You asked for it and we listened. In this column, we ask operators of all sizes and from all walks of the industry a question about their business and report their answers so you can assess how your own company compares to your peers. If you would like to participate, please email Rob Smentek at firstname.lastname@example.org for next issue’s question.
TOPIC: What advice do you give to clients who say they’re considering using a TNC? How do you explain the difference in services to friends, family, or even strangers who undoubtedly use these services?
We explain that we are a professional chauffeured transportation company. We drug test, do extensive background checks, have an interview process, and train our chauffeurs both in the office and on the road. Moreover, we carry a minimum of $5M liability insurance, and inspect and clean our vehicles every day.
I also let clients know that the TNCs have had multiple sexual assault and rape allegations every week during the past four years—and those are only the ones that we even know about. You are putting your company and employees at risk by using them and that can come back to haunt you. Why would you want to use a company that puts $50M into a public relations campaign to show how safe they are but refuses to fingerprint their drivers for a fraction of that cost? When they finally passed a law in Massachusetts to do background checks, which did not include fingerprinting, over 8,000 drivers failed—a total of 12 percent.
Brett Barenholtz, CEO
Boston Car Service/ Above All Transportation in Canton, Mass.
When people ask us how Uber affects our business, we tell them that, for the most part, it does not impact us because the Uber traveler usually is not our customer. We relate using Uber to hitchhiking—only hitchhiking is less expensive and largely just as safe. If someone is really interested, I explain the drug testing, the background checks, and the road testing. Also, we “mystery shop” our drivers to make sure they are highly qualified.
We also own a taxi company, and have found TNC rates to be more expensive than our cab rates. We also point out that Uber price gouges: on a busy night it may be $20 to get somewhere and $150 to come back, for even just a few blocks. Now, Uber is even charging an extra fee for insurance. We also explain to business clients that if they recommend this service and something happens to their customer, they could be held liable.
Denise Cali, Owner
J&J Affordable and Luxury Transportation in Allentown, Pa.
Our dispatchers have the following scripted response: “Thank you so much for your consideration of GCT to provide you chauffeured car service for your upcoming travel needs. As the consumer, you have many choices with whom you spend your hard-earned money. Like hotels, your transportation options are varied. The Econoline Inn and The Ritz-Carlton both have beds, but the experience and service between them is not comparable. GCT would be delighted for you to experience the difference in the back of our chauffeured vehicle in the future.”
Clayton Dennard, Owner
Going Coastal Transportation in Charleston, S.C.
If ever we have a client considering a TNC, we always make them aware of the unnecessary liability that they are accepting. Whether it’s being involved in an accident and the TNC is underinsured, or their employee is assaulted after they have been instructed to use a TNC, there certainly would be grounds for a lawsuit against the company. With friends, family, or even strangers, we are extremely vocal about the sexual assaults that have taken place with the TNC drivers, especially here in Boston. It seems as though predators are using these services to find victims and our legislators have been turning a blind eye to the problem. Using TNC companies is often like Russian roulette: You never know what you’re going to get.
Paul Hartnett, President
Axis Coach Transportation in Manchester, N.H.
Auto fatalities topped 40,000 for the second consecutive year, and there is too much distraction and not enough training. TNCs have drivers untrained in preventative collision avoidance; their job is to get you wherever you need as quickly as possible so they can grab the next trip.
Choosing a black car provider is choosing a professional whose background is driving for a living. Our chauffeurs train in etiquette and understand that every minute counts. A vetted, background-checked chauffeur who opens the door to an inviting, clean, and late-model vehicle—that’s an experience.
Kiley Klein, Business Development Manager
BEST Transportation in St. Louis, Mo.
For big clients, we start the discussion with duty of care. Employee safety is paramount, and it doesn’t take much to explain that using TNCs can be risky. We then detail how we handle duty of care from on-boarding (criminal background checks, motor vehicle checks, drug and alcohol tests) to training (classroom, on the road, defensive driving, landmarks, continuous education). We also share our insurance commitment of $5M. Safety is extremely important, so we discuss how, by using chauffeured car, you always know who is driving you. We have vetted professionals while the TNCs likely never met any of their drivers since they are hired online.
If price is the driving determinant, there isn’t much you can do to compete, but you can focus on reliability. Explain that pushing a button when you need a ride to the airport may result in missing your flight.
You get what you pay for—just like any other product and service with rock-bottom prices. Luxury comes with a premium, but the level of service, safety, confidentiality, and reliability should outweigh the price. We focus on clients who are willing to pay more for the peace of mind of knowing that we will be there every time. Finally, ask the client who they will call with an issue: We have a 24/7/365 number that always has an attendant ready to field their call. .
Hoss Oskouie, Vice President
Atlantic Limousine & Transportation in Atlanta, Ga.
