What exactly is the e-hail App?

Have you heard of the e-hail app that can be downloaded from the Google Play store and the iTunes App store? Just a few weeks ago, the Uber created app was launched in New York City, which became the first legal e-hail app for livery vehicles. However, a judge ordered it to be paused. The one year pilot program came with lots of criticism and hesitation, as different groups representing livery businesses sued the city to prevent the app’s start. Although the program was stopped recently, that doesn’t mean it will be gone forever. Or stay in New York City for that matter.

The reason livery car companies are uneasy about the potential impact on their business is because e-hail is a pre-arranged service. This causes a problem because certain livery vehicles are not allowed to provide pre-arranged service, according to city rules. This is why a judge ordered an injunction against the program so issues could be reviewed and solved.

If the Uber app was to become legal again, it would end the days of customers standing at the corner, flailing their arms for a ride. Instead, they could simply use the app to see who is available within a 1.5-mile radius and reserve the car. As of now, Uber won’t charge any added fees and users only pay the rate on the meter, but it is hard to say if that will change later on.

Even Mayor Bloomberg endorsed the app, saying, “The launch of Uber’s service is great news for New Yorkers and visitors to our city who want to quickly and conveniently get a ride.” He continued to say in an effort to improve livery service, the program helps to add safety and regulations, which has been the goal of the city for some time.

At Wolpert Insurance, we understand that the evolving world of technology may seem confusing to some livery business owners. However, as services become enhanced, it is important to stay on top of the changes and your protection. With the Livery Exchange Program, your auto insurance coverage is built right in and protects all of your limos and all the vehicles in your fleet. We are experts in livery insurance, and work only with companies who know and value the livery industry!

New Livery Business Rules and Regulations now Mirror those of Taxi Businesses

Although livery drivers and taxi drivers serve a different set of customers, the rules and regulations for both industries are now merging. According to the Worcester Telegram, livery drivers and owner operators in Gardner are now following the same rules as taxi companies due to an ordinance change approved by the City Council.

The Council voted to approve these changes in March. Here are some of the important parameters to know about for your livery business:

Livery vehicles have a predetermined rate once the passenger enters. They do not operate on a fixed route or roving basis, are hired by means of a telephone request or contract arranged in advance, and need livery plates issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Vehicles used to provide services to funeral homes won’t be considered livery vehicles under this law.
The owner operators must be licensed in order to conduct or operate a livery business in the City of Gardner. It is expected, but not required, that the “owner” also be the “operator” of the livery service business.
An “operator” is any person licensed who manages a livery business on behalf of the owner. “Operator” does not mean “driver.”
The driver is the person licensed, employed by, or otherwise contracted with the livery business to drive a licensed livery vehicle to pick up and transport the passenger(s).
No person can set up, use, or drive any Livery vehicle for the transport of persons for hire, from place to place within the City, unless he has obtained a license to do so.
Each owner and operator of a livery service business shall not conduct or operate it without a license. The owner and/or operator shall complete the application fully, accurately, and honestly.
An owner of a livery business cannot employ a driver, nor allow a driver to operate a livery vehicle unless the driver has obtained a City of Gardner livery driver’s license.
The taxi business name, license number, and the business telephone number should be legible and clearly visible on the center of the front door. Livery vehicles are exempt from this section.
The interior and exterior of every licensed livery vehicle is to be kept clean. All vehicles shall be thoroughly cleaned, inspected, and repaired by the owner at least once a week.
The Chief of Police is authorized to order the owner, operator, and driver of any livery vehicle to be removed immediately from public use if it is unsafe or in a dangerous condition.
The licensee of a livery driver’s license must answer fully and civilly any questions asked of him or her by a police officer.
Every livery vehicle should be submitted for an annual inspection in the month of May, unless otherwise directed by the Chief of Police.
The Chief of Police can do background checks on livery drivers if necessary.
Overall, these changes can enable the local police to better ensure the safety of the livery vehicles and drivers. If you feel your livery business requires more protection to prevent accidents and injuries, rely on Wolpert Insurance for reliable livery insurance. Contact us today for more information!

Training Your Employees to have Heightened Awareness

At Wolpert Insurance, we are keeping the victims of the recent Boston Marathon tragedies in our hearts and minds. We pray that officials will resolve the situation soon, and for now, we are committed to remaining strong and showing our support Boston.

