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State Regulators Issue Fines for Ride-Sharing Services in San Francisco

By San Francisco Limousine Specialist on December 15, 2012

We have written extensively about legal and regulatory problems for Uber, a smartphone application that helps people arrange San Francisco limousine and taxicab rides, but they and other services that arrange ride-sharing are facing new troubles with state regulators. One ride-sharing service called Sidecar, along with new a new arrival called Lyft, have received $20,000 fines from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the agency that regulates all for-hire ground transportation services in our state.

Not surprisingly, the founders of the ride-share services are crying foul about the fines, saying that they are facilitating a valuable service for their clients and the Bay Area.

"This is about community members who have extra seats in their car, sharing those with people who need a ride," Lyft co-founder John Zimmer said. "It helps drivers cut the cost of owning an automobile."

Lyft and Sidecar help car owners earn a bit of money by arranging rides for people who need them. However, state regulators see this for-hire arrangement in a different way entirely.

"We regard these operators as essentially the same as limousine companies, drivers for hire," California Public Utilities Commission Counsel General Frank Lindh said. "We do believe they’re operating outside the law right now; they don’t have proper insurance, their drivers are not properly screened and so we do have concerns about public safety of these operations."

Admittedly, we have a biased opinion on this topic, but we agree with Mr. Lindh on this. Under state regulations, our Bay Area limousine service is a for-hire passenger carrier, and we must adhere to strict regulations about insurance coverage, proper licensing of our luxury vehicles and chauffeurs, safety equipment, regular maintenance for our vehicles and other rules. These are all in place to protect our guests, and, if you have rented a San Francisco limo, party bus or other luxury vehicle from us in the past, you know that we place the safety of our guests above all other considerations. If one of these ride-sharing vehicles is involved in an accident, the person receiving the ride could be put in a very difficult position.

We understand that someone needing a ride to the grocery store or doctor’s office doesn’t need one of our San Francisco limo rentals. However, as a locally owned and operated company and longtime residents of the Bay Area, we are very concerned about how ride-sharing services could have unintended consequences for riders. If you need a ride, call a friend, a cab or call us at NLS Limo at 800-339-8936 to rent one of our vehicles for as long as you need it. When you do business with a CPUC-compliant business like ours, you’re purchasing a lot more than just a limo ride.

Officials Cut Three Limos in Half to Discourage Illegal Limousine Services

By San Francisco Limousine Specialist on October 1, 2012

Britain’s Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) is similar to California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in that both government agencies are responsible for issuing licensing and ensuring compliance with regulations to ensure transportation safety for passengers. However, it appears that both agencies have different approaches to discouraging illegal limousine services. The CPUC issues fines and publishes lists of illegal operators to protect Californians. VOSA recently sawed three limousines in half to illustrate what can happen to vehicles owned by illegal operators.

VOSA recently teamed up with a team from the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, who used a Range Rover limo, Porsche Cayenne limo and a Hummer H2 SUV limousine to gain experience with their metal cutting equipment. All three limousines were cut neatly in half, and VOSA invited local media outlets to capture the proceedings on video and help them publicize the message. You may remember a blog we wrote last year about a similar event where VOSA crushed a Ford Excursion SUV limo owned by an illegal limo service.

Neil Barlow, Head of Enforcement at VOSA, told reporters that his agency has seized vehicles destroyed to demonstrate the “dangers to the public” that illegal limousine services present.

"We don’t feel any great need to prove anything here, and I think this demonstration shows there are some issues in terms of getting passengers out of the vehicle," he explained. "It’s also about getting the message back to the industry that if they’re going to operate limousines, they need to operate within the law because I’m sure they don’t want to see this happening to their vehicles."

Here in the Bay Area, we’re fairly certain that our San Francisco limousines, SUV limos, party buses and other vehicles are safe from VOSA’s publicity stunts. Even if the CPUC wanted to stage similar events, we’d still sleep well at night as all our licenses, insurance coverage, vehicle maintenance, inspections and all other requirements are fully in compliance with state regulations. Spending the time, money and energy to ensure CPUC compliance is only one of the many things we do to ensure that all our guests have a safe, fun and very comfortable experience with us. If you’re looking for a Bay Area limousine service that puts the safety of its guests above all other considerations and has the most competitive and affordable rental rates in the area, call us at NLS Limo today at 800-339-8936!

Better Business Bureau Warns That Party Bus Scams Are on the Rise

By San Francisco Limousine Specialist on September 12, 2012

According to a recent article from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), criminals are taking advantage of the surging popularity of party buses and defrauding customers across the country. In their article, the BBB cited a recent incident in Colorado where University of Colorado students thought they had reserved a party bus for transportation to and from a football game with archrival Colorado State. Their party bus never arrived to take them to the big game, and when they contacted the party bus rental service, the person who answered the phone told them that the bus had broken down. The person told them that they would not receive a refund for the party bus rental but if they caught a cab to the game and got a receipt, they would be reimbursed for the cab ride.

