The National Limousine and Chauffeur Association Legislation Officer, Bill Bowling shares his top tips on hiring a legal limo
At some time in their life most people will travel in an American stretched limousine, either at a wedding, on a school prom, or on a night out or a day at the races. This should always be a pleasant experience, but also a safe one.
Do you know the questions to ask, or the things to look out for? As part of our ongoing awareness campaign the National Limousine & Chauffeur Association are trying to raise public awareness starting with this précis of the basics.
Hiring a car or a limousine for a wedding is relatively simple and safe. There are no requirements for the company or the driver to be licensed for weddings (or funerals). All that they have to do is ensure that the driver has a suitable driving licence and that the vehicle has wedding cover. Any vehicle up to eight passengers is covered by this exemption.
If the vehicle has more than eight passenger seats, EG a Hummer of Ford Excursion then the rules change and the wedding is governed by the public service vehicle regulations. This is covered in a later section.
There is an anomaly which you should be aware of and that is if the vehicle is registered as a private hire (meaning that they use the vehicle on other work) then it must be driven by a qualified private hire driver.
Nights out, Proms, Race days (and everything else.)
Whether you are hiring a smart Mercedes saloon, an American stretched limousine, or a novelty vehicle (complete with driver/ chauffeur) then they must be licensed as a private hire vehicle (up to and including eight passenger seats).
This means that the vehicle is licensed and can be easily identified by a badge or card displayed on the vehicle. The driver is also licensed by the same local authority as a private hire driver (Identity should be carried and on display by the driver, all though occasionally they have been known to leave the badge on display in the vehicle.
All private hire drivers have been subject to a DBS (CRB) check to ensure that they have no criminal record that would put any passenger at risk. The vehicles are also subject to periodic inspections. If the vehicle is over eight passengers in capacity then the operation is classed as a public service vehicle. This means that (even for weddings) both the vehicle and the driver have to be licensed through the Traffic Commissioner as a bus. This applies to the majority of Hummers and Ford Excursions. It is easy to identify a licensed operator by the orange (restricted operator) or blue (national) badge in the window of the vehicle.
No badge means an unlicensed vehicle. If in doubt ask for the certificate of initial fitness (COIF) this confirms that the vehicle has been properly adapted to comply with construction and use regulations. Once again, no COIF equals not legal. All PSV drivers have to be qualified and licensed with a D1 (16 seat entitlement) or a D license (Full bus entitlement). They will have gone through a rigorous training and testing regime before becoming qualified.
All car derived limousines (Chrysler 300c, Ford Lincoln Town car etc) are limited by law to a maximum of eight passengers. There are no exceptions to this rule, and even small children and babies count as a passenger. Do not be misled by operators who say that it does not matter, or that they are exempt.. This is simply not so, and you risk being carried in an uninsured and unlicensed vehicle.
Good operator’s will always put their full details and address on their web site, and many will put their license number and details on the web site along with a trade association membership. This helps to give the customer confidence that they are not dealing with an unscrupulous operator. If in doubt ask the operator before you risk your family and friends lives, and if you don’t hear the right responses then please don’t book.
If you are concerned about hiring an American Limousine you can contact The NLCA who will be happy to answer your questions.