Prom Guide: What are some things that parents/teens/school administrators do to ensure they are booking a legitimate limousine or party bus for prom?
Joe Guinn: The number one thing that someone should do before booking a limousine is to verify that the company has the proper operating authority. Any car that holds more than 7 passengers is required to have a DOT number on both sides of it. Ask the company for that number, and ask if it is posted on both sides of their vehicles. If a prospective limo company does not want to give you their number during booking DO NOT book the car with the company. Upon receiving that number a consumer should always check it out on the FMCSA website http://safer.fmcsa.dot.gov and click the link “company snapshot.” From there you can enter the DOT number and learn if the company is registered with the FMCSA. You will be able to look for details such as if a company has been authorized as a for hire company, and if they are authorized for carrying passengers. This is also where you will want to look to see if they are authorized to cross state lines. Things to look for if this car is traveling across state lines are if the carrier has an “MC” number and the word INTERSTATE as opposed to INTRASTATE.
If all of this checks out then you should feel safe to book the car, but will want to remain diligent when the car arrives to pick you up. Look to see if the car has the same DOT number posted on the side as the one you received at booking, or if the car has a DOT number posted at all. It is extremely common for a broker to take a reservation, and then “farm out” the run to the lowest bidder. Usually an illegal company. Should a car arrive with another number on it there is a possibility that the company had to use a partner, but you should ask questions prior to allowing your children to climb in it. The SAFER website is mobile friendly so go ahead and pull up the DOT number, and call the company to ask for clarification of what happened. If a company had a break down it is very common that they had to use another company to pick you up, but they should be willing to give you that information. This is a common practice and sometimes is the only way that a company can fulfill their obligation without leaving you stranded with out a car.
Prom Guide: Should parents be aware that their teens could be questioned regarding their chauffeur and transportation provider’s compliance with laws by local police?
Joe Guinn: If law enforcement has questions for the passengers it is always best to have a copy digital or hard copy of the contract with you. If all the steps are verified in the first step this should not be an issue. Typically when dealing with students an officer is more than anything checking for illegal activity such as drug or alcohol usage.
Prom Guide: What can parents do to prepare their teens for the possibility of questioning?
Joe Guinn: Remind the students to NEVER argue with a police officer on the side of the road, and remember that the officer is only concerned with making sure that all parties are safe, and make it home at the end of the night.
Prom Guide: Should teens even be questioned as they are less likely to have booked the limo or signed a contract?
Joe Guinn: This is why it is smart to carry a copy of the contract, but remember more than likely if the officer begins to question the students, it is less about the car service, and more about checking for drug and alcohol use.
Prom Guide: Should parents meet their kids at prom in a separate vehicle if they are the ones who booked the vehicle to intercept questioning?
Joe Guinn: I do not believe that this is necessary at all. If a parent does their research, hires a reputable company, stays in contact with the driver, and goes over basic instructions with their children, they should feel confident that their children are going to have an amazing uninterrupted experience.
Prom Guide: What can owner/operators do to ensure that prom teens make their grand entrance despite questioning? In other words, should they instruct teen to behave a certain way during questions such as do no exit the vehicle?
Joe Guinn: When encountering an officer in a traffic stop in any chauffeured vehicle the passenger should never get out of the vehicle, or attempt to interact with law enforcement in any way, unless engaged by the officer. It is like the old saying “speak when spoken to.”
If your driver has done something illegal to get pulled over its common to want to receive some type of compensation for the inconvenience of being late. Something that the students need to understand is that all adjustments will need to be made the next day with the people in the office, and not with the driver.
Parents should take the time to exchange phone numbers with the driver. There is nothing wrong with picking up the phone and calling the driver to verify that the evening is going as planned.
Parents should also be specific on where the driver can go, such as a specific list of addresses for pick ups and drop offs, as well as the restaurant location and dance venue. This can be pre-arranged when booking the transportation so that the driver can pre-plan the best route to take in the over-sized vehicle.