Driven To Distraction – Limo Driver Safety

Don’t become a holiday traffic statistic by failing to keep your entire focus and attention on your limo driving.

The holiday season is upon us and, especially for limo drivers, it comes with increased traffic everywhere, more than the usual delays, more pedestrians paying less attention and the inevitable increase in impaired drivers. Don’t let yourself become a limo driver statistic by failing to keep your entire focus and attention on your driving.

A recent study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) estimates that almost 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes happen within three seconds of some form of driver distraction. The study also estimates that 25% of all tow-away crashes are related to driver inattention. The problem is so prevalent, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) created a website, http://www.distraction.gov/, dedicated to preventing distracted driving, and DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has made educating the public and lessening the incidence of distracted driving the centerpiece of his administration.

There are so many distractions vying for your attention when you are behind the wheel, and they come from inside and outside your vehicle. The most common exterior distractions are other vehicles, rubber-necking accidents, debris on the road, seeking destination landmarks, glare, pedestrians and billboards, to name a few. Interior distractions include cell phone usage, even with hands-free devices, eating, drinking, adjusting the radio, climate or other vehicle controls, or trying to visually follow a GPS system. Other less recognized distractions are fatigue, conversing with passengers, picking up something that fell, daydreaming, road rage and even smoking. People have admitted to applying make-up, shaving and reading while driving. While most of these distractions wouldn’t apply to professional drivers, they do emphasize how the driving habits of others have become a threat to everyone else on the road.

The NHTSA study placed driver distraction as the fourth most serious driving safety issue we face, after drunken driving, aggressive driving and speeding, However with innovative technologies becoming standard upgrades in newer vehicles, distracted drivers are becoming less safe drivers. Sophisticated entertainment centers, on-board navigation devices, internet connections, email access and fax machines have increased the time that drivers are distracted and they all pose a threat to roadway safety. If drivers are distracted from concentrating on the task at hand, even for a second, they are three times more likely to be involved in a crash than are more attentive drivers. The problem will only grow larger and more complex as distractions increase in the form of conveniences.

As a professional driver, you can take the lead in helping prevent this deadly and growing problem. Keep your focus on your main responsibility – driving. Stay alert and be aware of all traffic around you and the pedestrians who aren’t paying attention. Drive defensively and keep your eyes moving and your wits about you.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

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.

Distracted Driving Is Every Limo Driver’s Problem

New technologies can cause serious distractions for limo drivers.

New technologies are changing the landscape for limo companies. Not only can they offer new opportunities for you to get to know your customers, they can help you provide exceptional services and cutting edge convenience previously unavailable to the limousine industry. Your limo can be equipped as a mobile WiFi hotspot. You can offer broadcast television. You can operate your vehicles with onboard cameras that can help prevent fraud and show the reasons for an accident. And you can stay in touch with your limo business and home base no matter where you are.

So What Can Go Wrong?

All of these technologies can present serious distractions to limo drivers. (NHTSA) has published a study, Traffic Safety Facts 2009, which extensively reports on the most recent data available on the dangers of distracted driving. In 2009, 5,474 people were killed on U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes where distracted driving was involved. And while cell phone use, especially texting behind the wheel is the most common distracted driving behavior, distractions can be as simple as daydreaming and can include drinking a beverage, eating, smoking, using maps or GPS systems, grooming, adjusting a radio or other entertainment device and driving while fatigued. The U.S. Department of Transportation has made preventing distracted driving its mission and has a website entirely devoted to the problem.

What Should You Do?

First and foremost, keep your attention focused on your primary task – driving. Don’t make or take calls while driving. Wait until you’ve dropped off your passengers or you can safely pull over before you answer the phone. Even hands-free phones pose distraction problems, and it’s never a wise idea to give your passengers the impression that 100% of your focus is not on your driving. Don’t let passengers distract you and cause you to take your eyes off the road. You can be completely professional and still give your customers a safe and smooth ride. Your time behind the wheel is not the time for multi-tasking. Taking your eyes off the road for even three seconds is a hazard. A recent Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study revealed that almost 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event. Don’t let yourself become a statistic because of a momentary need to take your eyes off the road. Plan ahead, be fully rested, stay vigilant and make safety your number one priority.

