formulation for the warm weather;
  • Increased demand. The summer travel season normally has higher prices because of the expense of stepped-up production.

How can you conserve gas and save money when driving?

Some common sense suggestions:

  • Slow Down. A 20 mile drive takes 15 minutes at 80 mph and 20 minutes at 60 mph. But the higher speed burns much more gas.
  • Don’t Accelerate Sharply or Brake Hard.Avoid increasing or reducing your rate of speed drastically and you’ll cut down on fuel consumption.
  • Lighten Your Load. The heavier your vehicle, the more fuel it takes to move it around. Remove unnecessary baggage.
  • Perform Regular Maintenance. Don’t skip oil changes or maintenance needs. They keep your vehicle at peak performance and extend the life of your ride.

An interactive map showing the current average price of a gallon of gasoline for each state is available from the CNN.Money website.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

NHTSA Proposes Hybrid And Electric Vehicles Make Noise

The estimated costs to manufacturers to add the equipment would be about $35 per light vehicle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a proposal in January that would require equipping hybrid and electric vehicles with a device that raises their noise levels so pedestrians are more aware of the approaching vehicles. The sounds would need to be detectable when vehicles are traveling slower than 18 miles per hour. NHTSA has estimated that this “quiet-car rule” would save 35 lives over each model year and also prevent 2,800 injuries. The proposal would be particularly beneficial to blind and visually impaired pedestrians. The National Federation of the Blind has been one of the proposals biggest supporters.

Since electric and hybrid vehicles do not rely solely on gas or diesel-powered engines at low speeds, they are much quieter and much more difficult to detect. The amplified sounds would have to be audible over a variety of street noises and other background sounds, but not so loud as to create unnecessary noise pollution. Each auto maker would have a wide range of choices about the sounds it chooses for its vehicles, with each vehicle of the same make and model required to have the same sound or set of sounds. According to NHTSA, the quiet cars are twice as likely as vehicles with internal combustion engines to be involved in pedestrian accidents when backing up, slowing or stopping, starting in traffic or entering or leaving a parking space or driveway.

The estimated costs to manufacturers to add the equipment would be about $25 million per year, or about $35 per light vehicle. About $1.48 million of these annual costs would be used to equip larger vehicles, trucks, buses and motorcycles with sound. The costs assume hybrid vehicles are 4.1% of U.S. light-vehicle sales. In 2012, hybrids were 3% of light vehicles sold in the U.S., up from 2.1% in 2011. Plug-in electric vehicles were 0.37% percent of sales last year, up from 0.14% in 2011.

With gas prices approaching historically high prices, the number of auto manufacturers that are producing hybrids is growing. In 2004 just three hybrid vehicle options were available to the U.S. market. Today, there are over 30 vehicle options available. The market for hybrid limousines is also growing. Luxury models, both stretch and sedans, are becoming more plentiful from manufacturers such as BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Cadillac and Lincoln, with some companies boasting entire hybrid fleets as they “go green.”

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

The Taxing Burden Of Mileage Fees

The pay-per-mile proposal could raise current taxes from 18.4¢ to as high as 46¢ per gallon according to a new study from the (GAO).

A little-known discussion is going on in Washington, D.C. regarding a new consumer tax. In the case of a pay-per-mile proposal that would replace current federal fuel taxes collected at the pump, the potential exists for a whopping gas tax boost of up to 250% for high-use vehicles. That raises current taxes from 18.4¢ to as high as 46¢ per gallon according to a new study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). If implemented, Mileage Fees would significantly impact professional limousine drivers.

The GAO conducted the study because the nation’s Highway Trust Fund (HTF) revenues are way down and the fund is in danger of being bankrupt by 2014. The study asserts that federal funding for the Highway Trust Fund, which is used to build and maintain infrastructure, has dwindled in recent years due to improved vehicle fuel efficiency. The average driver currently pays about $96 a year in federal gas taxes. To raise the HTF yearly balance from the current $34 billion to the $78 billion needed to fix and maintain roads, those taxes could rise to $248 per year – a cost of 2.2¢ per mile compared to the 0.9¢ drivers now pay. Drivers of large commercial vehicles would pay even more.

One of the concerns about imposing the mileage-fee alternative to fuel taxes is the issue of privacy. In order to evaluate the road use of vehicles so that proper use-taxes can be assessed, the current process would be to have vehicles tracked through Global Positioning System (GPS) information. It does not sit very well with those who see this as a “Big Brother” solution in which the government knows where you are – and basically what you are doing – at any given moment. Plus, while no exact figures were given by the GAO, the costs to implement the program and collect fees from 230 million U.S. passenger vehicles is likely to greatly exceed the costs of collecting fuel taxes. These costs would most likely be passed on to consumers, adding more dollars to the increase in new pay-per-mile taxes.

The GAO study was based on a survey of 51 state departments of transportation, five domestic pilot programs already in use in the U.S., and existing programs in Germany, New Zealand and the Netherlands. Mileage-based user fees were found to be a more equitable and efficient use of roadways because each vehicle would be charged for its actual road use. And as our roadways crumble, Americans can expect to be paying a lot more money to use them in the years to come.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Operation Safe Driver Posts 2012 Results

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), a North-American not-for-profit organization established to promote commercial motor vehicle safety and awareness, has been conducting a yearly campaign called “Operation Safe Driver”  throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico since 2006. Produced in partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Safe Driver campaign is held over a 7-day period, usually in October, during which state, local and provincial law enforcement agencies encourage educational sessions on safe driving around large commercial vehicles and sharing the road.  These sessions are critical because the statistics show that the majority of fatal crashes that involve large commercial vehicles and passenger cars are caused by the car driver. During Operation Safe Driver, inspection stops across each country are set up to evaluate driver performance and vehicle safety for both passenger and commercial vehicles.

Nearly 35,000 commercial and passenger vehicle drivers were pulled over by 2,918 enforcement personnel at 1,245 locations during the October 2012 campaign. The newly released results show that speeding was again the most common warning and citation given to passenger and commercial drivers. However, in 2012, the incidents of speeding by passenger vehicle drivers (up 10%) were significantly higher than those of
commercial drivers (up 2.8%). Of the total number of violations cited, 70.1% were for speeding. Of all speeding citations issued, 19.6% were given to commercial drivers and 50.5% were for passenger car drivers. It is unsettling that speeding continues to be a common behavior for all drivers, and CVSA is doubling its efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of increased speed, especially around large commercial motor vehicles.

The failure to use a safety belt was the second most common offense. Of the total number of warnings issued, failure to buckle up amounted to 3.6% given to commercial drivers and 1.8% issued to passenger vehicle drivers. Of the total number of citations
issued, 9.9% went to commercial drivers and 8.3% went to passenger car drivers. These figures represent an increase in the lack of seat belt use over the 2011 results, and a reversal of a trend for increased use of safety belts over the last several years.

The third most common offense was for failure to obey traffic control devices; 3.6% citations were issued to commercial drivers and 1.9% to passenger vehicle drivers. These statistics were virtually unchanged over 2011.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

How To Avoid 4 Costly Maintenance Problems

Check tire pressure every two weeks and be familiar with the manufacturer’s recommendations for correct pressure.

Keeping your limousine looking great and operating in top working condition is essential for the professional chauffeur. Nothing is more embarrassing and frustrating then a breakdown when you have clients in your limousine. According to a November article which appeared in the Los Angeles Times, you can help avoid these business-busting situations if you pay close attention to some simple maintenance issues that, if not attended to, can become very costly oversights. As a professional chauffeur, you should not neglect performing the following four essential maintenance procedures regularly throughout the year.

Changing The Oil

With older vehicles, the rule of thumb used to be that a change of oil should be performed every 3,000 miles. However, improvements in engines and motor oil have made that schedule outdated. According to ConsumerReports.org, most vehicles are now designed to go 7,500 miles or more between oil changes. So be sure to check your owner’s manual for the recommended oil change schedule and oil viscosity. For modern, luxury limousines, it’s best to choose a premium, high-performance motor oil; one that gives your vehicle increased fuel efficiency. This can help you increase the number of miles you can travel between oil changes, saving you time, money and reducing the environmental impact by using and disposing of less oil.

Check Tire Inflation

Don’t wait until the air pressure level in your tires makes them look like the air is low. It’s a minimal investment of about $15 for a good digital tire gauge which can easily be stored in your glove compartment. Check your tire pressure every two weeks, and be familiar with the manufacturer’s recommendations for the correct pressure, usually found posted on the inside of the driver’s door. (Note that those numbers are based on readings taken when the tires are cold.) Proper tire inflation gives the vehicle a smoother ride and improves its handling and fuel efficiency.

Check Tire Tread

No one wants to experience a dangerous tire blowout. Check tire tread, especially if your tires have been on your vehicle for several thousand miles. Take a penny and place it in the tread with Lincoln’s head down. If you can see the top of Abe’s head, you probably need new tires. Laws in most states consider tires legally worn out when tread has worn down to 1/16 of an inch of remaining tread depth. Proper tire tread depth can also help reduce hydroplaning on wet road surfaces.

Check Your Coolant

Over time, dirt and contaminants can build up in the coolant fluid making it less effective in helping to keep your engine cool and keeping the engine block from freezing in extremely cold temperatures. It’s best to change your coolant every four years depending on your driving habits and miles travelled. In extremely hot temperatures, change the coolant more often.

Take the time to attend to these simple, but critical, maintenance items. It’s time well spent.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Resources To Use For Limo Pre-Trip Planning

The FHWA website has an interactive map of the U.S. that shows real time traffic conditions.

As a professional limousine driver, performing a thorough pre-trip inspection of your vehicle is a must for safety and for avoiding annoying and preventable breakdowns along your route. Mapping out your destination is also an important step in helping to assure your trip goes off without the inconvenient delays caused by weather, construction, traffic jams or accidents.

The U.S. and state departments of Transportation are very good at using the amazing capabilities of the internet to give you access to the government’s vast resources that can help drivers have a smooth trip. When you are preparing to pick up passengers, take the time to visit a government site like the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) National Traffic and Road Closure Information page. This section offers traffic information for all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Once you’re on the site, there is an interactive map of the U.S. where you can click on any state you are researching and find out in real time whether the route you were planning to take might have traffic congestion delays caused by volume, construction or an accident. The information gives you the opportunity to plan an alternate route to avoid the problem. The sites will even help you plan that different route with “Beat the Traffic” Information for most heavily-traveled areas.

Some of the other advantages these sites offer are advance travel advisories for weekends or holidays, traffic cameras that show locations with images that refresh every 10 seconds and real-time weather information and updates. You can also access each individual state’s DOT to keep yourself current on the latest rules, regulations and state roadway plans that you, as a professional chauffeur, would need to know because they could affect your daily trips.

The roadway system of the entire U.S. is offered to you through these sites. You should factor in some time during your pre-trip duties to access this very valuable information. With just a few clicks, you can save yourself time and trouble along your route.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Highway Fatality Drop Linked To Technology & Behavior Shifts

 

Some technologies that helped reduce traffic deaths seat belts, air bags and anti-lock brakes.

In a New York Times article published in September 2012, a definitive link was made between a fairly steady decline in the number of traffic fatalities in the U.S. over the last 60 years, and the appearance of safety technology and highway behavior breakthroughs. Even though vehicle-miles-driven has dramatically increased during this time frame – an estimated 3 trillion miles every year – changes in driving behavior have significantly reduced accidents and death rates since a peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Some of the more significant technologies that helped reduce traffic deaths at the point of their release and continue to be factors in safety today, are seat belts, which began state-by-state required use in 1988, and air bags and anti-lock brakes which became standard in new vehicles beginning in the early 1990s. David L. Strickland, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that “fatalities drop after a breakthrough in new technologies or behaviors, and then plateau until the next one. It takes time for new safety technologies to work their way into the whole fleet of cars on the road.”

The whole world is taking an interest in curbing the high number of traffic. The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 in 2011. The goal is to reduce the nearly 1.3 million people world-wide who die each year as a result of a road traffic collision – more than 3,000 deaths each day. Non-fatal injuries are sustained by 20 to 50 million more people. One year after the initiation of the safety program, the 2nd Global Status Report on Road Safety was released by WHO earlier this year. Many of the initial recommendations for improved road safety were repeated, and conclusions to the effectiveness of the Decade of Action program had some positive results. But, as reported in the New York Times article, there was a slight increase in the number of traffic fatalities in the United States during the first half of 2012, a trend that was estimated to continue.

According to an analysis by cars.com, high-tech solutions will most likely be the way for vehicle safety to progress. The development of both crash-avoidance technology and vehicle crash-protection improvements, and a continuing and intensive education on the dangers of impaired and distracted driving, will ultimately save millions of lives throughout the world.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Dangerous Drive Times Are Common To Limousine Drivers

The times when drivers need to remain most cautious and vigilant are often the times that they are also driving tired, distracted or impaired.

There are times in the day, days of the week and even months in the year when limousine drivers are busiest. And these busy schedules often go hand-in-hand with the most dangerous drive times to be on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been accumulating data on traffic safety for more almost 30 years, and its research has centered on just about every aspect of driving in order to pinpoint specific areas to raise driver awareness and contribute to making our roadways safer.

Data provided by the Agency summarize the deadliest days for drivers, broken down by specific days, times during the days and times of the year. Following is a summary of some of the NHTSA’s findings.