Due to such threatening events, the National Limousine Association is offering a “Heightened Awareness Alert” guide for front line staff, including chauffeurs and limousine drivers. Does your livery company have a plan in place during times of heightened awareness? If not, then you should establish one so your employees can remain safe and out of harm’s way during a catastrophe.

Although terrorist attacks may not target limousine companies directly, you should still take precautionary action, especially since your customers may be traveling to the spots being targeted. As an owner operator, you need to train your drivers to be observant and helpful to officials by following the rule, “If you see something, say something.”

When creating a training course for your employees, you should make sure each lesson helps them prepare for personal safety hazards. First, make sure they have a firm grasp on the area they will be servicing. Each employee should be able to find appropriate destinations for customers, be proficient in map reading, know regional area safe/danger zones, and find emergency facilities in case a mishap occurs.

Since your staff works mostly alone and interacts with the public at all hours, they are at an increased risk for accidents and harm. This is why when they should always wear their seatbelts and practice safe driving techniques. Other security measures that can be taken are keeping the doors locked and windows up when parked. Also, if a driver is unfamiliar with the surroundings, they should keep the vehicle running during a pickup.

Using safety devices such as partitions or shields that separate the driver’s area from the passenger area will help avoid dangerous situations. In addition, installing security cameras, emergency signs, and panic buttons can keep drivers safe during times of heightened awareness. With the proper training, your chauffeurs can avoid accidents, injuries, liability issues, and more, especially during times like this.

Providing Meal Breaks to Your Employees

At Wolpert Insurance, we know you value your hard working livery employees, which is why they deserve meal breaks. They are on the road for long hours and even during nights. Allowing them to rest and to have a meal is a good way to not only help them reenergize, but prevent claims to your company. It is Massachusetts state law to provide your drivers with meal breaks. If you don’t have a system in place to do so, you could be handed a lawsuit, especially if an accident were to occur due to a lack of break time.

According to the Labor Laws in Massachusetts, you must provide workers with meal breaks. This law states that employees must receive a 30-minute break after six hours of working. In addition, a driver can leave the workplace during the break if desired. If an employee voluntarily gives up the meal break, he/she must be paid for all hours that were worked. Finally, employees are allowed to pray during their meal break because this period is considered the employee’s free time.

As a livery owner, it is important to understand that different circumstances can arise surrounding the meaning of meal breaks. For example, if a driver still has some responsibilities to tend to during a meal break, such as being required to stay with the vehicle, then this should be compensated as paid working time. If this example were to happen to your company, make sure you are able to prove that each driver was paid appropriately during breaks, whether working through them or not. In addition, you should communicate to your drivers that they are expected to take a meal break when it is legally required. Ensuring there is sufficient down-time for all employees can aid in a more productive workforce.

Creating a culture where open communication is encouraged and can help drivers feel more comfortable to speak up. This is especially true if they have issues with procedures. Getting to know you livery team can also increase trust between drivers, managers, and supervisors. All of these examples can go a long way in avoiding claims.

At Wolpert Insurance, we hope you never have to face a lawsuit due to failure in giving appropriate meal breaks or for any other circumstance. Paying attention to the needs of your livery employees and being protected with our livery insurance can help you avoid accident, injuries, and unhappy customers. Take the time to be prepared for the unexpected by putting your drivers’ well being first.

Wolpert Livery Insurance when Limo Drivers are at Fault for Accidents

You trust your limo drivers to always make the right decisions behind the wheel, but sometimes things happen that result in a collision, causing you to file a claim with your company’s livery insurance. Unfortunately, many accidents are caused by driver error, and if one of your drivers is at fault in an accident, your company will have some liability issues to clean up.

It’s sometimes difficult to determine who is mostly at fault for an accident. If more than one driver is involved it can sometimes fall on both drivers. What the police and insurance agencies do to determine who did what is decide who is more than 50% to blame for causing the collision. Here is a sample of some situations in which your limo drivers could be found liable for an accident:

