Limo Association commits to putting on the pressure

Ignoring the problems within the limousine industry will not make them go away – that is the warning from the National Limousine and Chauffeur Association.

NLCA Legislation Officer, Bill Bowling has told that 2010 will be an important year for the limousine sector, and the association needs more support from the industry to allow it to continue with its work.

As the group announces its Annual General Meeting on 10th February at the Cedar Court Hotel, Bradford, it is hoped it will gather more momentum and start to work closer with the Government agencies and sort out the major issues which seem to confuse the industry.

With 300 members, the NLCA has been accused of not doing enough for its annual fee of £120 – but Mr Bowling has expressed his frustration of working hard ‘behind the scenes’ and be presumed to have been doing nothing and publicity only going to the ones who ‘shout the loudest’. Well, perhaps the NLCA should be shouting the loudest!

Getting the support it deserves

I was personally involved with the NLCA re-branding a few years ago, and the commitment and excitement within the board was evident – everyone was determined to make a real difference and bring together the industry once and for all. So, what happened?

Let’s look at the current members elected to be on the committee. Chairman, Peter Wright from Leeds runs Star Limos and a limousine parts business, he has been the head of the association for a couple of years now. Bill Bowling is basically a legend, he is the backbone of the association and he could pretty much educate the people who make the rules. Bill also runs a hire firm in Yorkshire and has done since the year dot.

Vice Chairman is Lancashire Limos boss Russ Jones, Jason Earl was elected as Legislation Assistant, and also runs Earls Limousines based in Manchester the list goes on. Notice anything all of these people have in common?

Do not get me wrong – all of these operators together make a very powerful voice and their knowledge and experience is paramount for the future of the industry – and at the end of the day, these are the only people who have the balls to give up their time and actually attend the monthly meetings unlike the rest of industry who can only but criticise their dedication.

Personally, I believe we need a chairman who is actually employed to do the job in hand. The revenue which is generated by membership should be spent on getting the right people in to concentrate on pushing the association forward and getting results. According to the NLCA, it currently has 300 members, so my calculations show it turns over £36,000 per year! If this figure is true, then this should be plenty enough to employ a part-time Chairman and buy some good coverage on the internet and trade magazines to promote membership. Somehow I don’t think this is correct.

So, we are going to go round and round in circles. If operators don’t join, then there isn’t the revenue to do the above, therefore the association is more likely to continue to make developments slower than we would all like.

It frustrates me so much as every operator I speak to has a gripe about the government agencies – I could spend days, even weeks talking to them about how they think it should be different, why they think its wrong, what should be done and why they think they could do a better job.

Are there benefits?

So why should operators part from their hard earned £120 when in reality all they get is a direct line to Bill Bowling – which at 3am in a dark lay-by with a curious constable in a traffic car, is actually a great benefit in itself.

Kevin Towler has run a hire firm in Essex for the last six years and believes there isn’t any group or association in the industry now that gives value to his business.

Kevin told us; “I am always very frustrated with the limousine industry, just like most operators but I simply feel that it market is far too small for the government to recognise – that is why there are still illegal limos on the road.

He added; “We have always kept our noses clean and complied with any laws that have come in, so in that respect I just do not feel an association would have any benefit for me. However, if one comes along which offers substance, I would be happy to join.”

What do we want from the NLCA? We want some more committed board members with as much dedication as the current ones, but with more time on their hands. Perhaps a much lower annual fee should be considered which would generate more members giving it a larger backing. Meetings at different locations around the country have taken place – perhaps there should be more rather than the regular gatherings in Yorkshire.

How about some PR – the NLCA should be educating the general public about the risks of using unlicensed and uninsured operators by using the media which is more powerful than people think.

Mr Bowling is hoping this years AGM will generate more members, as it reveals its plans for 2010. He told us; “The main thing is that we are now involved at a lot deeper level with the government on matters from side facing seat exemptions, consultations on type approval and categories for limousines in the future. We could do with a united front on the scene rather than the unlicensed operators making waves and bringing the credibility levels down.

He added; “We have to take time to educate operators on the way forward, the stop gap of self drive looks like it will die a death in September when the three major insurers withdraw from the self drive market. With no one left to insure the vehicles there will be a sudden grinding to a halt. Again these problems have been caused by the numerous fire claims for larger limousines, all bar one were un-COIF’d vehicles and caused a massive insurance industry loss.’

There is much to talk about and lots of hard work ahead, so now the association needs your support more than ever, so if you are serious about the industry, show it! The NLCA will only ever have power if it has large numbers supporting it.

Paul Gibson

Main Picture: Members of the limousine industry make their feelings known at a meeting held at A1 Stretch in Hemel Hempstead.

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