Top 10 Deadliest Days of the Year (in order)
1. July 4
2. July 3
3. December 23
4. December 24
5. December 22
6. August 3
7. January 1
8. September 1
9. September 2
10. August 4

The NHTSA data indicate that these deadliest days to drive are not random; these are the days when high numbers of Americans are celebrating and then getting in cars either tired or intoxicated, and likely to take dangerous driving risks to lengthen their
celebrations. The August and September days indicated are dates when most
Americans leave for, or are returning from their vacations.

Deadliest Days of the Week
1.  Saturday
2.  Sunday
3.  Friday
4.  Thursday
5.  Monday
6.  Wednesday
7.  Tuesday

Deadliest Times of the Day
1.  3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
2.  6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
3.  9 p.m. – Midnight
4.  Noon – 3 p.m.
5.  Midnight – 3 a.m.

The data collected on days of the week and times of the day bear out the fact that weekend driving increases the risk of dangerous driving behavior, and commute times bear the brunt of many more drivers on the road. So, alarmingly, the times that drivers need to remain cautious and vigilant, these are often the times that they are driving tired, distracted or impaired.

Ultimately, drivers are responsible for the number of fatalities on our highways every year. As the professional limousine driver on the road, knowing the dates, days and times of day when dangerous driving is most likely to occur, you can be a significant
factor in helping to reduce yearly traffic deaths and injuries.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Superstorm Sandy’s Wake Sparks Criminal Minds

NCIB has issued a warning of the potential resale of water damaged automobiles to unsuspecting consumers in the future in all parts of the U.S.

In the aftermath of the terrible destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy
along the East coast, the Northeast and parts of the Midwest areas of the U.S., the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has issued a warning to everyone affected – and to everyone in the country – to beware of the potential for fraud. The warning includes vulnerable homeowners, businesses and, in particular, the resale of automobiles that are water damaged but could be sold to unsuspecting consumers throughout the country.

Vehicles that have been damaged by natural disasters, especially flooding, do not often have obvious signs of damage. So the extent of serious problems caused by salt or fresh water is far too often easier to conceal than body damage. After Hurricane Katrina seven years ago, hundreds of thousands of vehicles were damaged by flood waters. As a result, NICB established a free service called VINCheckSM to assist in determining if a particular vehicle has been reported stolen or reported as salvage due to damage, natural disaster or otherwise.

NICB will also be working with law enforcement to help ensure that Superstorm-damaged vehicles are entered into the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). The System is designed to protect consumers from fraud and unsafe vehicles and to keep stolen vehicles from being resold. The States report data to the system which currently has about 20 million salvage or total loss records on file, or about 88% of vehicles in the U.S.

It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of vehicles have been damaged by Superstorm Sandy. No matter where you are located throughout the country, if you are in the market for a pre-owned vehicle, especially a luxury model for your limousine business, make sure you follow some used-car buying tips, provided free of charge by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on its website. Do your homework, be aware of the special circumstances concerning a market that may have an abundance of storm-damaged vehicles and take advantage of the mostly free services the government is offering to help protect you from fraud.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Organization Is Key To Operating A Successful Limo Company

In our techno society, smartphone Apps, free or at low cost, can help keep you organized and help you run your business more efficiently.

Some of us are highly organized individuals – with a place for everything and everything in its place. Others of us watch the cable TV show Hoarders just to make ourselves feel better about our own messy situations. But for someone operating a limousine business, organization is a must – unless you want to book two trips at the same time on the same day, forget to fill your gas tank, lose important billing information or misfile important tax documents. The lack of organization in your life, especially your business life, will eventually catch up with you and could cause a major disruption to your productivity.

Hundreds of books have been written about the importance of organization, often broken down into the “Top” 7, 10, 20, 25 or more points you need to remember in order
to maintain an organized lifestyle. In our techno society, there are smartphone applications (Apps) available, free or at low cost, that can be downloaded to
help keep your schedule straight even while on the go. There are other Apps that help
you run your business more efficiently. If you want to stay competitive on a daily
basis, you have to keep up with the latest technology designed specifically to keep you well organized. Just remember not to use the Apps until you are stopped in a safe location.

We’ve complied a list of 10 things (in no particular order) that are on most lists of
characteristics or actions that highly organized people use to stay organized, and as an added bonus, make their lives a lot easier:

  1. Prioritize the things you need to do. Make to-do lists for each day putting what needs the most attention first to enhance the chances they will get done first. Take 15 minutes at the end of each day to create a to-do list for the following day.
  2. Clean up your clutter, Get rid of things that don’t help you and make a place for the things that you need and will help you. Remove clutter from desks, offices and work spaces. Seldom used items should be stored in cabinets. Order supplies in a
    timely manner so you’re not caught short.
  3. Create a file system to organize your business papers. Color-code the different categories with tabs or folders so you can find things at a glance. Keep your personal files separate.
  4. Send out billing invoices and process payments regularly. Keep careful records of all of your financial documents.
  5. Keep appointments noted in your computer software and in a date book that you can carry with you. It’s not going to help if all your notes are on your computer and you are miles away from your daily schedule.
  6. Organize your mail, including your emails. Keep your personal emails in a separate address and away from your business email address. Toss the mail you don’t need and file the things you need in date-priority order. This applies to emails as well. Organize computer files and folders, using a star or flag to highlight important messages that need more attention.
  7. Clean out each desk drawer to free up valuable storage space.
  8. Keep essential items on your desktop, and clean the surfaces as needed to keep dirt and dust away from your work environment.
  9. Return calls promptly.
  10. As a space-saving measure, consider digitizing documents, business cards and other hard-copy materials to help avoid unnecessary clutter.

Good Luck!

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

DOT Study Tests Crash Avoidance Technology

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that the V2V technology could help drivers avoid or reduce the severity of 4 out of 5 unimpaired vehicle crashes.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) began a year-long project in early September testing “connected vehicle” technology which, if successful, will allow cars, trucks and buses the ability to “talk” to each other as well as to infrastructure objects while on the road.

The pilot project is being conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and involves nearly 3,000 vehicles. It is the first-of-its-kind road test of the crash avoidance technology using actual drivers and vehicles. The test cars, commercial trucks and buses, mostly supplied by volunteer participants, are fitted with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) devices for gathering data. According to a DOT Fact Sheet, the V2V technology is similar to WI-FI, but not likely to be susceptible to interference.

UMTRI has equipped more than 73 lane miles of roadway with the new technology. Test vehicles have been retrofitted with a safety device connected to the vehicle’s data bus, providing highly accurate information from the in-vehicle sensors. A driver-interface
broadcasts and receives safety messages which can then process the content of received messages and provide warnings to the driver during specific hazardous traffic scenarios. These include an impending collision at a blind intersection, a vehicle changing lanes into a vehicle’s blind spot or a rear-end collision with a vehicle stopped ahead. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that the V2V technology could help drivers avoid or reduce the severity of 4 out of 5 unimpaired vehicle crashes.

An independent study of the technology by the Highway Loss Data Institute  (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), seems to show that current crash avoidance technology is working. But the debate on the new systems is far from
over. Privacy concerns have been raised because storing of driving data is necessary for the systems to be effective. There are also concerns that, as the technology advances, it could cause the ultimate distractions as drivers become more and more dependent on “driverless” cars or other innovations in which the driver’s attention becomes secondary to the trip. Lane departure warnings, blind spot detection, parking assistance and backup cameras are all beginning to make their way into mainstream vehicles. But other technologies are on the table, like fatigue warning, curve speed warning and cross-traffic alerts in which drivers might rely more on their vehicles than on their instincts. IIHS spokesman Russ Rader put it this way, “There is a risk that drivers could let themselves become more distracted if they are confident that the car will bail them out. That’s something researchers are going to watch.”

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

The 3 Most Costly Limo Claims

3-most-costly-limo-claimsLeft-Hand Turns (Only 2.5% of total claims; 21.7% of total claim dollars paid)  

While representing less than 3% of total claims reported to leading U.S.limo insurer Lancer Insurance Company in 2011, limousines involved in crashes when making left hand turns represented a staggering 21.7% of claims dollars paid.

Quite simply, accidents occurring when left-hand turns are made into oncoming traffic on 2-way roads are either head-on or “T-bone” type crashes, producing multiple serious injuries to the occupants of all involved vehicles.

To avoid these often horrific crashes, limousine drivers should realize that their vehicles are often larger and take more time to clear oncoming traffic than a normal sized private passenger automobile. Be patient and wait for all oncoming traffic to pass before making the turn.  It is also often difficult to gauge an oncoming vehicle’s speed, and it becomes even more difficult at night.  Do not begin your turn until you are sure you have enough time to complete it safely.

Intersection Crashes (Only 5.8% of total claims; 12.8% of total claims paid)

Not unlike left-hand turn crashes, intersection accidents are costly because they usually involve several moving vehicles and multiple passenger injuries.  While most intersections are controlled by signage or traffic signals, the disturbing increase of drivers “running” red lights and stop signs, not to mention illegal cell phone and texting distractions, make it imperative to drive defensively and expect the unexpected.

Beware of ‘stale green lights’ which are due to cycle to red as you approach and cover your brake anticipating same.  And never assume that the driver of an approaching vehicle is prepared to obey signage or traffic signals directing him or her to stop.

Pedestrian/Bicyclist Hits  (only .018% of total claims; 3.7% of total claims paid) 

There are few, if any, limo accidents worse than ones that involve pedestrians or bicyclists.  Sadly, they occur more frequently than you would expect and often have tragic results.  The majority of these incidents occur when the pedestrian moves suddenly and unpredictably into the path of the limo.  Pedestrians jay-walk, walk behind moving  vehicles, cross from between parked cars, exit parked cars without looking and sometimes are so distracted by their smart phone that they do dumb things…like walk in front of a moving limo.  Chauffeurs need to give driving their full attention and slow down, scan left and right and be prepared to stop.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Homeland Security Is Everyone’s Responsibility

With the recent 11th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, DHS reminds us: “When you see something, say something!”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has launched its newly re-designed website, offering a simplified approach to the content, with streamlined access to DHS services and information. With the recent passing of the 11th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, DHS is reminding the American people, and especially transportation professionals, how everyone can help year-round in the effort to not only help prevent another attack, but to know how to assist law enforcement in different types of emergencies.

While actual incidents of attacks have declined in the past two years, it is not for lack of trying. Security officials deal with threats on a daily basis, from holiday gatherings to
sporting events to attempted cyber attacks, the nation is very busy in its attempts to prevent damage and destruction. A DHS initiative called the First Observer Program is a national safety and security program that recruits volunteers from the transportation
industry to act as the nation’s “First Observer” in reporting emergency situations and suspicious activities to authorities of either a criminal or potentially terrorist nature. Highway professionals have a “vast array of visibility throughout their everyday processes, and also the ability to notice activities that appear out of the ordinary.”

Another DHS public awareness campaign is If You See Something, Say Something, and again, transportation professionals are in a unique position to recognize potential dangers. Limousine drivers often pass by the same location several times during the day. Are there any unattended packages that were not there before and seem out of place? Is there suspicious activity near or on a bridge or overpass? Do you see the same people taking pictures or videotaping a location, sometimes in the same spot over a period of a few days? Is there odd behavior outside a large venue like a sporting event where you are parked and waiting for your passengers?

On a spring Saturday night two years ago in Times Square, New York City, a street vendor and Vietnam veteran by the name of Lance Orton who had operated his vendor cart from the same spot for more than 22 years, noticed smoke coming from a carelessly parked SUV with the motor still running and its hazard lights on. Sensing that
something just wasn’t right, he hailed a mounted police officer, told him what he observed and almost instantly, police were on the scene evacuating the area. A crude bomb made from three propane canisters, two five-gallon cans of gasoline and two clocks with batteries was discovered in the process of detonating, but had malfunctioned. The culprit, who admitted the act was terrorism-related, was arrested two days later due to the diligence of Federal agents and NYPD. When asked what motivated him to report the incident to police, Mr. Orton said, “When you see something, say something!”

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Survey Shows Voters Deem Infrastructure Improvements Important

HNTB survey shows an uptick in the public’s interest in infrastructure investment and support for more tolls to help pay for it.

HNTB Corporation, infrastructure experts and the Number 1 consultant to Departments of Transportation around the world, has published its yearly America THINKS Survey for 2012. This latest survey shows an uptick in the public’s interest in infrastructure investment and support for more tolls to help pay for it. With the national elections right around the corner, transportation issues seem to be very much on the minds of voters with nearly 87% of survey respondents agreeing that transportation funding is a public investment worth making. HNTB says that, historically, the results of many local transportation-related election issues pass more than 73% of the time.

The findings are published as the America THINKS Highways Fact Sheet, and part of the focus is on how the nation’s highways and interstate system issues impact likely voters in this year’s elections. Of respondents who intend to vote, 22% say that infrastructure issues will be extremely influential on who they vote for; 45% say they will be somewhat influential; 27% say not very influential; and 7% say not at all influential.

When asked how they would most prefer the country acquire the funding to pay for interstate infrastructure projects, a clear majority (61%) chose using tolls to raise the money, even if it meant raising them. The option of a miles-driven user fee got 23% of the vote and the third option, increased federal gas taxes, received 16% of the votes.