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

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.

Thinking About Becoming A Limo Driver?

Tips for becoming a Chauffeur
A limousine business can be satisfying and rewarding, especially when you can exceed a customer’s expectations.

You like driving a limo, meeting new people, going to different places and seeing new things. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t want to be a professional limo driver. While driving a beautiful limousine might seem exciting and glamorous to the riding public, you are the one who will have to deal with frustrating traffic jams, finding parking spaces, managing unruly clients, meeting tight deadlines, tending to your business and staying calm and in control no matter what situations you face as a limo driver.

However, having a vehicle and the ambition to drive are not enough to put you on the road to a successful driving career. You must be properly and legally prepared to take on the responsibility of transporting passengers. And, if you are to be successful, practicing safety, making contacts and providing excellent customer service should be among your top priorities. Without practicing these key elements, it will be very difficult to keep up in a very competitive field.

Be Prepared – Stay Prepared

  • Each state has its own set of rules for people wishing to enter the limousine driving field, including age requirements, specific training or driver’s license regulations. Go online to your state Department of Motor Vehicles website and determine exactly what may be required before you put a vehicle on the road. You have to make sure that any driver you may contract to help with a job is also qualified to drive for you. Driving violations such as speeding, running red lights or tailgating should send up red flags about a driver’s commitment to safety. You can’t take chances with drivers who don’t measure up to your own high standards.
  • Make sure you understand the specific insurance needs for yourself, your business, your vehicle and for anyone you contract to drive for you. Don’t assume you are covered under your personal vehicle policy and, in any case, you should keep your business separate from your personal expenses. You will need liability and physical damage/collision coverages, with financial limits to adequately cover you if the worst should happen. An experienced, reliable passenger transportation insurer like Lancer’s LimoDirect can give you the peace of mind you need to concentrate on getting yourself established as a successful limousine operator.
  • Understand what tax ramifications contracting yourself out to other businesses might have. Taxes and Workers’ Compensation regulations vary by state and can be confusing, so have your business plans checked by a qualified attorney.

Making And Keeping Contacts

  • Get to know the limousine businesses in your area – not so much as competitors, but also as business partners. Seeing other companies in this way will help you expand your own business and reputation as a reliable operator.
  • Practice your communication skills with everyone you come into contact with during your day. You’ll be dealing with many different people and personalities as a chauffeur, and treating everyone you meet as if they were a customer could help you land and keep business.
  • Network with associates and friends and let them know that you’re available to drive, including all your contacts on the various social networks. You never know who might be able to help you make business contacts.
  • Check out online forums in which limousine drivers post comments about being in the business from all across the country. You can also advertise your services on some of these sites for free as long as you’re registered.
  • Plan to market your business using ads, mailings, business cards and the internet. Create a dynamic website for your business. Network through state groups and the National Limousine Association conventions and memberships. Be creative in your approach to your business. Develop relationships with clubs, restaurants, hotels, local theatre, concert venues, year-round activities for which people like to get dressed up for a day or night on the town. Suggest a “package” of limo-and-a-meal or limo-and-a-ticket promotions. Set up special deals with local radio stations on which you offer a limo to go with any prize promotions they may be sponsoring in exchange for them mentioning your business every time they advertise the promotion. Rent space at local bridal fairs or other conventions at which limo services are regularly used. Consider donating limousine rides for local events like Memorial Day parades or to police or fire department fund raising events. You could gain the reputation as the “official” limousine service in your local community. Join your local Chamber of Commerce. The more people you meet, the more successful your business will be.
  • It might help to invest in an answering service to have someone live answering calls 24-hours a day. It’s the nature of your business and it’s a much more personal way to handle customers. A caller’s questions can be answered immediately rather than having to wait for a return call. Have your website be informative and with auto-response capabilities for contacts who search the web.