I have learned to walk a very fine line when discussing TNCs with clients, friends, and family. I have no problem preaching the truth to strangers and do so on a regular basis, and I have a list of links I store in my arsenal to share and educate the public. Advocates for Fairness in Transportation has done a superb job in keeping up on the latest news and catastrophes of TNCs. I highly recommend subscribing to the weekly news alert.
On the downside, I have friends and family who believe I complain about TNCs because they are my competition; they simply do not want to hear about the risks associated with hitchhiking. They don’t want to believe a company can be this unsafe because they are allowed to operate within their city and/or airport. What company do you know that has been charged with more than 102 sexual assaults, hundreds more attempting to get into the court system, has deaths of passengers and drivers alike, and doesn’t follow the law except in New York City?
Regarding clients, I simply defend the cost of safety and ask if convenience really is worth the savings of a few dollars. Our cost can easily be defined by the steps we take in providing duty of care with each and every reservation.
Tracy Raimer, Executive Vice President
Windy City Limousine & Bus in Broadview, Ill.
From drivers running over pedestrians to having and using drugs in the car, the TNC background check has proven time and again just how ineffective their hiring process is for public safety. When talking to friends and family or even strangers, I start with the safety issue. The drivers are not effectively background checked, drug tested, trained, or even given operating instructions. I also let people know that the cars are not properly inspected or maintained on a regular basis, which can be a serious problem if you are on a time crunch and something goes wrong.
Matt Shafik, Founder
Genesis Corporate Transportation in Houston, Texas
We tell our clients that the TNCs are lacking in safety and regulation. This should be a concern to corporations that allow TNCs as part of their travel platforms, and I’m willing to bet that many in-house legal and risk-management departments are unaware of the exposure and liability issues when executives teams, VIPs, and board members use them.
Additionally, with more states allowing usage of marijuana, it should raise a red flag to anyone using the TNCs. While TNCs have zero tolerance policy on alcohol and drug usage (if the driver is reported by passenger), they do not necessarily have pre-employment and random testing for their drivers. Does the cost differential outweigh the liability exposure when it comes to using TNCs compared to vetted transportation companies? When given an option, would you choose hip new service or proven best in class?
Mark Stewart, Vice President, Corporate Sales-Global
CLI Worldwide Transportation in Irvine, Calif.
TNCs have become a way of life for so many, and our industry has to learn to work alongside the new kids in town. In Florida, the playing field is not equal since TNCs are regulated by the state, bypassing the city and county regulations and fees that chauffeured transportation operators must adhere to. We have to educate our clients on the difference in service as money should not be the major determining factor when choosing a ride They should consider safety, reliability, properly permitted and inspected vehicles, trained and annually checked chauffeurs, and clean newer vehicles. If our customers read the news, they should be well educated on what is happening in so many locations: A TNC driver, in many cases, is just danger waiting to happen.
Barbara White, CFO & Co-owner
VIP Transportation Group in Orlando, Fla.
While we’re careful not to sound like sour grapes, we wage a continuous campaign promoting our safety over TNCs as well as our more productively comfortable, prestige-badged luxury vehicles.
When a client mentions using a TNC, I casually tell them that their third-party background checks are 43 times more likely to miss criminality than ours, and advise them to use as much caution as if hitchhiking or using Craigslist—never let them know where you live. Plus, in some cases, we can be up to $100 cheaper than UberBlack during peak travel times, and you can track your driver with our app, too. This is generally enough information to stick with them and may pique their interest to learn more.
If they are still listening, or if I’m writing a sales letter, we drill more into the differences in safety, comfort, professionalism, and reliability. In emails, we link to blog posts that cover the safety component and sometimes we point to Uber’s own disclaimer that, due to its inherent danger, use of their service by minors is prohibited.
Charles Wisniewski, President & CEO
Teddy’s Transportation System in Norwalk, Conn.
On our side, we are considered a chauffeured transportation company that hires professionals with an exemplary professional demeanor in everything they do. We specialize in customer service, and chauffeurs will go above and beyond to ensure passengers enjoy their travel experiences. We also use top-of-the-line late model luxury vehicles so clients can travel safely, comfortably, and in style.
Chauffeurs want what’s best for the individual client and follow the necessary steps to make travel quick and simple. They are accountable for their actions, and as a result, work hard to serve the clientele. Further, our chauffeurs are prepared to deliver extra effort to assist clients, whereas TNC drivers are more interested in getting as many fares as possible instead of escorting passengers safely between destinations. Chauffeurs are dedicated to client safety, and chauffeurs follow a “code of ethics” every day.
Cliff Wright, President & CEO
Royal Transportation Group in Orlando, Fla.
We’ve loved hearing your answers to our benchmarking questions since debuting this interactive section—but we always welcome suggestions for future topics, too!
Have you wondered how others in the industry have tackled a concern you’re currently facing, handled a delicate issue, implemented a certain policy, or do you simply want to propose a topic for our consideration?
Send an email to email@example.com and you just might see your query answered in a future issue. We look forward to your input!