Respondents overwhelmingly thought that it was extremely (42%) or somewhat (47%) important for the federal government to fund the maintenance and improvement of interstate highways. Somewhat unimportant came in at 8% and 3% of respondents thought that funding coming from the federal government is extremely unimportant.

The America THINKS survey polled a random nationwide sample of 1,024 participants
aged 18 and over, solicited through an email invitation and an online survey. The margin of error is +/- 3.1%.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Severe Weather Extremes Plaguing U.S.

New research from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) has indicated that climate change is causing serious damage to U.S. roads and transportation systems.

Several problems are arising across the country because of unusually harsh weather conditions. New research from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) has indicated that climate change is causing serious damage to U.S. roads and transportation systems. In a report released earlier this month, TRB contends that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, predominantly carbon dioxide (CO2), linger in the atmosphere for up to 500 years and these emissions are destructive to the nation’s infrastructure as well as to the environment. With the transportation sector contributing nearly 30% of all GHG emissions, TRB hopes the new research will help make transportation professionals more aware of the relationship between transportation, the environment and changing weather conditions.

Ominously, TRB also predicts that climate change will intensify, causing an increase in the risks and impacts for transportation systems, facilities and operations. Transportation infrastructure in the U.S. has been deteriorating because of extreme weather conditions. Record-level flooding washed out roadways in several states, hurricanes put gaping holes in several major thruways, heavy winds knocked down trees, limbs and electrical wiring and have lifted heavy projectiles into already weakened bridge and overhead structures causing further damage. Tom Scullion, a senior research engineer with the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M
University said that heat and drought have caused the clay-rich soils under highways to “just shrink like crazy” leading to “horrendous cracking.” Data collected by the National Weather Service is predicting that there is a high likelihood of hotter than normal temperatures and drier than normal conditions lasting from August through October, continuing drought conditions in 56% of the lower 48 states. The considerable damage the agricultural sector is incurring because of these droughts will eventually negatively impact the nation’s entire economy.

On a positive note, TRB credits the transportation industry for its efforts in developing more efficient vehicles and fuels to curb the growth of environmental damage caused by GHG emissions. As a professional limousine driver, you can do your part by avoiding high speeds which burn fuel faster, reducing prolonged idling when waiting for passengers and keeping your vehicle properly tuned and maintained.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Traffic Congestion Declining Nationwide – Good News For Limo Drivers

The drop in traffic is due to rising fuel prices, less road construction, high unemployment and the debt crisis.

INRIX, a traffic services provider to private automobile and commercial motor vehicle companies, has produced a “Traffic Scorecard” based on 5 years of extensive global research showing by region the worst places, the worst times and the worst days of the week to drive. INRIX says its study is the most extensive research of its type ever produced. The collected data used includes analyses done through the first 5 months of 2012.

For the United States data, commuting experiences were tracked using GPS-equipped vehicles and researchers were able to analyze a database containing approximately 100 million vehicles including limousines, airport shuttles, taxis, delivery vans, long haul trucks and passenger cars. They found that urban areas are actually seeing traffic congestion decrease at a significant rate nationwide for the first time since 2008. In fact, 70 of the country’s top 100 most populated cities showed a drop in traffic congestion in 2011. And while less traffic can seem like a blessing for professional limousine drivers who deal with it every day, the study attributes the drop in the U.S. to rising fuel prices, less spending on road construction, high unemployment and the debt crisis.

Some interesting findings resulted from the study include:

  • A 13-mile stretch of the San Diego Freeway outside Los Angeles is the most traffic-congested freeway in the country;
  • Drivers in Honolulu spend the most time in traffic, averaging 58 hours a year;
  • Southern cities, like Tampa, FL, Houston and Austin, TX that have lower unemployment rates had the busiest roads;
  • 8 of the 10 stretches of road in cities with the worst travel times and delays were inNew York andLos Angeles;
  • On average, Americans spend around 40 hours per year behind the wheel in rush hour traffic jams;
  • Fridays between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. are the best commute times. The worst commute times are also on Fridays, between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m.;
  • Tuesday is the worst morning commute day. Monday is the best overall day for travel, perhaps because if people take 3-day weekends, they usually take Monday as their third day.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Does Someone Always Have To Be At Fault In A Limousine Accident?

Proper training, safe driving and preparation can help a chauffeur deal with a crash.

Strange as it may sound, it isn’t always the case that someone is at fault for an auto accident.

A limousine accident is not a pleasant experience, but being in the chauffeured passenger transportation business, it is an experience that you may have to endure. The following case study taken from Lancer’s LimoDirect extensive claims data illustrates how, in this incident involving two vehicles, the chauffeur did nothing wrong and the other driver was also negligence-free.

On a clear and dry early morning in January, a chauffeur was driving his limousine to pick up a regular client. He was traveling in a wooded residential area on a 35 m.p.h. two-lane street with the lanes separated by a double yellow line. The limo was moving north within the speed limit; the south-bound traffic was steady but not heavy. Suddenly, a south-bound vehicle struck a deer sending the animal across the road where it crashed through the limousine’s front windshield. The chauffeur was grazed by the deer as it flew over his right shoulder and landed in the rear seat. Thankfully, he was able to bring his limo to a controlled stop, and had the entire incident captured by his dashboard-mounted video camera.

With deer blood and entrails covering the limousine’s interior, the vehicle had to be declared a total loss because all the carpet and leather would have to be replaced, the steering column, dashboard, engine and all vents would have to be cleaned, and these costs, when added to the body repair estimates, came to over $25,000.  Additionally, the chauffeur needed plastic surgery to his face, and suffered other minor injuries that kept him out of work for a protracted period.

Both Lancer and the other driver’s insurance company agreed to go to binding arbitration rather than spend thousands of dollars on a trial. The arbitrator found that neither driver was liable and that the other vehicle’s insurer could not be held liable in a deer “dart out” case. In other words, neither driver did anything wrong.

Although rare, these situations do happen and, when they do, it’s a very frustrating
experience. Practicing defensive driving skills behind the wheel, being aware of the route, traffic conditions and weather, and continually scanning the road for what may lie ahead, can help prevent most accidents. But if a crash occurs, professional drivers should know the steps to take to manage the accident scene. Lancer’s LimoDirect has a free and exclusive chauffeur training video on this topic available to our policyholders: Taking Charge: How To Control An Accident Scene.

Please remember that proper training, safe driving habits and adequate preparation can
help a chauffeur deal with a crash situation.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Automatic Emergency Alerts Coming To Electronic Devices

 

We will will soon be notified of emergencies by Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).
Wireless customers and the issuing agencies will not be charged a fee by the carriers for these WEA alerts nor will they have to sign up for the service.

As of June 27th, the major wireless cell phone carriers and most local, state and federal government agencies are teaming up to automatically bring warnings of severe weather conditions and other urgent announcements to mobile electronic devices. Owners of new or relatively new cell phones and other devices across the country will soon be notified of emergencies by Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) transmitted via text messaging, an innovation that officials say will enhance public safety. The new system
extends the reach of the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) which currently issues alerts and warnings to television and radio, cable, satellite and other communication broadcasts. Weather-related emergencies will be issued through the National Weather Service (NWS), while other “Imminent Threat” alerts will be issued by state and local officials in agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Wireless customers and the issuing agencies will not be charged a fee by the carriers for these alerts nor will they have to sign up for the service. Those who do not have a WEA-enabled phone are automatically enrolled in the program, regardless of where the device service originates from. When the program is fully implemented, if an emergency happens at that location anywhere in the country, a notification will be sent. The notifications are a broadcast (one-way) technology which does not allow the senders to collect receivers’ data.

Here’s how the program is designed to work. When NWS issues weather alerts, the warnings will automatically be transmitted to a specific FEMA message center. Because cell carriers will be constantly monitoring this messaging center, as soon as an alert is posted, the carriers will send them to their towers in the affected areas. Then, any wireless device in the area that’s WEA-enabled will receive the alert through a special sound and vibration from the device to get the owner’s attention. There will be a short, text-like message on the device with enough information to let the user know that something potentially dangerous is happening in their current location.

If you’re not sure your equipment is WEA-enabled to receive the alerts, especially if you
have an older model, contact your carrier. Even for some newer devices, it may not be until the fall that new software will be available to make sure you can receive the warnings. Local public safety agencies are beginning to inform their citizens about the fact that they could soon start receiving WEA messages.

For more information, visit the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA)  website, http://blog.limoinsurancedirect.com/wp-admin/www.ctia.org.

One safety note: If you receive any text messages while driving, be sure you wait until you are safely off the road and at a complete stop before reading a hand-held device.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

The 3 Most Common Limo Accidents & How To Prevent Them

The 3 Most Common Limo Accidents - Click to enlarge.Contrary to commonly held beliefs in the limousine industry, the 3 most frequent types of accidents (click on images at right) reported to insurance companies involve low-impact collisions.  What’s more, limousine company owners can easily add prevention measures to avoid all three accident types in their chauffeur and driver training program.

Not surprisingly, the leading type of limo accident is the rear-end collision.  This is the limo striking the rear-end of the vehicle directly in front of it.  While this type of accident is certainly not uncommon to all drivers, it is one that the professional driver or chauffeur can avoid by focusing on two preventive measures.  First, back off and allow a minimum of 4 seconds between the limo and the vehicle in front.  With larger stretches, limo vans and limo buses, the distance should increase to 6 seconds because of the increased stopping distance larger and heavier vehicles require.  Secondly, professional drivers and chauffeurs should avoid distractions, such as, using cell phones and GPS devices, and focus on the task at hand – safe driving.

The second most frequent accident type involving limousines is the sideswipe.  That is the limo, limo van or limo bus striking a fixed object such as a utility pole, another vehicle stopped in traffic or, in the case of high-profile vehicles such as vans and
buses, hotel/restaurant awnings.  The key to avoiding sideswipes is making sure the drivers and chauffeurs have been trained on the handling characteristics, mirror placement and turning radius of all vehicles to which they are assigned.  Placing an unprepared driver in an unfamiliar vehicle is usually the precursor of a sideswipe accident.

And, believe it or not, the last of the top 3 most common limo accidents involves the moving limousine striking a parked car.  More often than not, the unoccupied car being struck is parked in a commuter parking lot, shopping center parking lot or at a sports stadium or entertainment venue parking area.  Such locations are usually very congested and difficult to navigate through and have many unexpected blind spots.  The best accident avoidance tactics are to slow down, anticipate blind spots and focus on the driving task.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Bad Things Can Happen To Good Limo Drivers

The two most common accident types are head-on collisions and passing stop signs or red lights.

Limo drivers and chauffeurs should be aware that every day, good, experienced drivers who obey the speed limit and stay alert, are injured or killed by inexperienced, careless, drunk or reckless drivers. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that there are, on average, approximately 34,700 motor vehicle deaths in the U.S. each year. The NSC analysis also determined that even good drivers are injured or killed by the two most common accident types: head-on collisions and passing stop signs or red lights.

Head-On Collisions
According to NSC statistics, the head-on collision kills about 42% of the ”good drivers” on the road.  These accidents are the most sudden and most difficult to avoid. There is often little time for evasive maneuvers and the speed of both vehicles increases the violence of the crash. The estimates are that 63% of head-on collisions appear to be caused by distracted drivers or by drivers who fell asleep at the wheel and drifted into oncoming traffic; 20% occur around curves in the road when a driver was going too fast and veered into the opposite lane of travel; and 6% were caused by drivers passing another vehicle at a bad time.

Passing Stop Signs & Traffic Lights
The NSC statistics further showed that 16% of good drivers were killed when another driver failed to stop at a stop sign, and 8% of drivers were victims of red-light running. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that each year, more than 800 people die and over 200,000 are injured in crashes which involve red light running. The IIHS has further determined that crashes at red lights have increased more than three times the rate of all other types of fatal vehicle accidents in the U.S. After monitoring several busy intersections in Virginia over several months, IIHS discovered a pattern of red light violation rates of three per intersection per hour…and the rate was
more frequent during peak travel times!

What Limo Drivers Can Do?
Our nation’s highways are still the safest place to drive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)  statistics show just 14% of traffic fatalities occur on highways, while an amazing 86% occur on city streets, side roads and byways. Of course, highway driving is never the only option you have, so use your professional training to avoid the poor driving habits of others. Stay alert and slow down when you travel side roads. Keep your eyes moving to look far down the road, and stay alert for potential conflicts at all times. Approach curves with caution and at a safe speed. The same applies with intersections; be wary when you come to a stop sign or red light, even when you have the right of way. Watch other vehicles and their drivers to help anticipate their actions. When your light turns green, take a couple seconds and check
both ways before proceeding.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

What If Your Limousine Catches Fire?

USFA data revealed that one in every four fire department responses is to a vehicle fire.

Vehicle fires, including those involving limousines, stretch limos and limo buses, are dangerous, fast-acting and frightening. And they happen more often than you might think. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 33 car fires are reported every hour in the United States. In 2007, (the last year with complete NFPA statistics), 258,000 vehicle fires caused 385 deaths, 1,675 injuries and cost $1.41 billion in damages. Thankfully, regular maintenance, safe driving and common sense can often help prevent a vehicle fire.