A limousine business can be satisfying and rewarding, especially when you can exceed a customer’s expectations. Good luck and drive safely!

Limo Business: How To Start Your Own And Succeed

Start Your Own Limo Business
Once you’ve accepted the challenge of becoming a limousine business owner, you can take the next steps.

Opening a new limo business can be a daunting experience. For those of you looking to make your mark in the limousine industry, you not only have to have good business sense, you have to be a trained chauffeur, know how to deal with all different members of the public, be a good marketer, economist and, among other things, a part-time mechanic. Any trip can range from an adventure to a nightmare, so it helps to first and foremost have clear, written goals for your limo business with steps you will take to accomplish them.

What To Do First
Your first task is to understand what having a limo business entails. You have to prepare for spur of the moment reservations, late and long hours, dealing with people who could become unruly, meeting on-time expectations and working every weekend. You have to consider and plan for a myriad of “what ifs”: What if you have an accident? What if a passenger is injured, even away from your limousine? What if a client doesn’t show up? What if you’re late? What if a client is dissatisfied? What if you don’t get paid? What if your limo breaks down? What if you get lost? What if you get sick or a passenger gets sick? You have to have a plan for every scenario if you’re going to be successful. If you uncomfortable handling the “what ifs”, then is the limousine business really for you?

Getting Started
Once you’ve accepted the challenge of becoming a limo business owner, you can take the next steps.

  • Investigate the regulations pertaining to opening a limo business in the state you wish to operate in. There will always be rules regarding the licensing and establishment of a commercial enterprise, including proof of insurance, zoning rules and tax liabilities. The more you know about creating a limo business plan and how you will turn a profit, the better off you will be at start-up.
  • Make sure you understand your specific insurance needs for both your limo business and your vehicle. Don’t assume you are covered under your personal vehicle policy, and in any case, you should keep your business separate from your personal expenses. You will need liability and physical damage/collision coverages, with limits to adequately cover you if the worst should happen. An experienced, reliable passenger transportation insurer like LimoDirect can give you the peace of mind you need to concentrate on getting yourself established as a successful limo business.
  • Does the state you intend to register your limo business in require a Chauffeur’s License? Not every state does, but there may still be some restrictions to driving a vehicle for hire. Some states may have age restrictions, others will add an endorsement to your regular license, and others may require background checks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) specifies that drivers of vehicles with sixteen or more passengers, including the driver, must have a Commercial Driver’s License with a passenger (P) endorsement. Knowing this information upfront will save you time and money.
  • Do the necessary research. What is your market? What competition is already operating in the area you want to be in? Will you prefer to “specialize,” such as weddings, proms and graduations, airport transfers, concerts, sporting events or funeral services, or do you want to be available for any type of trip? Your best bet is to operate and market your services in proximity to larger communities with corporate parks and industries rather than in rural areas. Take some practice runs to familiarize yourself with the surrounding areas, its traffic and alternate routes.
  • Unless you intend to only be a broker, purchase a vehicle. The cost to set up, including the purchase of a vehicle, can be in the $50,000 to $100,000 range. It’s not an inexpensive proposition, so make sure you’re committed to your goals.
  • Plan to market your business using ads, mailings, business cards and the internet. Network through state and national limousine association conventions and memberships. Be creative in your approach to your business. Develop relationships with clubs, restaurants, hotels, local theatre, concert venues, year-round activities where people like to get dressed up for a day or night on the town. Suggest a “package” of limo-and-a-meal or limo-and-a-ticket promotions. The more people on your side, the more successful your business will be.
  • Be familiar with your vehicle. Read the owner’s manual and know how to do some simple mechanical maintenance, change a tire, fill the fluids and do a minor repair on the road if necessary.

Nothing successful or worthwhile is ever easy. It takes knowledge, ambition, the right attitude and a lot of hard work to make a business flourish. Good luck and drive safely!

If you would like to speak with a limo insurance specialist about starting your own limo business, call 800-782-8902 x3042, visit our website www.limoinsurancedirect.com  or send an email to limodirect@lancer-ins.com.

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