SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND REVEAL: MANY STRETCH LIMOS CAN SKIRT LICENSE LAW ON BOOKS BY ARBITRARILY AND INACCURATELY EXEMPTING DRIVERS OR VEHICLES THAT CARRY MORE PASSENGERS THAN ADVERTISED FROM ‘COMMERCIAL’ STATUS; AS SENATORS MAKE LARGER PUSH ON LIMO SAFETY, FEDS MUST IMMEDIATELY INITIATE A LICENSE ‘CRACKDOWN’ BECAUSE COMMERCIAL VEHICLES HAVE TOUGHER SAFETY STANDARDS FOR DRIVER & VEHICLE
Standing With Families Who Lost Daughters In Tragic LI Limo Crash Of 2015, Schumer Will Push Federal Motor Carrier Safety Admin (FMSCA) To Launch Review Of Limo and Driver Qualifications To Ensure They Meet The Intent Of License Classification Law & Prevent Transporting Unsafe Number Of People
Schumer & Gillibrand Note Stretch Limos Licensed As ‘Commercial Vehicles’ Would Automatically Raise Safety Standards Of Both Driver & Vehicle, Subjecting Radically-Altered Stretch Limos To Rigorous Inspection, Repair & Maintenance
Senators: As Feds Work To Establish Stronger Stretch Limo Safety Regs, They Must Drive Crackdown Of Safety Law Already On Books
Standing with the families of Brittney Schulman and Lauren Baruch, who were killed along with two other young women in a 2015 stretch-limo crash on Long Island, and on the heels of the tragic upstate stretch-limo crash that took the lives of 20, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, with support from U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, revealed a glaring gap in federal law that allows many stretch limos to skirt a licensing safety law already on the books – by exempting drivers and/or vehicles themselves from being classified as commercial, even though many carry more than the minimum number of passengers to be considered in that category. Schumer today, with support from Senator Gillibrand, pushed for a federal crackdown and review on stretch limo licenses to ensure they meet their intended classification law and are not being used to transport an unsafe or unreported number of people.
“The tie that binds us on the roads today is our license, each of us has one, and they mean we’ve met the qualifications to drive the particular type of vehicle, be it a car, truck or bus. But these giant stretch limos are falling in a gap between cars and busses. And when it comes to aftermarket stretch limos that tie can become a giant loophole and safety hazard,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “When talking about a stretch limo, the everyday car license held by the driver and/or the vehicle is simply not safe enough. That’s why a law on the books right now under the Motor Carrier Safety Act mandates a limo with the capacity to carry more than nine people require a special commercial driver’s license, but what we see in cases is that this law is being skirted. Stretch limos and their drivers go unchecked and accidents happen. So, while I continue working to advance limo safety regulations at the federal level, the most basic thing we can do right now is put the wheels in motion for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to launch a license crackdown and review to ensure stretch limos are following the letter of the law; not saying to the feds that they are transporting five people, while they actually cram more than a dozen people inside.”
“We’re still learning all the details of exactly what caused the crash in Schoharie County that killed twenty New Yorkers, but one loophole is already glaringly obvious: This stretch limousine should have been driven by someone with a commercial license. It’s time to close the loophole that has allowed limo companies to get away with hiring underqualified drivers,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Any vehicle capable of carrying more than nine people, like the limo involved in the crash, should be considered a commercial vehicle. We can and must do more to keep our roads safe, and I urge the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to move quickly to close this dangerous loophole in the law that lets stretch limousines off the hook, and ensure that no more stretch limousines are avoiding the high safety standards that we require of them.”
Schumer and Gillibrand’s push on the FMSCA comes on the heels of a larger push to change federal safety laws on the safety standards of stretch limos. Schumer and Gillibrand have already urged the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration to implement new federal safety regulations for stretch limousines and pushed the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration to quickly implement any safety recommendations produced by an upcoming NTSB preliminary report, and evaluate other regulatory changes to improve the safety of stretch limousines.
This past weekend, Schumer pushed the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to re-commit to investigating limo crashes across the country to gather critical data required to change the laws. Schumer, today, reiterated that there are significant gaps in the safety standards required for stretch limos and other similar aftermarket altered motor coaches. Often times, secondary market manufacturers alter limos after they’ve been produced by the vehicle’s original manufacturer. These secondary market changes may be superficial changes to the vehicle or may be more drastic; for instance, changes may include adding length to the vehicle chassis, blocking or removing emergency exists, changing the vehicle’s weight or changing the vehicle’s seating positions which can impact its occupancy limitations. Therefore, many stretch limos may lack certain basic safety features like the necessary number of side impact air bags, reinforced rollover protection bars, structurally sound frames and accessible emergency exists that can aid passengers and first responders in the event of a crash. Schumer said many of these aforementioned changes alter the legal classification of the stretch limo to commercial vehicles but that the federal process to check-in on those licenses is not always robust.
Schumer and Gillibrand, today, urged the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) to use existing law and crackdown and review stretch limo classifications. The senators pointed to existing law that says stretch limos carrying more than nine people must be classified as ‘commercial vehicles’ to ensure accountability and robust safety measures are in place. Schumer, with support from Gillibrand, explained the provision in the Motor Carrier Safety Act and asked the FMSCA to review the license and vehicle classifications of stretch limos currently on the road.
“If all stretch limousines were classified as commercial vehicles, drivers would be required to carry a commercial driver’s license, undergo more extensive training, and limousines would be subjected to rigorous inspection, repair, and maintenance regulation. Many limousines are not considered commercial vehicles, as they advertise as carrying 9 or fewer passengers which ensures they are exempt from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. However, as we have just seen in the Schoharie accident, limousines may carry many more than 9 passengers,” Schumer and Gillibrand added.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the rules and requirements for commercial drivers across the country. Though each state has its own application process, all states must adhere to federal requirements set forth by the FMCSA. According to the FMSCA, the agency has safety regulatory oversight of commercial van operations and for-hire operators of small passenger-carrying vehicles—like stretch limos—that engage in interstate commerce. Motor carriers are subject to regulatory oversight when their vehicles are used on a highway to transport 9 to 15 passengers (including the driver) for compensation.