Causes And Effects
The United States Fire Administration (USFA) research shows that mechanical failure or design problems such as broken fuel lines, faulty catalytic converters, electrical failures, blown tires and overheating, cause 66% of vehicle fires and are the leading causes of vehicle injuries. USFA data also reveals that one in every four fire department responses is to a vehicle fire – more than the responses to residential properties. Electrical wiring and fuel are the leading forms of material ignited in vehicle fires and following a collision, fires are the leading cause of vehicle deaths.

What Are The Signs?
Under-inflated tires can overheat quickly. When you make routine stops, make it a habit to check the tire pressure, especially if a tire looks low on air. Worn brakes can overheat and cause a fire, so make sure they are checked on a regular basis. If a fuse keeps blowing, it may be a sign of electrical trouble, so have it looked at as soon as possible. Overloaded wiring, particularly in a heavy accessorized limousine, can also cause a fire. If you smell burning plastic or rubber while you’re driving, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so, turn off the engine and investigate the source. If you can’t determine what the trouble is, call for help.

Some Tips On What You Could Do
One of the best defenses against a vehicle fire is to be prepared. During your pre-trip inspection, check for any tell-tale leakage or electronic irregularities. Make sure the limousine you drive is well maintained, tuned up regularly in accordance with manufacturer recommendations and that your maintenance program meets all local, state and federal requirements. Mount a fire extinguisher in the passenger compartment for easy accessibility and check it regularly for proper operation. A fire extinguisher rated ABC for all types of fires is the best.

Make sure you are familiar with how to use the extinguisher should the need arise. One thing is certain: an emergency is not the time to start reading the instructions on how to use your fire extinguisher. Be sure to check local, state and federal regulations about fire extinguishers in limousines and follow them carefully. If you are faced with a vehicle fire while on the road, don’t panic. Signal and move off the road to a safe spot, shut off the engine, evacuate your passengers to a safe distance and call 911. Stay at least 150 feet away from any flames you see in the rear of the vehicle, especially near the gas tank. And know what your company policy is concerning your response to a vehicle fire.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

A Limo Safety Plan For Spring Celebrations

Consider having a separate Code of Conduct or Rules Agreement for the passengers to sign.

It’s the season of proms and graduations again, and some of your best vehicles will be filled with teenagers. So it will be up to you, in partnership with your riders’ parents, to set the tone for requiring responsible behavior from everyone riding in your limousine by having a limo safety plan.

Start With a Signed Agreement

Adults who rent limousines for their children’s special night want their concerns addressed and their questions answered before they sign a contract that, among other things, covers the special circumstances that come with providing services to passengers who are often still minors. The person who signs the transportation agreement should be a parent or guardian who gives permission to the riders to use your services and who will be liable for charges and damages that might occur. Speak to the parent personally so you’re sure the contract signature is genuine. Obtain the parents’ phone numbers so they can be contacted in case of an emergency. As part of your limo safety plan, you should also consider having a separate Code of Conduct or Rules Agreement available for the passengers to sign. The agreement details the expected (and acceptable) behavior from your minor passengers when they’re riding in your vehicle. Keep a copy of the signed contracts on the vehicle being utilized.

What Are The Contract Rules?

The first thing parents and passengers should know is that if there is any violation of the contract rules, you will immediately terminate the trip, the responsible parent will be notified, all fees will be charged and forfeited and, though the driver will remain with the group, the parents will be responsible for picking up their children. Pick-up and drop-off locations and times for the trip should be detailed in the agreement, along with an exact itinerary provided by the parent. There should be no deviation from the plans. No side
trips will be allowed without the permission of the signing parent and the owner of the driver’s company. One of the rules you must enforce is prohibiting drugs, tobacco or alcohol in the vehicle. Stipulate that the driver has the right, at his or her discretion, to examine any backpacks or packages being brought on board. Use of these substances by minors is illegal and dangerous and could cause an accident both inside and outside your limousine. This behavior could put you at risk even though you had nothing to do with the actions of your passengers.

Other Safety Precautions

Before you depart, ask your passengers if they have any questions about the contract rules or the services you will be providing to avoid misunderstandings. Discourage risky behavior by keeping the moon roof locked-closed and the driver’s glass divider locked-open. And since state contractual laws vary, you should consult with your attorney to make sure your rules are appropriate. You want your passengers to have a great evening, so treat them with respect and provide them with transportation in the safest and most responsible way possible.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Luxury Cars See Safety Technologies First

Crash Avoidance Technologies
Crash avoidance safety features are already being featured on luxury autos of most manufacturers. Visit www.safercar.gov for more information.

The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), has released a study on the development of important automotive safety technologies that should be available to most . . . in 30 years. Crash avoidance safety features, such as lane departure warning systems, side view assists and forward collision alerts, are already being featured on luxury autos of most manufacturers. However, these existing safety features and others currently in development won’t likely be seen in most registered vehicles for decades.

The study, “Estimated Time of Arrival,” published in the IIHS journal Status Report, projects the years in the future when all vehicles will finally have some of this new and important safety equipment. Antilock brakes sure sounds like an attribute that’s the norm for all cars but, in fact, that feature won’t be standard for all cars until 2015. And surprisingly, it won’t be until 2016 that 95% of all registered vehicles are equipped with front airbags. It won’t be until 2028 that side airbags make it into most vehicles. The most recent advances dealing with collision avoidance technologies could potentially reduce or mitigate 1.9 million crashes, including 1 in 3 fatal crashes, according to the study. But that technology won’t be available to most vehicles until 2049.

We all know how fast technology changes, but like any of the electronics that have become an integral part of our lives, it takes time for the newest advancements to reach
the general population, including important features like crash avoidance in automobiles. Even when a breakthrough is announced, not everyone rushes out to replace their old vehicles, especially given the present state of the economy. Government mandates can often expedite the process of making safety features
commonly available, but it’s still a slow-moving process. For example, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) was introduced in model-year 1995. By 2000, it was standard on 10% of the models and an option on 4%. ESC has been shown to dramatically reduce crashes, particularly rollovers. As a result, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) required that ESC be standard on all passenger vehicles as of model year 2012. The feature was available on 95% of cars by 2010.

While the U.S.can’t quite envision a crash-free future just yet, safety features being introduced now and in the last 10 to 15 years offer great promise. Cars that can talk to each other and cars that can talk to infrastructure are being discussed as platforms that
could advance crash avoidance. There are even cars being modified to operate without a driver, technology that has already been granted a patent. But for now, and for at least 30 years into the future, that won’t happen. So when you’re on the road, either in your professional capacity as a limousine chauffeur or driving your family to a weekend vacation, keep your eyes moving, maintain a safe following distance and don’t speed. These three collision avoidance techniques are timeless and will never be replaced.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Limousine Drivers: Good Impressions Generate Referrals & Repeat Business

Do you ever consider the less obvious but necessary qualities a limousine driver should have in order to run a successful business?

Are you aware of the impression you make on your customers? Of course, appearance matters and it’s hard to imagine any professional limousine chauffeur showing up for work in jeans and a t-shirt! But what about the rest of your appearance? Is your hair combed? Does your suit look clean and pressed? Are your hands clean and fingernails clipped to a reasonable length? What about personal hygiene? While all of this may seem quite obvious to any self-respecting chauffeur, do you ever consider the less obvious but necessary qualities a limousine driver should have in order to run a successful business?

The Best Qualities To Have

A recent article posted on Articles Alley, a website devoted to postings from various industry experts on a wide variety of topics, outlined several essential qualities that limousine drivers need to attract and keep customers coming back. One important quality is being prepared. Before every trip, make sure you know the most efficient routes to take and also alternate roads to travel if you are faced with long traffic delays. Before you leave, check on possible adverse weather conditions along your route so you can make alternate plans for a safe drive. Be punctual to your pick up location. Arriving early is much preferable to getting there late. Always be courteous and don’t let a customer who might be in a bad mood affect your behavior. Have a smile on your face, open the doors, take care of storing and retrieving luggage, do what you can to
keep your clients comfortable from the start, during and at the finish of the trip. Respect the privacy of your clients and that means not talking about them to others after you’ve dropped them off, especially when the clients may be well-known persons.

Important Quality #1

Above everything, you should never neglect your good driving skills. Don’t ever lose your attention on the road ahead. Are you answering your phone, even a hands-free one? In many cases, it shows a disregard for the law and for everyone on the road. Do you continually hard-brake in crowded traffic situations? That indicates you are traveling too fast for the traffic conditions. Do you allow yourself to be bothered by what other drivers do and then complain about it to your customers? That portrays you as short-tempered and impatient – not great qualities to be displaying to customers who have a choice on who they hire to get them from place to place.

Two Things That Customers Will Appreciate

Having a working knowledge of more than one language could be a factor that sets your services apart. Being professionally trained in basic first aid techniques and carrying a first aid kit in your limousine can also be an advantage.

Remember, you’ll never get a second chance to make that first impression.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Study Focuses On Limo Driver Fatigue Issues

A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) showed that many transportation industry workers struggle with sleep and, consequently, fatigue. The first-of-its-kind national survey on sleep habits of professional drivers, pilots and train operators, the 2012 Sleep in America Poll: Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Sleep, is an
eye-opener for professionals in the transportation industry, and in general, a pat on the back for limousine drivers/chauffeurs. The statistics here for limousine drivers were grouped with bus and taxi drivers because their responses were all in very similar percentage ranges, and much different than the responses of other transportation professionals.

The national internet survey polled 1,087 total respondents with a sample error of plus/minus 3%. The primary objectives of the research were:

  • To compare the sleep habits, including wake and bed time routines, across a range of transportation professionals;
  • To compare the sleep habits of transportation professionals to a control group of
    individuals between ages 25-65 who are NOT employed in transportation;
  • To compare coping measures for inadequate sleep for transportation professionals; and
  • To measure how work schedules, among other factors, impact sleep.

While the report asserted that a limousine driver’s daily shift varied and 59% reported usual start times between 6:00 am and 9:00 pm and end-shift times between noon and 6:00 pm, it needs to be noted that many limo drivers have other full-time jobs and only drive part-time – meaning that the average driving shift might be in addition
to a full day of work at their other job.

Limousine drivers say they get enough quality sleep on most working days, with 27% of respondents reporting sleeping 8 hours or more. This is significantly more than train operators or pilots. 53% of limo drivers also say they will take naps during break periods if they believe they need to sleep.

The survey has many more interesting statistics comparing the work and sleep habits of workers in the transportation industry. LimoDirect policyholders can order a free and exclusive copy of our highly acclaimed DVD: Driver Fatigue: A Deadly Serious Problem, available on our website, www.limoinsurancedirect.com. Sign in to our policyholder section and access the Safety/Loss Control section for more information.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Limousine Drivers: What Happened To Safe Driving?

As a leading limo insurance provider, we know that statistics don’t deter drivers who fail to come to a full stop at a red light or stop sign.

As professional limousine drivers, you are arguably among the best and safest drivers on our increasingly busy roadways. As we approach warmer weather and the crowded traffic conditions that brings, you may begin to wonder how so many of the drivers you observe could have forgotten – or choose to ignore – safe driving rules and behavior. So don’t let the bad habits of others on the road cause you to become frustrated, especially when you’re driving.

Keep Your Head
As one of the leading U.S.companies providing limousine insurance, we know chauffeurs are often behind the wheel of a luxury vehicle, including over-sized models that look very classy and expensive. It seems to be a quirk of human nature that other drivers don’t want you to have a better road position than they do, often resulting in careless and dangerous maneuvers by motorists who want to “beat” you or get ahead of your “classy” vehicle. Because you can’t determine what’s going on in other drivers’ minds, you have to be cautious when you’re approaching travel areas that could pose a danger. Concentrate on the road, especially in merge areas, keep space around your limousine and be aware of lane changers and vehicles traveling in your blind spots. Stay calm and obey the speed limits.

A Lost Art
It’s been estimated that almost 60% of drivers do not consistently use their turn signals. This basic element of safe driving may be considered a nuisance to careless drivers. Yet, as a professional limousine driver, you know that it’s important to signal the driving actions you are about to take. With drivers’ minds seemingly on everything but their driving, you can’t afford to let your attention wander. In fact, by using your signals, you actually help others be safer drivers. Communicating your intentions allows others to adjust their speed and distance as needed. Use your signals at all times, whether you’re in heavy traffic or driving in the early morning hours when it seems like yours is the only vehicle on the road. It helps reinforce the habit of signaling your intentions.

Another Danger Ignored
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), red light running in the U.S. results in 218,000 crashes, 880 deaths and 181,000 injuries each year. Yet, as a leading limo insurance provider, we know that these statistics don’t deter the many drivers who fail to come to a full stop at a red light or stop sign. Very often, a light has turned red, but at least one driver continues through with no thought to the danger. This is especially true at left-turn lights. It’s also a problem when vehicles fail to slow down or stop at amber lights. With delayed green, drivers all too often feel they are entitled to those few extra
seconds and speed up rather than slow down. Pay close attention to traffic signals and be prepared to slow down or stop based on the conditions that confront you. Limousine drivers can set on-the-road examples as how to drive safely and carefully for other drivers who may not be as safety conscious.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

2012 ILCT Annual Convention

Manufacturers such as Chrysler, BMW, Cadillac and Toyota all featured vehicles which they believe are suitable replacements for the Town Car which has been the limousine industry’s standard bearer for decades.

The 2012 International Limousine and Chartered Transportation (ILCT) recently concluded annual convention and trade show was very well attended and had much to offer both educationally and socially.

