Unsafe limousine

As the school prom season approaches, parents are being advised to check their child’s limousine is safe and legal before making a booking. The warning comes from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), which has impounded 31 and crushed 20 unsafe limousines in the last five years.

Hiring a limo that hasn’t been properly checked and licensed could put children at risk, so the DVSA is urging parents to carry out simple checks on its website to find out if the company has a public service vehicle operators’ licence. This applies to to anyone running limousines with nine or more seats.

More safety news on Motoring Research:

If the limo has fewer than nine seats, parents are advised to contact their local council to see if the company is licensed as a private hire vehicle operator. If a company has neither licence in place it can be reported to the DVSA, which has the power to remove limousines from the road.

Be safe not sorry

Gareth Llewellyn, DVSA chief executive, said: “DVSA is committed to protecting you from unsafe drivers and vehicles. We know parents want to keep their children safe but rogue limousine operators working outside of the law are putting them at risk.

“We will not hesitate to take action against cowboy operators who risk the lives of young people and other road users. This could include seizing limousines and referring operators to the traffic commissioners, who have the power to take away their licence.”

Bill Bowling, National Limousine and Chauffeur Association legislation officer, added: “The safety of your passengers is paramount to us and we ask that parents ensure that the company they use is properly licensed and insured. Many people are being taken to their prom in unlicensed and therefore uninsured wedding cars or novelty vehicles.

“Our members are all properly vetted and licensed and are there to ensure the safety of your family and friends. Be safe not sorry.”

In 2013, the DVSA issued guidance for operators of stretch limousines, including information on driver licensing, drivers’ hours, in-service testing, seat belts, speed limiters, tachographs, vehicle licensing and vehicle standards.

Unsafe limo

An excerpt from the 17-page guide states:

The vast majority of limousines imported into Great Britain are exported from the USA and are already ‘converted’ to be limousines prior to registration in Great Britain. Legislation governing the construction and use of vehicles is significantly different in America and therefore the vehicles will need modifications (very substantial modifications in the case of larger vehicles) before being compliant with GB requirements. Before purchasing a limousine, you should investigate the matter fully and satisfy yourself that the vehicle can be modified to meet the GB requirements and that you know the cost of these modifications.

It is possible to take a car which is already registered with DVLA and convert it into a limousine, using reputable coachbuilders here or in the USA. Once the vehicle has been converted you are legally required to notify DVLA of the changes, since the identity of the vehicle may be brought into question. It is possible that the passenger capacity, weight limits, or the taxation class of the vehicle would have changed, so the V5C registration document would no longer be valid.

If a vehicle or its chassis has been cut in half and extended, the vehicle would need to be inspected by DVLA and would be assessed as being in one of two categories; either as radically altered from its original specification or, if a kit of new parts has been used in the build, as a kit conversion. The registration number will change because this is not the same vehicle as that described on the vehicle records and it would be misleading to retain the original registration number when the vehicle has undergone such major modifications. A vehicle undergoing major structural alterations is likely to require approval (IVA) in its modified condition.

Illegal limos will be crushed

In January 2015, Merseyside Police crushed an illegally modified stretch limousine after it failed to meet UK safety laws because a third axle had been fitted. Earlier, in 2010, eight limos taking school pupils to their prom failed roadside checks have been pulled as part of a joint operation between the police, local council and VOSA.

Fifth Gear crashed a Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine to highlight the dangers of travelling in what is essentially a ‘cut and shut’. The results are… predictable.