Headlines: April 19th, 2006

Council leaders are warning limousine operators that they will get tough over vehicles that flout safety regulations and they are asking the general public to contact their local authorities in cases where cars are in breach of the law. The Local Government Association says new figures show that up to 6,000 limousines are regularly breaking safety rules.The LGA says that limo operators often advertise their vehicles as being able to carry up to 20 people, but features such as low ceilings and inadequate emergency exits mean that there is no vehicle in the country that satisfies the safety requirements to carry more than 8 people at the moment. The Association is also pointing out that any vehicle that carries more than eight people for hire or reward needs a Public Service Vehicle Operator’s licence, issued by the Traffic Commissioner.

The LGA estimates that there are around 11,000 limos operating in the UK and that the number is expected to double within the next few years. Many of them are imported from the United States. With a new generation of stretched ‘Navigator’ and ‘Hummer’ vehicles that are being imported into the country from the US, the Association says around half of the nation’s limousines are bending the rules and carrying anywhere up to 30 passengers.

It has warned that councils will work with the police and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency to take action against businesses that break the law and it is calling on people to inform their council if operators offer cars for more than eight passengers.

Councillor David Sparks, Transport spokesman at the LGA, said, “It’s deeply worrying that so many limo companies are taking the safety of their passengers so lightly. Because of their low roofs and lack of decent safety exits, these vehicles just aren’t safe for lots of passengers. Limo businesses should be warned that councils will work with the police to take action against those that flout the law.”

A number of councils in Essex, including Thurrock, Chelmsford, Basildon and Southend already work with the county’s police force to carry out regular spot checks on limousines. During a recent check of around a dozen vehicles all were found to be breaking the law. Elsewhere, councils in the Greater Manchester area have joined forces to take a uniform approach to limo licensing and Birmingham City Council is also carrying out regular test purchases on limousines to ensure they are fully licensed and that they are operating within the law. One authority – Rother District – recently prosecuted an operator for not having the relevant licence.