Held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the National Limousine Association (NLA), the ILCT presented a robust trade show which featured many of the new vehicles vying to replace the leadership position of the Lincoln Town Car which is no longer in production.   Manufacturers such as Chrysler, BMW, Cadillac and Toyota
all featured vehicles which they believe are suitable replacements for the Town Car which has been the limousine industry’s standard bearer for decades.

The trade show also featured vendors offering a wide assortment of high tech reservation and booking systems geared to the smart phone using demographic.  Insurance companies, such as industry leading Lancer Insurance Company, were on hand to feature their products and services and to participate in the educational
sessions targeting limousine owners and their senior staff.  In fact Lancer’s Safety Director Bob Crescenzo gave an informative presentation to a packed room on the challenges limousine companies have as their operations evolve from sedan-only to mixed fleets of sedans, mini-buses, vans and full-sized motorcoaches.   Crescenzo highlighted the regulatory, operational and driver training issues which must be part of the transition process.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Red Light Cameras – Is Big Brother Watching?

As a professional limousine driver, you need to be aware that intersections are where most accidents happen.

In recent years, whether you are a professional limo driver or not, you can’t seem to escape the scrutiny of a camera, no matter where in the world you are. On street corners, in businesses, on highways and roadways, on the dashboards of vehicles and in the hands of anyone over the age of 5! But one area that has been causing a lot of controversy is the benefit of red light cameras set up at busy intersections to, in theory, make dangerous intersections safer for all drivers.

Dueling Surveys

For more than seven years, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has been studying the impact, safety and general attitudes towards red light cameras. The surveys have examined rural, suburban and urban roadways and have questioned thousands of people of various driving ages to compile their data. In the latest IIHS survey published in June 2011, the results indicated that, while respondents felt that the cameras were primarily put in place to raise revenue from drivers running red lights, there was no doubt that in cities using red light cameras there was a major drop in fatal crashes. The study data also shows that motorists are more likely to comply with traffic laws when they perceive a high likelihood of being cited for a violation. Thus the ultimate conclusion is that red light cameras are a
beneficial addition to the safety of the motoring public.

However this study has come under scrutiny from several sources and seems to be coming down to a battle between advocates and enemies of red light cameras. The University of South Florida (USF) Department of Health Policy and Management questioned the lack of some data that should have been used by IICF to compile their figures. USF further focused on seven studies that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) identified as the most scientifically sound with regard to red light cameras. None seemed to find any significant safety benefit from the cameras, and several showed that crashes actually increased!

Cameras Are A Fact Of Life

No matter what your feelings about red light cameras, their use is increasing across the
country. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 21 states have laws permitting at least one type of intersection enforcement device and 10 states have acted to prohibit using them as an enforcement tool. As a professional limousine driver, you need to be aware that intersections are where most of the traffic accidents
in the United States happen. As you approach, keep your eyes moving, watch for “stale green” lights and flashing cross walk signs that indicate the light is about to turn red, cover your brake and slow down to better prepare yourself for all the problems a busy intersection can bring.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Limo Driver Tip: Don’t Let Mild Winter Weather Fool You

Winter Limo Driving
Be mindful of other drivers that may be lulled into a false sense of security by the mild winter weather conditions.

The extended periods of mild winter weather so far this season have provided an unexpected break for limo drivers from the icy, snowy and slippery roads typically seen throughout most of the country this time of year. Over 70% of the nation’s roads are located in snowy regions which receive an average annual snowfall of more than five inches, and almost 70% of the U.S. population lives in these snowy regions. And although there have been some cold snaps, the unseasonable conditions, particularly in the Midwest, have made many roads easier to drive than usual. Consequently, the typical delays and the increase in accidents haven’t been much of a factor this year for most limo drivers.

So what does this mean to a professional limo driver?  For one thing, you’re probably experiencing more vehicles on the road and traffic moving at a higher rate of speed.  The ability to get to your destinations on time is surely a positive result of the milder temperatures, but there are two hidden hazards relating to the good weather conditions.

The first risk relates to what happens when the inevitable change in weather conditions does occur, even if just for a brief period of time. As a professional limo driver you know how to adjust your speed and following distances accordingly, and understand the change in braking distance when rain, frozen rain or snow begins to fall. However, not everyone is a trained professional. Be mindful of other drivers that may be lulled into a
false sense of security that because of the mild conditions, adverse weather will not be a factor. Those motorists may not be as quick to adjust their driving habits to changing conditions. This means that you need to watch carefully for traffic that doesn’t make the adjustment in speed and following distance, and be on the lookout for lane jockeys that don’t apply common sense when changing lanes.

The next risk regards maintenance. Wipers, antifreeze, the defroster and all those other items that are normal factors during sustained winter weather may slip your mind under current conditions. You don’t want to be surprised to find out that you’re out of washer fluid because you haven’t had to fill it as often as in past winters. Be sure to complete a
thorough pre-trip inspection and check your vehicle often along the way.  And, for safety’s sake, don’t assume that because things are clear today, they’ll stay that way for the rest of the winter. Keep informed of the latest weather and road conditions so you can be ready for whatever nature throws your way.

Limo Drivers: Using GPS Systems Safely

Taking your eyes off the road to read a GPS display, even for a few seconds, can be a very dangerous distraction.

The use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS), for limo drivers and non-limo drivers alike, has grown steadily across the country over the past few years. However, the increase in reliance on these GPS devices has also created some problems that have led to accidents, lost drivers and drivers finding themselves stuck on streets too narrow to navigate safely, especially when driving an over-sized vehicle. Much like using online map services like Mapquest or Google Maps, seemingly good directions aren’t always that accurate, send you through circuitous routes and sometimes, don’t give you the whole picture of what you’re driving into.

Many state legislatures have growing concerns that drivers can become very reliant on GPS commands and displays, to the point at which they might lose focus on the road and forsake safe driving basics. Taking your eyes off the road to read a GPS display, even for a few seconds, can be a very dangerous distraction. Following GPS directions without looking ahead to ensure the road is clear to safely make a turn can lead to hitting fixed objects or pedestrians. Drivers should be careful to not allow the convenience and ease of use of a GPS to lull them into following commands without applying the fundamentals of safe driving before they respond.

It should also be noted that GPS devices often provide directions and information about exiting and turning shortly before the need to make the actual maneuver without accounting for the size, turning radius and length of time needed for a larger vehicle to complete the suggested move.

Auto manufacturers have come up with “Augmented Navigation Displays”   which put GPS information and other road information directly onto the windshield. The objective is to minimize your loss of visual contact with the road and create a safer drive. The devices have begun appearing in the latest model automobiles.

Some other basic rules to remember when using GPS devices are:

  • Don’t program the GPS while moving. Instead, enter your destination BEFORE starting your vehicle. If you need to change your destination, pull over where it’s safe and legal to do so.
  • Learn to rely on the voice directions, with an occasional glance at the map, much as you would look at the speedometer or other instrument, to confirm or preview turns. Keep your focus on your driving.

Finally, never depend solely on a GPS device.  No matter what type of commercial vehicle device you use, the map data is not always 100% accurate.  As a professional
limo driver, you’re still responsible for obeying all road signs, bridge heights and restricted areas and following safe driving rules.

Limo Insurance: What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Loss of use of a damaged vehicle can have more impact than the actual claim: Repair costs? Replacement vehicle costs? How will you handle upcoming business you've committed to?

LimoDirect’s Loss Recovery Program Is Like “Found Money”

When shopping for limo insurance, price isn’t everything. A wise limousine operator will also look into what kind of claim support he or she can expect from the company chosen to insure his or her limousine(s)…the company’s life blood.  After all, that is really what you are paying for.

Very few limo insurers put a lot of thought into the total impact a serious claim can have on a limousine company. Besides the obvious claim of the insured limousine, there are many other issues that the limo company must face. How long will the repairs take and will I have to rent a replacement vehicle? Will I have to replace the vehicle? What about the contracts and upcoming business I have committed to? In total, loss of use of the damaged vehicle can add up to as much or even more than the original claim.

One limo insurance company, Lancer’s LimoDirect, has its claim team assist its policyholders, at absolutely no cost to them, to recover monies from other insurance companies for out-of-pocket expenses which are either below their collision deductible or not insured at all, including cost of replacement vehicle(s), vehicle downtime and related revenues and expenses.

Lancer’s LimoDirect Loss Recovery Program is a free policyholder benefit which allows its policyholders to keep 100% of monies recovered on your behalf versus paying a vendor a 30%-50% fee for assisting in the recovery.

The process is made simple for its policyholders. LimoDirect assigns a professional limousine insurance claims expert to the policyholder with a claim. The claims expert quickly locates the adverse party and promptly sets up the claim on the policyholder’s behalf with the other insurance company. This step allows them to give an early notice of “loss of use” of the affected limousine.

The claim professional then documents the claim and guides the LimoDirect policyholder through the process, including:

  • Sending estimates and photographs for the insured and providing loss of use documentation such as revenue reports,contracts, replacement vehicles, etc.;
  • Obtaining an agreed cost of repair;
  • And, most importantly, getting their limousine back on the road in revenue service.

Here’s an example of what the insurer’s Loss Recovery Program did for one of its policyholders:

“Lancer’s loss recovery service has saved us almost $390,000! Over the past five years, Lancer has recovered almost $1.3 million in property damage and loss of use for us. We used to pay around 30% for third-party loss recovery, but with Lancer, it’s
included as part of a comprehensive benefits package. Lancer knows how important loss recovery is for a limo company. That’s why they provide the service — and fight so hard for every dollar we’re due.”

Rich Doherty, Director, National Fleet Services,
EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services, Secaucus, NJ

When it comes to insuring your limousine company, price isn’t everything… be sure to look into exactly what your limo insurer will do for you and how much of your money they are willing to protect!

How Professional Chauffeurs Can Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle

You should be making the effort to avoid fatigued driving.

In an industry that typically involves irregular work and rest cycles, irregular mealtimes and long working hours, it is difficult for a professional chauffeur to maintain a healthy diet and a regular physical fitness routine. During the winter months when just about everyone is susceptible to colds and flu, it’s especially important that you take care of yourself. It is clearly not pleasant for passengers if you’re coughing and sneezing throughout a trip.

Fatigued Driving Affects Driver Health

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently published a study, Health andWellness Programs for Commercial Drivers. While the research focused on truck and bus drivers, the results apply to professional chauffeurs as well. One of the biggest problems is fatigue. Unpredictable work schedules, lack of rest or nap periods during work, sleep deprivation, sleep disruption and poor diet are among the contributing factors to fatigue. And when you are continually tired, your resistance lowers and it becomes more difficult for you to avoid illness. It’s not easy to keep yourself fit when you often can’t predict what kind of work schedule you will have, but you should be making the effort to avoid fatigued driving.

Try To Maintain Healthy Eating Habits

Your diet should not consist of foods that are high in fat and calories and that have little or no nutritional value. Always strive for a balanced diet  of foods rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins to help keep your body performing at peak efficiency. Eat a nutritious breakfast daily, snack on fruits and vegetables, try not to eat late at night, especially when you are doing a lot of sitting and eliminate high-calorie drinks and include water in your diet. Making some simple changes in your daily diet can help you lose some weight and even feel better throughout your work schedule.

Start Moving

Exercise is a way to improve your mood and attitude as well as physical well-being. It boosts your energy level and helps to reduce stress and the risks of disease. You can start on a regimen of 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. Starting with something as basic as taking a walk can even be done during your work schedule. Getting up and moving, especially if you know you will be sitting for long periods, is a beneficial way to get your circulation moving and helping you stay alert. A poor diet and lack of exercise increase the risk of obesity and that is a major factor in developing cardio-vascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and stroke.

Smoking

One of the most difficult habits to break is smoking. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people die from smoking-related diseases. If you smoke, stop. The benefit to your health and well-being will be immeasurable.

Driving Customers – To Your Limo Website

Just having a nice looking website, even if you spend a good deal of money to get it developed, isn’t enough to bring people to your site.

If there is just one thing all limousine drivers have in common, it’s dealing with heavy traffic. But how about the heavy traffic you want to attract your limo website? Are you making the most of the digital online resources available to keep ahead of the pack?

No matter what your marketing strategy, it should include an online plan. According to statistics from 15miles, a local search study site, 82% of local searchers follow up offline via an in-store visit, phone call or purchase. And with the internet literally at your fingertips and on your phones at all times, users can access information without a serious time commitment. The Kelsey Group, a local Media and Advertising Expert, predicted in their Fall, 2011 media forecast update that the rate of growth for the overall local ad markets over the next five years will remain flat. But digital media will be a “bright spot,” with double-digit growth expected for the forecast period 2010–2015. So while you shouldn’t ignore traditional advertising markets and those hands-on ideas to get your services known, you simply must utilize the internet.

Just having a nice looking website, even if you spend a good deal of money to get it developed, isn’t enough to bring people to your site. You will need to invest time and/or more money to get more customers. Assuming you have a website, the first, relatively simple thing you should do is include your website URL (Uniform Resource Locator) on your business cards, flyers, any materials you may give away and/or ads you publish.