When the students told the man that they doubted the reimbursement offer and demanded a full refund for the party bus, the man refused, saying that he would not give them their money back because they had threatened him. Fortunately, the students had used a credit card to pay for the party bus and were able to cancel the charge after explaining the situation to the provider. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. The BBB warns potential party bus renters that there were problems with other party bus services in Colorado and in other areas across the country. The broken down party bus is a common excuse used by the scammers, and BBB investigators say that many of these criminals use several different business names to prolong their activities.

If you want to rent a San Francisco party bus for an upcoming special event, here are a few tips to avoid falling victim to unethical party bus operators:

  • Check out the Bay Area party bus company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Go to the California Public Utilities Commission’s website at http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/puc/ to see if the operator is licensed in our state.
  • Perform a web search to see what others are saying about the operator.
  • Make sure the website of the company features the CPUC’s TCP number on each page, and check that against the listing on the CPUC site.
  • If something looks or sounds suspicious, contact the CPUC directly. The number for their San Francisco office is 415-703-2782.

Renting a San Francisco party van should be a fun, memorable and very comfortable experience. However, as you can see, not all party bus services have the same dedication to their guests as we do. If you rent one of our party buses, we will go above and beyond to ensure that you and your friends and family have a great time and make your special occasion truly memorable. Call us at NLS Limo today at 800-339-8936 to reserve an affordable San Francisco party bus for your event, and get ready to have a great time!

CPUC Announces Enforcement Actions to Protect Californians

By San Francisco Limousine Specialist on August 6, 2012

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the state agency responsible for protecting Californians against illegal passenger carriers, recently announced enforcement actions against a variety of limousine, bus and shuttle companies. These actions addressed violations of the Public Utilities Code and CPUC rules and regulations during the second quarter of 2012. A total of ten companies received citations and were fined a total of $28,500 for one or more of the following violations:

  • Illegal display of charter-party carrier identification
  • Failing to respond to consumer complaints
  • Operated without a valid authority (suspended or unlicensed) program
  • Advertised a revoked permit number
  • Operated vehicles that are not insured at the required minimum level of public liability and property damage insurance
  • Failed to enroll drivers in DMV Pull Notice program
  • General Order 157-D violation (failed to maintain a current equipment list, no sub-carrier agreement or incomplete waybills)
  • Engaged employees without procuring evidence of workers’ compensation insurance
  • Failed to enroll and/or pre-employment test drivers in a mandatory drug and alcohol
  • Failed to properly report gross revenue earned

A variety of Bay Area limousine companies and other operators throughout California received the fines and citations, and three other companies received criminal filings for serious infractions that included the following:

  • Filing a false claim of proper insurance coverage when the company had no insurance coverage at all
  • Operating a limousine service after having their permit suspended for other violations
  • Operating without a valid authority and various workers’ compensation violations

We pass this information along to our readers on a regular basis in an effort to let them know about the scope of illegal and unethical limo, bus and shuttle services in our state and ways to protect themselves from becoming victims of shady operators. Anyone who wishes to know the names of the companies cited by the CPUC at any given time can visit the CPUC website for more information. Anyone wishing to check out a limousine service, bus charter, airport shuttle or other type of group transportation company before making a reservation can also check out the CPUC site to ensure that they have the proper licensing and insurance coverage.

If you are thinking about renting a San Francisco limo, party bus, luxury coach, cable car or other luxury vehicle for an upcoming event, give us a call at 800-339-8636. We work hard and spare no expense to ensure that we remain in full compliance with all CPUC regulations and put the comfort and safety of our guests above all other considerations. If we sound like the type of Bay Area limo service that you would prefer to do business with, please call us at NLS Limo today for more information and to make a reservation.

Illegal San Francisco Limousine Companies Caught in Surprise Inspections

By San Francisco Limousine Specialist on October 29, 2011

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), responding to a rising number of complaints about illegal Bay Area limousine companies, cracked down on illegal operators picking up fares at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), other California airports and the City of San Francisco in August. The CPUC sting operation made an impressive number of arrests, and the state agency issued a recent press release that outlined some of the arrests in the area. Of particular interest to Bay Area residents and legal San Francisco limousine services such as ours were the following excerpts from the CPUC press release:

  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO), August 4, 2011 – CPUC staff, the CHP, SFO Airport Police, and SFO Landside Operations conducted a joint surprise passenger carriers inspection. Approximately 84 vehicles (limos, buses, and shuttles) were pulled over for the inspection. The CPUC inspected 82 vehicles, issued one Misdemeanor Warning (operation with a pending CPUC permit), and issued 36 Notices to Correct Violations (vehicles not filed with CPUC, waybills, vehicle ID, and possible workers’ compensation violations). Subsequently, the CPUC suspended 11 carriers for engaging employee-drivers without procuring evidence of workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
  • San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), August 9, 2011 – In late July, two investigators from SFMTA, Investigations and Regulatory Affairs Taxi Services, contacted the CPUC requesting that a CPUC investigator ride along with them to observe the problems of charter-party carriers acting like taxis at some of the major hotels in San Francisco. SFMTA had received complaints from taxicabs that the hotels’ doorman is redirecting hotel guests to the limousines staging nearby. SFMTA reported that the violations involving limousines acting as taxis occur between 10:30 a.m. and noon when guests are checking out and heading to SFO. A CPUC investigator rode along with SFMTA investigators and observed four charter-party carriers operated without a valid permit. An investigation will be initiated on these carriers.

