Monday, April 06, 2020

MCTAMCTA President Gus Ortiz The Minnesota Chauffeured Transportation Association (MCTA) held a conference call on Tuesday, March 17, to share best practices to manage business during the coronavirus pandemic. Moderated by MCTA President Gus Ortis of Executive Transportation, the call included a number of guest speakers, including Jeff Cummins, supervisor of Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) state programs, and National Limousine Association (NLA) Associate Executive Director Sarah Mercer. Also on the call was Karen Lotts, the secretary of neighboring Wisconsin Limousine Association (WLA), and a dozen members and vendors.

Ortis began the meeting by relating his personal situation at Executive Transportation, including limiting costs “across the board” by taking cars off the road and scaling back his employees, with the intention of bringing them back in the future. He related a recent call with the heads of a number of federal organizations, such as United States Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Centers for Disease Control, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration, and others. The groups shared their recommendations for cleaning and sanitizing offices, vehicles, and homes, namely using a product that is at least 60 percent alcohol and wiping daily as the virus can live on hard surfaces for several days.

Ortis then gave the floor to Cummins, who updated those on the call on state inspections and renewals. Currently, MnDOT is continuing inspections as usual until officials close down the offices. Once MnDOT is closed, they will make options available for any cars that require renewal; he reassured operators that plans are in place to keep cars on the road during any shut-down.

Mercer was then invited to share what’s happening with the NLA. She communicated that the NLA has resources and information constantly being updated and added on limo.org. All are free for download to members and non-members alike. At the time of the call, the NLA was working to form a coalition with other related associations to lobby Congress as a collective unit. The first stages of that unity can be read here: (link to industry association unity article in this enews). The NLA’s lobbyist, Cornerstone Government Affairs, is also “working around the clock” to be included in any relief packages. Mercer also advised the operators on the line that the video EmpireCLS produced on cleaning practices is available free for download and distribution.

MCTA members then had an opportunity to further discuss best practices and tips based on their experiences. MCTA Vice President Bernie Fautch of Eclipse Global Transportation related that the Global Business Travel Association is echoing the same, and based on what he’s heard from experts, operators should plan on this lull lasting at least eight weeks.

A large chunk of the call was devoted to insurance matters. Jay McCloskey of Transportation Insurance Professionals said that, at the time of the call, he has been in communication with all the major industry insurance companies, and three had plans in place to help operators. He was actively proposing that companies allow ground transportation operators to surrender plates to the agent to “mothball” cars that are not on the road. Traditionally, to remove vehicles from an insurance plan, providers require a vehicle bill of sale or cancelled lease.

Leslie Rosedahl of Rosedahl Public Affairs then provided a political update. With state legislature moved to an “on-call basis,” essentially a de facto recess, pressure is solely on the Governor Tim Walz to pass any action. In the past few days, Walz closed bars, restaurants, and public meeting spaces, and has suspended the employer charge for unemployment.

Before the call was concluded, the members were advised to look at restructuring their debt, as banks are still extending credit and lending requirements are loose.

The MCTA plan more conference calls to share news and updates regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

UPDATE (3.21): The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced the opening of Small Business Administration loans under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. This program can provide low-interest loans of up to $2 million to small businesses and private nonprofits, and can go toward working capital to meet needs including payroll, accounts payable, and fixed debt payments that can’t be paid due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The current interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses, with repayment options up to 30 years. To apply visit disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.

Visit mnlimo.org for more information.

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