Make online search engines your friend. Prospective customers will find your site by using the common search engines and browsers, by typing your company name or some other phrase that would link your site to the inquiry. But how do you insure that your business will be one of the first ones listed? With thousands, even millions of answers resulting from an inquiry, if you’re number 1,000 in line, how many people do you think will make it to your website? What you need to do is optimize your place on the search – known as search engine optimization (SEO) — so that you land on the first page when people type in some related keywords or key phrases. There are a number of ways to do this. You can hire a company that specializes in this type of help, or you can make changes and additions on your own. Two websites offer excellent advice: http://www.searchenginewatch.com/ is an online newsletter offering comprehensive tips about creating or enhancing a site that search engines can find; and www.wilsonweb.com, an information center that has several articles listed on how to promote your website.

Limo Business: It’s The Little Things That Count

What are you doing to ensure that your limo business customers will come back, that they will think of you first the next time they need a ride?

It’s one thing to spend time seeking out ways to attract customers to your limo business, to make your services stand out so that potential clients will choose you when they’re
looking to hire a limousine. But what about after the trip is over? What are you doing to ensure that your limo business customers will come back, that they will think of you first the next time they need a ride? Are you showing your customers that you are grateful for their business? Are you doing just a bit more than saying “Thank You” when the job is done?

In the limo business it’s the little things that count. Actions speak louder than words. Go the extra mile. The proof is in the details. All of these wise sayings endure because they are true. Books about being successful in business focus on the small but powerful things people do that make a lasting impression. An interesting and insightful website called Alexandra Levit’s Water Cooler Wisdom offers a number of ways to get along in the workplace, and also goes into ways to make yourself memorable by doing just a little extra when on the job. For example, do you make an effort to remember some general information about customers, like their children’s names, places you’ve taken them, special events in their lives, so you can make friendly conversation and show that you value your clients? Have you ever considered writing a very brief Thank-You to the people who trusted you to get them to their destination safely? A blank Thank-You card with a hand-written note mailed to a client saying YOU enjoyed the trip costs less than $1.00 and could be worth so much more in repeat business and referrals.

“The Two Most Powerful Words For Your Business,” an article written by Randi Busse, president of Workforce Development Group in Amityville, New York, and published in the November 2011 issue of Limousine Digest, hammers home the importance of saying “Thank You.” And, the author says, “Don’t just thank your new customers – thank those that have been with you for a long time as well, because we too often take them for granted. Remind them how much you appreciate them and the fact that they have been your customer for many years.” Avoid sending an email – it’s too impersonal and easy. Sending a note takes your time and shows you genuinely value a client’s business.

My sister recently hired a LimoDirect insured limousine company for my niece’s wedding. The company provided the exact vehicle she wanted, the driver was on time, attentive and in a great and festive mood. What really made the limo experience memorable for my sister, who swears she’ll forever choose that company first, is a couple of weeks after the wedding, she got a note from the limo company’s owner, thanking her for her business. The note included a pro-rated refund check because the time they used the limo was one hour shorter than originally contracted for. My sister never asked for it and never expected it. But the limousine company knew it was a good thing to do and it was a great way of saying “thank you.”

It certainly is the little things that make a big difference.

Helping Win The Battle Against Limo Insurance Fraud – Part II

There are steps you can take to reduce chances of becoming a limo insurance victim.

Last week, we covered the four most common types of staged accidents in limo insurance fraud that criminals are using to scam the system and collect large financial settlements from unsuspecting drivers, especially those who drive large and expensive vehicles. Whether these limo insurance fraud accidents involve an organized crime ring or an individual attempting to make a few extra bucks, there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of becoming a victim:

  • Look out for large, older vehicles with three or more occupants. Scammers often crowd into old cars when looking to stage an accident.
  • Don’t tailgate. Make sure you leave plenty of room in front of you and around your vehicle so you can react to the sudden movements of other drivers.
  • Use your own judgment in driving situations. Even if other drivers signal that it’s OK to merge when you are near them, you make the call whether or not it’s safe to do so.
  • Keep a pen and paper in your vehicle and use your Lancer-provided Accident
    Reporting Kit
    to gather information. If an accident occurs, record names of
    all vehicle occupants, addresses, license plate numbers, the adverse driver’s
    license number and insurance details, witness information and any other
    pertinent facts for immediate documentation of what occurred.
  • Keep a 24-shot, disposable flash camera, like Lancer’s free-to-order AccidentCam in your glove box, or use your cell phone to take pictures. Borrow a camera if you don’t have one, because it’s important to take photos before any vehicles are moved. Take pictures of your vehicle, other vehicles involved and the entire scene. Have photographs to help tell the story of what happened.
  • Call the police to come to the scene, even if the adverse vehicle occupants insist it is not necessary. Get the officer’s name and information from him/her on how to get the police report. Do this even if you think the damage is minor.
  • Report any accidents or incidents 24/7 to LimoDirect immediately at 1-800-521-6155 or whomever you insure your limo with. The sooner claims professionals begin their investigation, the better the chances fraud can be detected.
  • Contact Lancer’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) at 1-800-533-8552 and contact the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) at 1-800-TEL-NICB if you suspect a scam. You can also email Lancer at stopfraud@lancer-ins.com.

Helping Win The Battle Against Limo Insurance Fraud – Part I

Limousine companies are viewed as easy targets for fraud because of their large insurance coverage limits.

With the busy holiday season in full gear, traffic is going to increase on the highways, in the cities and in the suburbs. With so many vehicles on the road, it is also a prime time for unscrupulous thieves to attempt to perpetrate on-the-road limo insurance fraud against you and your company. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NCIB) has warned that the one industry that continues to show sustained growth, even in tough economic times, is limo insurance fraud. And the crooks are getting more and more creative about ways to separate you from your hard-earned dollars. According to the Association of Fraud Examiners, insurance fraud is costing the American public more than $96 billion in increased premiums per year, and over $400 billion in total costs of goods and services. The cost to transportation companies is a very large share of these totals because they are viewed as easy targets with large insurance coverage limits. Staged accidents have risen by 33% since 1992 and fraudulent claims by passengers in other vehicles, body shops, phony medical facilities and other claimants have shown a steady increase as well.

So what do you need to look out for when you’re on the road to avoid limo insurance fraud? Today’s staged accidents are actually very sophisticated and well planned events. They usually involve more than one vehicle and often have passengers on board, carelessly putting them in harm’s way. Four of the most common scams are:

Swoop and Squat. A scammer’s vehicle swoops in front of you and its driver slams on the brakes, causing a rear-end collision. Often, another vehicle is in on the scam and pulls up next to you, blocking your ability to move and avoid the stopped auto of his partner in crime in front of you. While the vehicles may only suffer minor damage, the crooks file a large claim for fake injuries and vehicular damage.

Drive Down. As you attempt to merge, another driver waves you forward. As you proceed, the suspect purposely accelerates and collides into your vehicle, then that driver denies ever motioning to you and often has a passenger who will swear you just cut them off.

Sideswipe. As you round a corner at a busy intersection with multiple turn lanes, the scammer’s vehicle deliberately sideswipes you if you inadvertently drift into the other lane while completing the turn. The clever cheats will take advantage of any slight mistake on your part to minimize danger to themselves and maximize the damage to their vehicles which are frequently already damaged.

Adding Damage. After a collision, staged or not, the scammers go to another location, cause more extensive damage to their vehicle and claim the damage happened as a result of the original accident. Fortunately, the proliferation of camera-phones and instruction-laden AccidentCam cameras provided by commercial auto insurers like Lancer’s LimoDirect has helped lessen the frequency of this often expensive claim.

In our next installment, we’ll discuss how you can fight back against the scammers and reduce your chances of becoming a victim of limo insurance fraud.

Proper Chauffeur Hiring is Key to Limousine Company Success – Part IV

Even the most technically proficient chauffeurs will make driving mistakes if they do not have the right personality to manage the stress of driving.

It’s More Than Just Driving

When considering a chauffeur candidate’s driving skills, be sure to evaluate the following:  city driving, highway driving, turning, backing, adaptation to weather and/or road conditions, reaction to driving stress/pressure, ability to navigate/read a map, ability to manage multiple tasks and ability to manage passengers.  Even the most technically proficient chauffeurs will make driving mistakes if they do not have the right personality to manage customers and the stress of driving.  Observing the chauffeur in “people” situations is critical to his or her success as a professional chauffeur.

Chauffeur training is the final step in the hiring process.  It is critical that the driver training efforts be documented and consistent.  Getting the chauffeur into the vehicle is often a slower process than both of you would like but, if done properly, will protect your company and your customers.

Don’t assume an experienced chauffeur will adapt on his or her own to the unique aspects of your operation or customers.  Don’t assume a new chauffeur understands every aspect of each vehicle model.  Don’t assume a new chauffeur knows how to drive to the locations you travel to.  If the chauffeur is experienced, then review how your company manages these issues.  If it’s an inexperienced driver, then take the time to teach him or her how to do these things properly.  The payoff of training is chauffeur retention and customer satisfaction, two of the most important operational issues limousine company owners face each day.

The cost of hiring a professional chauffeur is rising, but the cost of not hiring properly is skyrocketing.  The chauffeur is the cornerstone of your company, so every minute of time you spend training before that individual is assigned to a vehicle will pay off in the future.

Lancer Resolves TLC Registration Issue

Lancer LimoDirect Resolves TLC Registration IssueLancer LimoDirect attorneys recently met with New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) members and successfully negotiated a solution to a TLC registration issue regarding the city’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage.

In a meeting at the TLC’s offices on November 18th, Lancer LimoDirect attorney James Harinski and former TLC Chairman Matt Daus, who is currently with the transportation law practice of Windels, Marx, Lane & Mittendoff, LLP and was retained by Lancer, met with TLC personnel and the TLC agreed to communicate to all its inspectors, licensing personnel and other affected staff that the insurer’s New Jersey limo policies meet the TLC’s insurance requirements and that Lancer’s policyholders were eligible to re-file their applications for TLC decal renewals. The TLC also indicated it would move to dismiss any open summonses issued to Lancer’s New Jersey policyholders related to the insurance issue.

For more information, please see LCT Magazine’s “NJ Operators Seek Help To Review Insurance Policies” article.

Proper Chauffeur Hiring is Key to Limousine Company Success – Part III

After the manager identifies the candidate as someone who is acceptable for chauffeur hiring, the following steps have to be completed: driving/road test; complete background check; obtain and review the Motor Vehicle Record (MVR).

Chauffeur Hiring: Turning A Candidate Into A Chauffeur

Once the interview process is complete and the applicant becomes a candidate you still have a lot of work to do.  This process can often become one-sided if either the applicant or the manager has different impressions.  There is a “mating dance” to the chauffeur hiring process and the stage between the interview and the hiring is critical to both the candidate and the employer.  After the manager identifies the candidate as someone who is acceptable for chauffeur hiring, the following steps have to be completed: driving/road test; complete background check; obtain and review the Motor Vehicle Record (MVR).

The job of turning the candidate into an employee can only work if the manager has a script and the script is directly related to the initial steps of having a job description and hiring standards.  So, if you didn’t start at the beginning, you will get lost in the middle and lose in the end.  Always recognize that the informal information you gather is important but unless it is verified, should not be taken as fact.

Proper Chauffeur Hiring is Key to Limousine Company Success – Part II

During the interview, you should evaluate the chauffeur's appearance, personality, speech, intelligence, education, experience, abilities, potential for further development and ambition.

Hiring Standards are Critical

In order to select a chauffeur you have to establish job standards including tasks and duties of the job.  These standards must be applied equally to all applicants.   Once you have established the standards, it is important to create a job description.  If you are not clear on what you expect the chauffeur to do, how can the driver ever really know how to do his or her job properly?  A simple list of the job duties and responsibilities during the hiring process will go a long way in solving the dilemmas that occur when a chauffeur is not performing well.  The candidate should be provided with a copy of the job description.  Once the standards are established and the job description list is created, then you can create the job application form.  While using standardized forms is acceptable, make sure you add appropriate questions that will provide information that is specific to your type of operation.  Finally, your company driver training/orientation program must be in place before you hire the driver so both of you have a road map to follow once a hiring decision has been made.

Once a candidate has been identified and the application reviewed, you must conduct an interview.  Interviews are very important because they give each of you a chance to evaluate the work situation.  Interviews are “planned communications”.  It is important for you to have a specific set of questions and ask them in an open-ended manner.  Be prepared for the interview and schedule the time and place.  Your job is to listen to the answers, so give the candidate all of your attention even if it is a short interview.   Answering the phone or dispatching while you are interviewing will not work.  Be cordial and purposeful and conduct the interview in as private and quiet place as possible.  During the interview, you should evaluate the following:  appearance, personality, speech, intelligence, education, experience, abilities, potential for further development and ambition. Be sure you do not make promises; be truthful and specific.   And, if you say you will get back to the candidate, do so.

Proper Chauffeur Hiring is Key to Limousine Company Success – Part I

Your Chauffeur Is Your Company

Driver selection and chauffeur hiring are the most critical management functions in maintaining a safe limousine operation.  When you fail to select and hire properly, the result is always unsafe acts committed by unqualified drivers.  When driver selection and chauffeur hiring is done properly and management adheres to established company standards, a better chauffeur force will result.  Your company IS personified by your drivers so why not make the selection, hiring and retention of your most valuable resource your top priority.

It is important that you and your company abide by both the spirit and the letter of the law in all areas of operations.  In the process of recruiting, selecting and hiring chauffeurs this requires operators and managers to be familiar with all aspect of state and local laws and regulations.