Here at NLS Limo, we take the safety of our guests and the reputation of our industry very seriously. That is why we work hard and invest the resources to ensure that our CPUC licensing and compliance is always up to date, that our drivers are fully screened and licensed, that our vehicles are insured and maintained in top condition and that no expense is spared in making sure that our guests have a safe and wonderful time. We’re not the only San Francisco limo service that works this hard to ensure that we meet all CPUC regulations, but we may be the only one that provides outstanding customer service at low, affordable rates. If we sound like your kind of Bay Area limo provider, please call us at 1-800-339-8936 the next time you would like a limousine or any other type of luxury ground transportation to help you celebrate a special event.

CPUC Takes Legal Action Against Illegal Limo Companies

By San Francisco Limousine Specialist on October 28, 2011

Recently, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the state agency that issues licenses for passenger carriers such as limousine companies, charter bus services and other carriers, took legal action against scores of illegal limo operators throughout the state. The CPUC diligently ensures that all carriers are properly licensed, carry the required amount of insurance coverage, maintain their vehicles to state standards and ensure compliance on many other aspects of the industry to protect passengers. Many of the outfits receiving fines and cease and desist orders were illegal San Francisco limousine companies. These fly-by-night outfits put profits above all other considerations, including their guests’ lives, and make it harder for legitimate Bay Area limo companies like us by painting us all in a bad light.

During the third quarter of 2001, the CPUC took legal action against at least 25 companies and fined them a total of $27,500 for a wide range of different violations, including the following:

  • Advertising a revoked permit number
  • Engaging employees without procuring evidence of workers’ compensation insurance
  • Failing to enroll and/or pre-employment test drivers in a mandatory drug and alcohol program
  • Failing to enroll drivers in DMV Pull Notice program
  • General Order 157-D violation (failing to maintain a current equipment list, no sub-carrier agreement and incomplete waybills)
  • Operating without a valid authority (suspended or unlicensed)
  • Operating vehicles that are not insured at the required minimum level of public liability and property damage insurance

The CPUC also filed criminal complaints against many other passenger carriers throughout the state for illegal activities such as robbery, threatening to strand passengers unless they produced more money and other illegal acts.

We would like to reiterate that we post stories about illegal San Francisco limousine companies in order to educate our readers and prevent them from becoming targets of these criminals. In most cases, the guests who do business with these operators don’t know that they are doing business with an illegal and unethical operator. Here’s one sure way to ensure that you don’t end up riding in an illegal Bay Area limousine: limo carriers in California can only pick up guests if they have made a telephone reservation. If you are standing on a street corner or at the airport and a “chauffeur” offers a limo ride, don’t get in! That limo is illegal.

For a professional, luxurious and completely legitimate San Francisco limousine experience with a locally owned company that operates in full compliance with CPUC regulations, call us at NLS Limo today at 1-800-339-8936. We have set the standard for superb customer service, affordability and selection for many years now, and we understand that our reputation is on the line with each guest. If we sound like your kind of Bay Area limo provider, please call us to reserve your limo, party bus, antique car or other type of luxury transportation today!

CPUC Issues Report on Limousine Companies

By San Francisco Limousine Specialist on May 18, 2011

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the state agency that oversees limousine services and other for-hire transportation companies, recently released its summary of enforcement actions against ground transportation companies for the first quarter of 2011. The CPUC enforces regulations, issues licenses and oversees around 5,000 limousine services in our state, including NLS Limo, the premier San Francisco limousine service.

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A Brief Review of California Underage Liquor Law for Prom Limos

By San Francisco Limousine Specialist on April 20, 2011

As prom season draws near, we want all of our guests to have a great time. In addition, we want their parents to rest easy knowing that the San Francisco limo service they’ve chosen takes the safety of their children very seriously. Before renting a Bay Area prom limo, party bus or other type of luxury transportation for the prom, your limo provider should ask underage guests and their parents to sign a Minors and Alcoholic Beverage Contract Agreement. In fact, before renting a prom limo in San Francisco or anywhere else this upcoming prom season, make sure you choose a limo service that makes this contract a requirement. Limo services that don’t require this contract are probably not ones with whom you’d like to do business, FYI.

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Illegal Limousines Crushed and Shredded By English Watchdog Agency

By San Francisco Limousine Specialist on April 3, 2011

In an unusual move certainly intended to be a warning to illegal limousine operators, the Vehicle Operator Services Agency (VOSA), which is the agency that regulates the limousine industry in the United Kingdom, recently seized, crushed and shredded two luxury limousines. The Ford Excursion SUV limousines were seized from an illegal limousine operator in South Wales because they did not meet VOSA safety regulations and were transporting passengers illegally. The agency that registers, licenses and oversees San Francisco limousines and other limo services in California is the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). While they have not yet taken drastic steps like VOSA to address illegal limo operators, this might give them some ideas.

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