The National Limousine Association (NLA) is strongly recommending that its members buy only properly altered vehicles, in light of the tragic limousine crash on October 6, 2018, near Schoharie, NY. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the crash was Prestige Limousine and Chauffeur Service’s egregious disregard for safety, in dispatching a stretch limousine with an out-of-service order for a passenger charter trip, resulting in the failure of its brake system while descending the steep grade of NY-30.

According to the NLA: “The proper maintenance of any vehicle is vital to safe transportation. But another key factor is the construction of the vehicle. The crash limousine was originally a 2001 Ford Excursion SUV that was converted into a limousine by cutting it into two pieces and inserting an additional 144 inches of frame rail. The additional length allowed the seating capacity to be increased from 8 to 18 occupants, including the driver. The limousine’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) increased from 8,600 pounds to 13,080 pounds. Changes to a vehicle’s structure and weight can affect whether it complies with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs) and can even change the vehicle’s classification. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires all manufacturers and companies that alter vehicles to be registered with the agency. The company 21st Century Coachworks, which performed the alterations on the Schoharie crash limousine, was not registered as required by NHTSA.”

NHTSA requires companies that make changes to vehicles to assume legal responsibility for the FMVSSs certification of their altered vehicle. NHTSA further requires vehicle alterers to display on each vehicle a label certifying that it complies with FMVSSs requirements; the certification label must show the vehicle’s completion date, its GVWR, and its gross axle weight rating.

“As a responsible limo charter company, you can ensure that your vehicles are safe by only purchasing vehicles that comply with the FMVSSs,” the NLA added. “Vehicles in their factory state are confirmed to be in compliance. However, vehicles that were altered may require additional FMVSSs testing and analysis to ensure that they will provide a minimum level of safety for your employees and customers. The presence of the certification label is the primary way for you and your customers to know that an altered vehicle is FMVSS-compliant. When examining the Schoharie limousine, NTSB investigators found that it was altered beyond the vehicle-build specifications issued by Ford Motor Company, which limited the wheelbase stretch to 120 inches, the occupant capacity to 10, and the maximum GVWR to 9,900 pounds.”

The NTSB recommends that limousine companies ensure a minimum level of safety for the altered vehicles they purchase by (1) only purchasing vehicles that pass a structural and mechanical safety inspection, (2) obtaining from the alterer an engineer’s certification that the altered vehicle meets all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards affected by the alteration, and (3) ensuring that a secondary certification label is affixed to the limousine before purchase.

Source: National Limousine Association

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