Hiring the wrong driver could result in accidents and the associated high cost of a claims settlement.  The chauffeur reflects your company and a poor selection or shoddy hiring practices will cost you in the end.   It is better to have a vacant position then to fill it with the wrong person who does not meet your standards.  Shortcuts in the hiring process can be deadly to both your business and your customers.

Simple Steps Can Take Your Limo Business A Long Way

Pre-trip Inspections

Pre-trip inspections are very important and worth your time to identify and fix any possible problems before you leave.

If you want to leave a positive impression of your limo business services with your customers, whether they are repeat clients or brand new contacts, you must know what you are doing and where you are going. That means you are familiar with the routes to the pick-up location so you arrive on time. You know the streets and roads you will need to take to get efficiently to the destination, as well as alternate routes along the way in case you run into traffic delays, and have knowledge of frequently requested destinations, such as airports, bus and railroad terminals, convention centers, hotels, restaurants and other points of local interest. You should also have knowledge of fire and police stations as well as area hospitals along your routes. Don’t assume a GPS system is foolproof. It is much wiser to prepare yourself before you get behind the wheel.

You should always prepare your vehicles before each and every trip as well. A vehicle breakdown can rarely be predicted and you don’t want that to ever happen during a trip if you can help it. So pre-trip inspections are very important and worth your time to identify and fix any possible problems before you leave. Check fuel, oil and windshield washer fluid levels. Check all lights, front and back, as well as high beams, emergency flashers, brake, back-up lights and turn signals. Check tires, brakes, and windshield wipers for proper function, and make sure your heater/air conditioner is in working order. Inspect your vehicle for cleanliness inside and out and get rid of any trash or anything else that makes your limousine look messy or unkempt.

Keep an umbrella, extra paper or cloth towels, an ice scraper and brush and small shovel in your limousine’s trunk to help out if you encounter poor weather. Use television, newspaper or radio reports, or internet services to check weather conditions on your route before you leave, and check on any traffic problems along the way that can delay your trip. Weather and traffic are out of your control, but you can pre-plan to help avoid them.

These simple steps can take your limo business a long way.

Limo Insurance Expert Stresses Long-Term Relationships

Tim Delaney explains how operators can protect themselves from the dizzying price swings that often occur in the area of specialty insurance.

Senior Executive Vice President for the Lancer Insurance Company’s Passenger Transportation Underwriting Division, Timothy Delaney is one of the foremost experts on the subject of transportation insurance in the country. With more than 25 years of hands-on experience in the limousine transportation and limo insurance industries, Mr. Delaney is well aware that developing a partnership with clients is an excellent way to help them operate their businesses more safely, more efficiently and more profitably.

Chasing The Lowest Price

He was recently interviewed by Jim Luff of Limousine, Charter & Tour Magazine after a presentation he made at the 2011 International LCT Show. The topic, “How To Get The Max From Your Premium Insurance Dollars,” is an analysis of how operators can protect themselves from the dizzying price swings that often occur in the area of specialty insurance including limo insurance. Tim explained that limousine, bus and van companies, which carry many passengers at once, can be faced with claims that reach $5 million, the liability limit that many transportation companies purchase. So if insurance providers who are less experienced in the specialized needs of passenger transportation companies have priced their premiums low in order to bring in business, they’re in for a rude awakening when they realize they failed to factor in the huge claim payments associated with a serious accident, and their premium intake is nowhere near enough to be paying those claims. Suddenly, the affected companies need to raise their premiums dramatically, and many of their policyholders just aren’t prepared to absorb those increased costs.

Build Long-Term Relationships

Loyalty is one of the most important elements of a long-term relationship between your insurance company and your policyholders, and Mr. Delaney says that this one fact is a very large part of Lancer’s success. By charging fair, actuarially sound premiums, aggressively tackling the claims process from the moment an accident happens to final outcome, and reinforcing Lancer’s total commitment to the safety of its policyholders by offering many free and exclusive chauffeur training and safety products, Lancer has an excellent record of long-term client retention. It’s no wonder that the Ward Group recently named Lancer one of the 50 top-performing P&C Insurers for 2011 in the U.S., “setting the bar for excellence and demonstrating a high threshold of safety and consistency.”

Limousine Operators: Protect Yourself Before A Trip

A well-written and binding signed contract can help you avoid some unfortunate situations for limousine operators.

One of the attractions for professional limousine operators is the variety of clients you will meet and the interesting places you may travel. But that very aspect of your work is what could get you in trouble if you’re not prepared for the seemingly endless issues you have to deal with, especially when it comes to the surprising behavior of some of your passengers.

“How to Deal with the Less Glamorous Side of Retail, an article by Wayne Blanchard published in Limousine Digest, offers some solid advice on how limousine operatorts can deal with the unexpected. Some of the actual incidents cited in the article might seem familiar, but every situation will be different and pre-planning for the unusual can help you avoid some unfortunate situations.

Blanchard bases his advice on three major components:

  1. A well-written and binding signed contract;
  2. Proper chauffeur training (yours and anyone you may hire);
  3. A code of conduct for clients (with penalties for non-compliance)

He offers suggested rules for clients that will help keep the passengers, the limousine operator and the vehicle in good, undamaged condition. Spelling out what a client could be financially responsible for if there is damage sustained to the vehicle, if there are changes to the agreed itinerary or any other mishaps that are the result of client behavior, can often be a deterrent to irresponsible conduct.

Successful Limousine Claim Management Is A Solid Investment

Successful limousine claim management can immediately, and aggressively, investigate and build a strong defense to any claim made against your company.

By Paul Berne
Senior Vice President, Claims
Lancer Insurance Company

Something goes bump in the night. It’s your limousine. And, it’s a bad situation. A high-speed interstate accident resulting in a fatal injury to the other driver, and injuries to your passengers. The scene is cluttered with wrecked vehicles, ambulances, policemen, firemen, EMTs. A local television crew arrives. After several hours, the road is clear, the injured are at medical care facilities, the officials are busy doing paperwork and you’re on your way back to your office wondering what will happen next. You’re worried about your vehicle, the image of your company, your customers, and your insurance rates. It’s hard to find good news given the situation, but there is some. Your insurance company should be able to provide you with excellent limousine claim management through the entire claim process.

What actually is involved in the claim adjusting process? Who does the work? How much work is there? What does it cost an insurance company to adjust a claim like the one described above?

You know that the limousine and livery industry has become a favorite target of plaintiff lawyers. You know that jury verdicts are out of control, and that it is essential to immediately and aggressively investigate and build a strong defense to any claim made against your company. Some insurance companies choose to stick their heads in the sand and avoid adjusting and legal expense. What they pay at the back-end in higher settlements and verdicts more than offsets what they should have spent at the front-end to keep the loss costs under control. Let’s break down where and how the money is spent.

THE FIRST RESPONSE

The media reports chaos, mayhem and a battle scene. A good limo insurance company, such as Lancer’s LimoDirect, is experienced in dealing with the press, and handles the communication in such a way that their interest is diffused within 12 hours of the incident. Within 24 hours, the media has no interest in following the story.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Now the battle begins. The insurance carrier for the driver of the car that hit your limo contends that the accident was your driver’s fault. So does the lawyer hired by the family of the deceased. A lawsuit is filed and punitive damages are alleged. Your insurer, through the evidence gathered at the preliminary adjusting phase, should be able to establish that fault primarily rests with the other driver. The police suspected the car driver might have been under the influence of alcohol. A responsible insurance company will hire a toxicologist to examine the lab records. This expert confirms that the level of intoxication was sufficient to impair driving ability. Not by much, but there is an argument that it contributed to the accident. The insurance company-retained accident reconstructionist produces a video animation that demonstrates that fault could not rest entirely with your driver. Of course, the plaintiff attorney has hired an expert with similar credentials, and his reconstruction indicates that complete fault rests with your driver.

Your company records are scrutinized by the plaintiff attorney to the last detail; your driver file, maintenance records and your safety and training program. Unfortunately, there is an adverse finding. The records reveal that the vehicle missed the completion of scheduled maintenance relating to the brakes. The records also indicate you knew about it, but you were fully booked and just didn’t get to the required maintenance. This creates a huge problem; you are exposed to punitive damages and the jury will be inflamed by what the plaintiff attorney will describe as your “putting profits ahead of safety”. He’ll argue that you had a “conscious disregard for the safety of others”. Your insurer retains yet another expert witness to defend you; this one specializes in explaining to juries why your conduct did not contribute to the accident. The case will be made that any issues with the brakes could not have had anything to do with the accident. The defense knows that will be a tough sell.

THE JURY DECIDES

Cases take twists and turns over the months and years they stay open. In the final analysis, what looked like a favorable liability situation for your company turns out to be a toss-up at best, with a better than 50-50 chance that a jury will find your driver is at least 75% at fault. But, your passengers have been treated fairly and promptly all along. They did not hire attorneys; their claims are settled and closed. Your insurer gets aggressive in demanding a contribution to the settlements for your passengers from the insurance carrier for the adverse auto. Under threat of a lawsuit, the other driver’s insurer finally relents and pays a significant percentage of each claim.

By leveraging the evidence gathered, experts hired and through the skilled handling of your attorney and claims adjuster, the case is settled for $1.2 million two weeks before trial. The total adjusting and legal cost is $124,000. Every penny spent was worth it; had the case not been prepared as it was, the outcome would have been a much higher settlement, or a verdict well in excess of what the case ultimately cost.

Some claims are fairly simple; fixed object or parked car cases, no liability incidents, and low impact fender-benders without injuries. When the bad thing happens however; injuries, fatalities, extensive property damage, it is essential that insurance companies step up the tempo and spend the time and money necessary to build the best defense possible. Strange as it seems, spending money on claims will help keep loss costs under control.

Controlling Your Limousine Insurance Costs By Blowing Your Own Horn

 

Controlling Limousine Insurance Costs

Look upon the limousine insurance application process as a marketing opportunity to sell your unique and compelling attributes to agents and underwriters.

Although the cost of Limousine Insurance is not as critical a consideration today as it was in the early 2000’s, considering the formidable challenges confronted by limousine companies in today’s tumultuous marketplace, it is an area where some expense relief might be welcomed.  While fuel costs and the state of the overall U.S. economy are today’s hot button issues, the cyclical nature of insurance pricing will eventually move it back to or near the top of the list sometime down the road.

Promote Uniqueness

Interestingly, whenever limousine company owners have an opportunity to verbally describe their operations, the points they make are striking.  Specifically, they go to great lengths detailing how their company is decidedly different (and better) than their competitors for a variety of reasons.

Unfortunately, when it comes to applying for an insurance quote, painfully little of that positive message reaches those who need to know it most — the insurance underwriters.  Don’t allow that to happen. Look upon the insurance application process as a marketing opportunity to sell your unique and compelling attributes to agents and underwriters. 

Getting Started

  • Put together a “sales” piece similar to what you would use to sell a top client.
  • Include any awards your company gets from customers, civic groups, industry magazines or other pertinent sources.
  • Just like you always answer the question, “Why should I hire you?” when putting together sales pieces, answer the question, “Why should I give your company better rates?” when preparing for your insurance renewals.
  • Include differentiators such as chauffeur safety training, sensitivity training, CPR, on the road and class room training, etc. That will show how your company is not just another cookie cutter operation.
  • Include industry involvement.  People who are involved in industry associations (both nationally and locally) are usually the ones who take operating to letter of the law very seriously.  If you participate on the board of an association or in some other capacity, let us know.
  • If clients are raving fans and have sent testimonials, put them in the package.
  • Include information about your packages and what makes your company truly unique.
  • Tell us who is using your service—Be a name dropper.  If Microsoft uses you exclusively, that is something that will help the underwriter understand more about your company. 
  • Remember that although your agent knows you and your company, he may not be conveying all of the great attributes that will make a difference to your underwriter. 
  • Keep a file that you update as things occur throughout the year.  When your renewals come up, you will have all of the information in one place ready to go. 

A Chauffeur Dilemma: When To Answer Your Phone?

What should you do when all logic tells you to answer every call to your business?

What should you do when all logic tells you to answer every call to your business?

With SmartPhones, instant messaging, email, tweeting and seemingly hundreds of other ways to stay in touch and be contacted in an instant, the question for a chauffeur is who is answering your phone when you are on the road doesn’t seem to be a cause for concern. But those times when you are behind the wheel, by yourself or with a customer, your first priority is to keep your eyes on the road and your attention focused on your driving. So what should a chauffeur do when all logic and advice tells him to answer every call to his business?

Who Answers Your Phone?

It is always a good idea to have a real person answering your phone. You will most likely book more limo business when a potential customer speaks to someone who can make the immediate sale. Spouses can be very helpful in this regard if they have the time. During the summer, a student looking to pick up some extra money in a tough economy could also be trained on phones and to run errands for a limo company. But what about calls that come in after-hours or when no one else is available to help? An answering service is one way to go if you can swing it. You just have to make sure that whoever answers your phone is knowledgeable about your business and prepared to answer any questions that may come up like basic price quotes or booking a client. A potential customer will not excuse ignorance or incompetence.

Technology is coming at us so fast, it’s hard to keep up with the benefits – and the pitfalls.