Hitting a parked car: Your driver will be found at fault for colliding with a parked car, whether the car is lawfully or unlawfully parked.
Rear ending: Your limo drivers should follow the “two second rule” which means to always stay two seconds behind a vehicle. If your drivers choose to tail the car in front of them and that car suddenly stops short, guess who’s at fault? That’s right, your limo driver.
Failure to signal: Any time a driver fails to signal while either turning or switching lanes and subsequently collides with another vehicle, the driver who did not signal is the one responsible.
Failure to proceed with due caution from a traffic control signal: All drivers are familiar with red, yellow and green stop lights and obviously you’re never under any circumstance to run a red light. However, other traffic control signals include lane control signs and road work signs. A lane control sign will signal to drivers to stay in their lanes for a certain distance, and if your driver switches lanes in this zone and causes an accident, that’s on the limo driver.
Backing up: If one of your drivers is involved in a collision while backing up, they will most likely be found responsible. Cars backing up must give the right of way to oncoming traffic and can only proceed to back up if the road is clear or a driver allows them to go ahead.
Single vehicle collisions: Drivers are almost always found at fault for single vehicle collisions, so if a limo driver backs into a pole that’s on them.
Of course, there are many other instances in which a driver can be at fault for an accident. But we figured we’d share the most common ones with you. If you operate a limo business and want to avoid some common liability or collision claims on your livery insurance in Massachusetts, we recommend sharing this list with your drivers.

What Decides My Limo Insurance Premiums?

Ah, the age old question: “What decided my livery insurance premiums? Why are they as high as they are?” While this question is normally a complicated one to answer, Wolpert Insurance & Risk Management can answer almost anything on the spot, especially when it pertains to livery vehicles. The fact of the matter is, not one single thing decided your insurance premiums; it’s an array of multiple factors that, combined, contribute to what you pay. Here is a breakdown of common things that affect insurance premiums.

• Location: Geographic location can play a part in determining premiums and it generally pertains to things like population density and whether or not you’re in an urban area. For instance, premiums for a livery company operating in Montana would certainly be cheaper than one operating in New York or the Greater Boston Area.
• Vehicle class code: Insurance carriers look at the class code of the vehicle as well. Normally, the larger the vehicle, the higher premiums. Commercial buses are at greater risks than limos, so their premiums are normally the highest. Limos are generally more expensive than sedans as well, due to their size. Also, the amount of miles normally traveled will also play a role.
• Driver: Your drivers may factor into what your premiums are, too. If one of your drivers has a spotty personal or professional driving record, then it may cause you to pay more for your insurance. Tickets, accidents, age and experience can all be taken under consideration.
• Loss ratio: Your company’s performance over a five year period is referred to as your “loss ratio.” This number is calculated by adding claims which are closed and open claims to get the total losses incurred over this period. The insurance company will total the premiums paid verses any incurred claims to get the loss ratio number.

If you have any more questions at all concerning your limo insurance, contact Wolpert Insurance & Risk Management today to get the information you’re looking for. We’ll do everything we can to answer your questions to the best of our ability.


The Most Dangerous Times and Days for Drivers

When limo drivers gain experience they become accustomed to a variety of situations. Whether it’s driving in during a bright day, rainy night or even a particular holiday, some days are actually statistically more dangerous than others. But what are they? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has put together a list of some of the most dangerous times of the day and year for people to drive. This information may be useful for your limo drivers and may cause you to rethink these certain instances and how they may affect your livery insurance.

The following are the ten deadliest days for drivers, according to data collected by the NHTSA:

1. July 4
2. July 3
3. December 23
4. December 24
5. December 22
6. August 3
7. January 1
8. September 1
9. September 2
10. August 4

As you can see, most of the days revolve around certain holidays including the Fourth of July, Christmas, and Labor Day. This may be a result of higher traffic concentrations of people traveling from airports for the winter holidays or going down the Cape during the summer. Also, many drivers are likely to be intoxicated over these days than others considering the nature of holidays like Christmas and the Fourth.

In addition to specific days, the NHTSA also outlines the most dangerous days of the week. They are in order:

1. Saturday
2. Sunday
3. Friday
4. Thursday
5. Monday
6. Wednesday
7. Tuesday

Obviously, it’s easy to notice a trend. The two weekend days plus Friday are in the top 3, and these days are usually when most drivers are intoxicated. In addition to the certain dates and days, the NHTSA rounded out their study with the most dangerous times of day to drive. They are:

• 3pm-6pm
• 6pm-9pm
• 9pm-Midnight
• Noon-3pm
• Midnight-3am

As you can tell, 4/5 times deal with either late night or rush hour. During rush hour, there are many more cars on the road than normal and many accident tend to happen around this time. Also, night driving is a precaution because not only is visibility limited, intoxicated drivers may be on the road as well.

At Wolpert Insurance & Risk Management we hope that you and your drivers take notice of the trends above in order to stay safer on the roads at certain times. The last thing any service needs is a claim on their limo insurance, so feel free to give us a call today to learn more.

