Legal Requirements

Should my limo company be licenced?

In short, the answer is yes.

In the middle of 2006, the Road Safety Act 2006 was introduced which closed the 'loophole' by which companies could operate a limousine hire business without an operators or private hire licence. Because this was an amendment to an existing act and as a consequence of the material affect it would have on many existing businesses, a softly, softly approach has been adopted to the introduction meaning that the law will only be enforced from January 2008.

Therefore, from 1st January 2008, no unlicensed limousine operator will be able to avoid the risk of prosecution; given there has been ample warning in relation to the amendment to existing legislation. The most common form of licensing is a local authority approved 'private hire licence' or in the case of London, a PCO licence which is issued by the Public Carriage Office, part of Transport for London. It is also possible to operate a limousine business with an 'Restricted Licence' issued by the Traffic Commissioners, however, in this case, any vehicles which carry more than 8 passengers must have what is known as a 'Certificate of Initial Fitness' (most limousines cannot meet the requirements of this test) and the chauffeurs must have an appropriate Public Carrying Vehicle (PCV) licence. Furthermore, operators with a Restricted Licence can only operate one or two such vehicles and the operation of these vehicles must be not be the primary business, it must be incidental.

Whilst you may think that whether or not a limousine company is licensed or not is a problem for them you would be wrong. If the enforcement agencies stop an unlicensed limousine, they will, in all probability, terminate the hire and it will be for the passengers to make their own way home. In addition, most people are aware of the risks of traveling in an unlicensed cab and yet, using the services of an unlicensed limousine company is no different. There is no obligation to have the chauffeur pass a Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) check and the vehicles do not have to undergo regular and stringent tests. That notwithstanding, consumers should ask themselves why, if a company is of good standing and their vehicles are in good order, they would not subject themselves to the appropriate licensing authorities, given they are offering a public service.

How can you be sure that the company you want to book your limo through is properly licensed? The only way is to ask, but do not just take their word for it, ask them what type of licence they have and then check that it is valid, this takes just a few minutes and ultimately it will be for your benefit. No professional, licensed limousine will every object to being asked about their licence, in fact, most will appreciate the fact that you have completed enough research to know the right questions to ask!

Another way to spot a potentially unlicensed limousine company is by the number of passengers they offer to carry. For example, no limousine company, that is 'licensed for private hire' by their local authority, (or in London the PCO) can carry more than 8 passengers. Those limousine companies that operate under an 'O Licence' or 'Restricted Licence' can only carry more than 8 passengers if the chauffeur has an appropriate PCV licence and most importantly, the vehicle has a CoIF (Certificate of initial Fitness). It is this CoIF that is virtually impossible to obtain on a stretched limousine and there are literally only a handful of vehicles that have passed this test because of the cost of conversions. There is a very good chance, though not a guarantee that if someone offers to carry more than 8 passengers that they are not operating within the law, either as a consequence of the CoIF or the fact that they are not correctly licensed.

When hiring a stretched limousine it is very much a case of 'buyer beware', do not be tempted to allow your decision to rest purely on price, at the potential heightened risks associated with having to use an unlicensed company. And never be tempted to accept an offer to carry more than 8 passengers unless you have been provided with proof that the vehicle has a CoIF. Anyone that wants to be certain can check with their local authority to find out if a company is licensed for private hire or with VOSA if they claim to have a Public Service Vehicle Operator Licence and/or offer to carry more than 8 passengers. VOSA have a hotline for anyone that is concerned about the veracity of any claims given by an operator and their number is 0870 60 60 440. Companies using limousine exclusively for weddings or funerals are exempted from the amendments to the Road Safety Act 2006.

One such licensed limousine operator is Abbie Limos Limited in Hull, who are licensed by the Hull City Council and hold a restricted operators license to operate 13 and 15 seat Ford Excursion and Ford Expedition Limos.