Luxury Coach & Transportation

December 2018

Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.

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64 WWW.LCTMAG.COM LUXURY COACH & TRANSPORTATION DECEMBER 2018 MARTIN ROMJUE DECEMBER 2018 EDITOR'S EDGE A Fact-Driven Clapback For Stretch Operators H ave you seen much informed follow up in the media about the limousine crash? More than one month after the tragic Oct. 6 crash that took 20 lives in upstate New York, as of this writ- ing federal investigators have yet to pinpoint an exact cause. After shrill calls for more safety, •nger-wagging against the limou- sine industry, and misinformed speculation, the collective news media whirled a spotlight and faded out for a while. We'll get another eruption and round of indignant spasms once a crash cause is released. I've been intrigued with media behavior ever since growing up in a newshound household and working on school newspa- pers. Earlier in my career, I got to join the news horde for some breaking stories. What I've noticed now in the era of tweets, alerts, and insta-scoops is an overwhelming need for context and basic facts. „ose aren't always available. With perspective, here are some points to remember when the media comes knocking for the next outburst, whether a fatal bus rollover, limo accident, or vehicle •re. More laws? Politicians and media often call for more rules as they scramble to propose legislation. New York has commer- cial vehicle safety laws on the books safety that were applied to the company involved. „at doesn't mean failures didn't oc- cur or tweaks aren't needed, but claiming the luxury transpor- tation industry and stretch limousines are largely unregulated is just false. You cannot stop every violation, even with a "cop on every corner" approach. A sensible question to ask after a major accident: What are the laws, and is government using its tax-acquired resources to adequately enforce them? Legal status of provider: Was the operation involved in an ac- cident a legal, licensed one, or an illegal one? What is its safety paper trail? „at's a big factor, and once again, the onus lies with law enforcement and regulators as to why a certain state or region has illegal or rogue operators, not the industry. Most operators follow the laws and ensure good safety practices, if for the sole reason it's good for business and can avoid cata- strophic mistakes resulting in lawsuits and bankruptcy. Preventing fatalities: With enough force, no vehicle is 100% crash proof. In both the 2018 and 2015 New York stretch lim- ousine crashes, tra'c maneuvers and road safety were factors. What are the unique circumstances of a fatal crash? Beyond certain speeds, impacts can overwhelm any structure. Check out the YouTube video "semi v. SUV" to see what happens when a tractor trailer slams into a non-stretch big black SUV. Stretch limousine construction: „e wider media is generally unaware of the Ford/Lincoln Quality Ve- hicle Modi•er and Cadillac Master Coachbuilder stretch limousine programs. As I patiently tried to explain while taking a call from a hasty, agitated big paper editorial writer who kept interrupting me, the QVM and CMC standards are not recommended or voluntary standards for participating coach- builders. „ey are required. OEMs visit the modifers to check that stretching standards, processes, and specs comply with the same Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Stan- dards that guide the automakers when building regular vehicles. Program follow up: I read one report that alleged even those stretch converters licensed by OEMs are not monitored after certi•cation. Wrong. Coachbuilders get annual visits from in- spectors to verify they maintain manufacturing standards. Stretch stabilizers: One veteran QVM coachbuilder told me he follows construction standards "over and above" what Ford requires. All major vehicle components must be adjusted and upgraded to handle the extra weight and size. Safe stretch limousines are built with additional B-pillars, horizontal tub- ing, and side intrusion beams or crash rails. As when con- structing a bigger house, you use the right supporting materi- als. But no matter how well any vehicle is built, abuse, neglect, and overloads can render it unsafe. Airbags: We've all heard the lectures on stretches needing side impact airbags. For the record, this QVM coachbuilder and a second one both told me it is structurally and •nancially near-impossible to develop, test, engineer, approve, and retro- •t a one-size-•ts-all customized side impact airbag for every variation of stretch limousine model. Designing side impact bags for limousines would involve a more complicated pro- cess than the one for front and side airbags on regular vehi- cles. Even if possible after years of testing and development, overall costs would make stretch limousines too expensive. Seatbelts: If a car comes with seatbelts, you have to put them back in after modifying, and install one for every seat, the coachbuilder told me. Most stretches and limo buses now come with seatbelts. You can remind, require, and instruct passengers all you want about buckling up. Unless you wire a vehicle not to roll without clicked belts, it's up to passengers. Consumer awareness: „is is a chicken-egg scenario, but lim- ousine customers need to do their online homework as we all do when buying services and products. Likewise, the lim- ousine industry and operators should make every eŸort possible to provide PSAs and education on safe luxury vehicles, and why cheaper options can be risky. Finally, I would like to praise the operators who stepped up to the local media plate in the crash aftermath and helped set the record straight about stretch transportation by citing the above points or similar ones. Why clam up and let mis- informed in¡uencers de•ne your livelihood? Stick up for the facts and get your voices of rea- son out there. The media has moved on from its mad mangle of a big story. Some of these points never got in their way.

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