Federal Limo Regulations

When you own a limousine service, it’s important to maintain the federal standards in order to avoid any fees, penalties and legal issues. But what exactly are the federal regulations for limousine service providers? Whether you specialize in transportation to Logan Airport or to various events like parties and casinos, all limo services are subject to the same regulations. In order to avoid any claims on your livery insurance, here the regulations set by the U.S. Department of Transportation that you should be aware of:

• For vehicles carrying up to eight passengers, including the driver:
o Your limo service must be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) and have a Motor Carrier Identification Report valid with the USDOT within the past two years.
o Each vehicle must be insured up to a regulated-minimum level of financial responsibility in the event of an accident or liability issue.

• For vehicles carrying 9 to 15 passengers, including the driver:
o Driver may not drive more than the maximum number of consecutive hours.
o Driver must perform a vehicle safety inspection and sign a maintenance log before each trip.
o Driver must have a valid driver’s license and a driving record of any personal violations they have committed.
o Your company must have an updated accident register.

At Wolpert Insurance & Risk Management, it’s our job to help limousine services protect themselves while offering a solid product to customers. It’s important to remember regulations when conducting your operation, so if you have any more questions contact us today and we’ll happily speak with you.


What Are the Three Most Costly Limo Insurance Claims?

No company likes to deal with costly limo insurance claims, but sometimes things happen that may necessitate them. If you and your drivers are trying to avoid any substantial fees and costs from your insurance after an accident or collision, it may be wise to educate yourself on what types of incidents cost the most. Thankfully, our agency has the information you need on the three most costly limo insurance claims:

Left-hand turns: Accidents that occur when a left-hand turn is made into oncoming traffic can be either head-on or T-bone accidents. When these occur, serious injuries to the passengers can happen to all vehicles involved. In order to avoid these types of incidents, make sure your drivers know that it often takes longer to make these left-hand turns into oncoming traffic than normal sized vehicles.

Intersection crashes: Accidents at intersections are normally costly because they usually involve multiple vehicles. Passenger injuries can occur as well. In order to minimize the risk of being involved in an intersection collision, try not to speed through a yellow light in hopes of making it before it turns red.

Pedestrian hits: Hitting a pedestrian, whether they’re walking or riding a bicycle, is perhaps the worst thing that could happen to a limo company. Pedestrian collisions can happen at any time, even when your driver is paying attention. Sometimes, pedestrians jay-walk, cross between parked cars, or even exit cars without looking and can distract themselves enough that they don’t notice other cars moving towards them. Make sure your drivers are staying alert and are trained to look out for these types of situations.

At Wolpert Insurance & Risk Management,we help limo services get the information and livery insurance they need. If you have any more questions about how accidents affect your premiums, give us a call today and we’ll help you.

Can An Independent Contractor Collect from Your Auto Policy?

In the ground transportation industry, including limo services, determining the difference between an employee and an independent contractor can be confusing. Sometimes, instead of hiring an employee full-time, you will enlist the services of an independent contractor to work for you as an alternative. However, when dealing with independent contractors, many questions abound, including whether or not they are included on your livery insurance policy.

Many companies simply designate chauffeurs as independent contractors, believing that so long as they don’t deduct taxes from the chauffeur’s earnings, they are protected from the liabilities that typically come with a standard employment relationship. The reason limo services use independent contractors is so they can avoid federal and state taxes, disability coverage, and Social Security and Medicare taxes. By failing to properly identify an independent contractor or a full-time employee, you risk government sanctions and fines being applied to your business. There are two critical factors the IRS takes into account in deciding what the difference is between an independent contractor and an employee:

1. Significant investment: According to the IRS, when the driver has title, physical possession, and equity in the vehicle, the driver is found to have an investment in the vehicle and is typically considered an independent contractor. In order for the investment to be considered legitimate, the driver must have purchased or leased the vehicle in some form.

2. Risk of profit and loss: When an employee is paid for services on a time basis and does not have an opportunity for profit or loss within the company, they are considered to be full-time workers under your business. According to IRS guidelines, when there is a chance that a profit or loss could be incurred, the employee is considered to be an independent contractor. Factors that can lead to profit and loss include insurance, maintenance, repairs, and fuel.

So are independent contractors covered by your company’s insurance? The answer: No. The IRS identifies independent contractors as self-employed individuals, meaning that it is up to them to obtain their own insurance policies apart from your company’s.

At Wolpert Insurance & Risk Management we want limo companies to understand the importance of designating independent contractors from employees so they can avoid any legal issues. For more information on this topic or on your limo insurance, contact our Massachusetts agency today.