Making Smart Use of Technology

Technology is coming at us so fast these days, it’s hard to keep up with the beneficial uses of it all – and the potential pitfalls as well. There are many excellent articles from trade magazines that can provide a wealth of information. You may think it’s a good idea to just have calls forwarded to your cell phone, but what if you are driving at the time? A limo customer doesn’t want to see your attention wandering from your driving duties or doing other business when they should be your main concern. When voice-mail is your only choice, back it up with a positive, dynamic website with auto-response capabilities. If you don’t yet have a website, there are many companies that can help you set one up quickly and efficiently or help you improve on the one you already have. Do the research. One of the best things you can do for your limo business is to be prepared for whatever may come your way.

Further Reading:
http://www.lctmag.com/technology/article/1592/what-are-common-technology-traps

Understanding And Managing Insurance Cycles to Protect Your Limo Business

 By Randy O’Neill

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana, The Life of Reason

“We have experienced four such cycles since 1985, with today’s highly competitive soft market by far the most prolonged.”

“We have experienced four such cycles since 1985, with today’s highly competitive soft market by far the most prolonged.”

Because a few of the limousine industry’s insurance specialty companies have been providing coverages for a few decades, they know where pricing should be. They are very familiar with the cyclical nature of the business, as well as the problems that hard and soft markets create. “We have experienced four such cycles since 1985, with today’s highly competitive soft market by far the most prolonged and potentially harmful to limousine operators in a quarter century.”

Iinsurance industry predicting a slow hardening of commercial insurance market

“Many insurance industry pundits are predicting a slow hardening of the overall commercial insurance market to begin later this year.”

In fact, we have experienced four such cycles since 1985, with today highly competitive soft market by far the most prolonged and potentially harmful to limousine operators in a quarter century. When the inevitable hard market hits, and it will, it can lead to insurance company bankruptcies, market withdrawals, and premium increases, leaving many operators scrambling for affordable coverage.

What Can a Limo Operator Do?
Thankfully, not all limousine operators wilt be negatively impacted by the impending market hardening. The most vulnerable are those who chose to “ride the cycle” by chasing the lowest price; those best positioned are operators who have established long-term relationships with an insurer that is committed to the continued financial health of the limousine operators it insures.

“The most vulnerable are I those who chose to [chase] the lowest price.”

Savvy operators know that, regardless of fleet size, they can reduce their annual insurance costs by up to 60 percent by prudently using deductibles on both their liability and physical damage coverages. With savings like that achievable, operators should review their historical losses and only transfer to any insurer what’s truly unpredictable. A pretty simple approach, but very effective regardless of market cycles.

Excerpted from SEPTEMBER 2011 LIMOUSINE DIGEST.

 

Are You Prepared for A Catastophic Accident?

CASE STUDY OF A SERIOUS LIMO CRASH
by Paul R. Berne, Senior Vice President – Claims, Lancer Insurance Company

Serious Limo Accident Management
You will be asked a barrage of questions…

It’s one of your worst nightmares…The phone rings, and your driver reports that he’s just been in a serious accident. He tells you: the scene is complete chaos; the police are questioning him; passengers are injured; ambulances are everywhere; your limousine is badly damaged; and he doesn’t know what to do.If you have ever received one of these calls, you’ll recognize the questions that immediately fly through your mind:

“What do I do?’ “Should I go to the scene?” “What should I tell my driver?”
and the inevitable…
“Can my business survive this crisis?”

You dread the emotional and financial roller coaster that lies ahead. But, most of all, you recognize the critical importance of having a serious loss accident response plan in place and having an insurance company partner that is expert in responding to and managing severe limousine accidents.

If you’ve never experienced a loss of this type — good! And I hope you never do. But you should know the importance of having a disaster preparedness/crisis management plan in place which covers a wide range of perils and accident types. It’s never too soon to review what can and should happen if you do have a severe limousine accident. Consider questions like: What should you expect from your insurance company? Is there a “right” way to handle accidents of this type? Does it matter if your insurance carrier specializes in handling limousine and passenger transportation losses?

Trucks Haul Cargo; Limousines Transport People
Insurers who consider themselves ‘commercial auto specialists” usually have trucks as the largest component of their policies in force, including long haul, local/intermediate delivery vehicles, tow trucks and business autos. Is mixing “trucks, limos and other commercial autos” a problem? Maybe not when you’re buying insurance, but ask yourself this important question: Is a passenger transportation vehicle claim the same as a truck claim? The answer is obviously “no”; the losses encountered in your business are very different in many ways than truck, or any other “business auto” claims. Passenger transportation losses at all levels require adjustment by an insurance company that knows your business and specializes in your industry. This is especially true in the case of severe accidents involving multiple injuries and, frequently, fatalities. Let’s explore why this is important by closely examining a real case we recently handled involving a complex limousine loss.

How To Manage A Limo Claim
The incident involves a limousine company transporting six passengers on a winery tour in northern California. The trip is progressing smoothly until an inattentive motorist disregards a stop sign and places his 2007 BMW directly in the path of the limo. The impact is severe. The chauffeur does an excellent job of maintaining control, but the limo still ends up in a ditch on the side of the road.

Some passengers are ejected; all are injured to some degree. The BMW driver and his passenger are seriously injured, and the scene, putting it bluntly, is a bloody mess. The police, ambulances, fire department and wreckers respond. Fault can’t be immediately determined; there are witnesses to interview, measurements and photos are required for the police reconstruction, but the police are, rightly so, more concerned with getting help for the injured and clearing the scene to avoid additional accidents.

Fortunately, our policyholder listened to our message to report all losses promptly and had effectively delivered the message throughout his organization, The chauffeur contacted his dispatcher via cell phone within minutes of the accident and then the dispatcher called our toll-free 24-hour claim reporting number. Immediately thereafter, Lancer’s Vice President and Western Division claims manager, Bob Burns, was on the phone with the driver, dispatcher, a local investigator and accident reconstruction engineer and a defense attorney within ten minutes of the first call. Resources were rushed to the scene and a catastrophic loss management plan was implemented at the onset. The plan priorities were very clear and were immediately acted upon.

Teamwork Is Critical
Setup a communication system — The team involved Burns, the investigator, the attorney, the accident reconstruction engineer, the driver, management at the limo company, the passengers and the police. This coordination process is much more complex to accomplish than it sounds, especially when you’re dealing with several injured passengers. On-scene personnel must coordinate communication through a central management source. Bob Burns, having managed many multiple passenger injury limousine cases and having worked with this same response team in the past, managed the process via frequent conference calls, clear instructions and quick analysis by the attorney and engineer as each “next step” was evaluated.

Establish passenger needs
Medical attention, shelter, telephones, replacement transportation, money… the sudden disruption to a carefully planned trip requires that these, and many other areas, be addressed, including retrieval and securement of personal items. This case involved the delicate balance of taking care of passenger needs, while conducting a liability investigation that required obtaining passenger written or recorded statements detailing where they were seated, what they saw and what they heard. We were able to get what we needed by having the right number of investigators on scene, a consistent approach with each passenger, readily available aid and assistance for the group and by taking advantage of the already existing sense within the passenger group that they wanted to protect the chauffeur and ensure blame was placed where they knew it belonged — with the driver of the BMW!

Get the facts
It’s important to record the facts and, as importantly, preserve them so they will hold up in court. Forward thinking must begin at the first phone call, and every step of the response must give consideration to what is admissible in court at a later date. Evidence must be preserved with this in mind. The direction of an attorney at the scene insured this would happen. As the investigators prepared to obtain statements, take photos and gather data, the attorney and the accident reconstruction engineer were able to provide specific instructions on the approach they should take including: what questions had to be asked; how they should be phrased; and the types of photos that would help the defense should they someday need to he shown to a jury.

Assist the police
Sometimes the best way to assist is simply staying out of the way. In other instances, such as this one, the police accepted our offer to assist them. There were eyewitnesses who confirmed the BMW ran the red light and the limousine driver had no chance to avoid the impact. The Lancer adjuster and attorney directed them to the police to ensure their identity and detailed versions were reported. Priorities after any accident include, where necessary, moving vehicles to reduce ongoing hazard and tending to the injured. In this case, however, the police agreed that the vehicle movement could be safely delayed until the engineer obtained crucial measurements.

Protect the chauffeur
You want a clear-thinking company representative on the scene, so getting your driver calmed down before he gives a statement to the police is critical. This process was initiated over the phone within minutes of the report and continued throughout the investigation.

Unlike other accident types, passenger transportation losses involve drivers who can become very emotional given the number of people injured, and the immense responsibility they usually feel for the safety of their passengers. With credibility, we were able to tell the limousine driver: “We’ve done this before we know what you’re going through, and we’re here to help you.” The chauffeur‘s response in this claim actually helped in the final outcome.

This is a real wild card, as it is usually impossible to determine if they’ll even respond to an accident scene, Responses can vary from a single reporter, to helicopters and live cameras. It is essential to have a media response plan in place. Of course, the worldwide web picked up the accident news and within hours there were 50 or so sites posting the story. Within days that had grown five-fold. Several web articles were filled with misinformation. We worked with our policyholder to determine which were best ignored and which needed to be addressed. Our instructions were repeated to everyone representing the limousine company. The result? The media lost interest and left after minimal intrusion into the situation.

Protect the reputation of the limousine company

You will be hit with a barrage of questions…

“Who is the driver? How long has he been driving professionally? Was he tired? Has he ever driven a limousine like this one? Why didn’t the limo company select a better chauffeur? How many accidents have they had? What are they doing to take care of their passengers? Is their equipment safe?”

These and many other questions directly challenge the credibility of your company and must be dealt with quickly. Some should be answered immediately, others should not be. A key part of our loss response includes direct involvement of a Lancer Regional Safety Manager and Bob Crescrenzo, Lancer’s Vice President of Safety.

The driver qualification file, vehicle maintenance file, regulatory inspection reports and all related documents were reviewed in detail. We were able to present the limousine company as caring, compliant and responsible, all of which made the difference in preserving its reputation in the community and with its customers. This review helps in another way; it established exactly what would be necessary to defend against allegations made against us pertaining to company operations by lawyers at a later date.

Protect the limousine company’s financial interests — Beyond your business reputation.
This protection includes making arrangements for prompt repair of your vehicle so that your downtime is minimized. We also assisted the policyholder in recovering money from the BMW’s insurance carrier relating to its uninsured business loss.

Ongoing case management
This is an area in which passenger transportation vehicle losses are very different from other accident types. Passengers involved in this accident required follow-up contact to determine injury status, and to obtain statements pertaining to what happened if they had not been interviewed at the scene. We have in place a network of field staff and designated local investigators who responded immediately. In some situations, investigators actually met returning passengers as they arrived home or at other destinations.

Once fault is determined, it is necessary to direct claiming parties (including your passengers) to the insurance carrier responsible for paying their claims. The communication link that had been established on this loss made that an easy process. And, as mentioned earlier, we were able to get our policyholder paid for their loss promptly and with minimal disruption to his business.

When the lawsuits showed up, (and they did…), the plaintiff lawyers were hit hard with the result of our investigation which clearly showed the chauffeur and the limousine company were negligent-free. If you’re wondering if the expenses relating to the response were justified, consider this: each and every plaintiff lawyer that attempted to make a claim against the limo company dropped his claim after seeing the extent of our investigation and after giving consideration to the cost he would incur in attempting to build a case that could beat ours. No lawsuits meant no litigation defense costs, no indemnity payments to the claiming parties and a file that was closed, and has stayed closed.

Contenders vs. Pretenders
When you get a chance, take the time to have your internal crisis management plan expanded to ensure it covers serious accident response. If you handle your own claims under your deductible, evaluate your serious loss response process and make sure it addresses the areas captioned in this article. Is it worth the time? You’ll have to answer that one yourself…hopefully before the phone rings and your worst nightmare becomes a reality.

Limo Company Rules and Standards

A prepared limo driver is a safer limo driver.

Establishing limo company rules and standards doesn’t just apply to large limousine businesses with hundreds of employees. Any rules and standards you might expect from someone you would hire for a limo company should apply to you as well. The longer you stay in the limo business, the more responsibility you will take on and the better you keep yourself neat, healthy, courteous and organized, the more successful you will be. Be sure to take the time to develop some rules for your business and a set of standards for yourself that you follow during every work situation.

The Department Of Labor website can offer you some ideas about standards that will be helpful for a limousine company business owner. The site also offers help with establishing rules that you yourself should follow so that you make necessary decisions thoughtfully and with confidence. Pay attention to the things you need to practice consistently to keep customers calling you first. For every trip, consider:

  • Time and Schedules: arrivals, departures, waiting, on-duty limits;
  • Safe Driving: following distance, speed, intersections, highway driving, use of signals, avoiding distractions, dealing with fatigue;
  • Your Appearance: cleanliness, grooming, uniform, accessories;
  • Vehicle Condition: pre-trip inspections, cleaning and polishing, maintenance, fuel and oil;
  • Customer Service: pickup/drop off procedures, baggage handling, stops enroute, itinerary changes;
  • Billing and Payments: fare schedules, credit, handling cash, extra services, gratuities.

Be sure to contact your state Department of Motor Vehicles to determine exactly what specific governmental requirements limo companies must comply with before you even put a vehicle on the road. It’s very true that you never get the chance to make a second first impression and you have to keep this in mind whenever you pick up a customer, whether it’s the first time or it’s a job from a repeat client. Giving yourself common sense rules and standards to follow for every trip will help keep you in demand and ahead of the competition.