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ABC57 Investigates: Are local limo companies following state and federal laws?

SOUTH BEND, Ind -- The investigation following the deadly New York limo crash has shed a brighter light on the state and federal laws limo companies must comply with to carry passengers. ABC57 has been looking into our local limo companies and in doing so sparked an state investigation into at least two of them.

In Indiana, one of the first things a company needs is its certificate of operating authority, which is issued by the Department of Revenue. The Indiana State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement

"Anybody that transports anything for hire -- meaning a third party has paid them to pick up persons or property from point A and deliver it to point B that is for hire commerce," said Lt. Chris Barr, a Field Officer with the CVE.  "Anyone that does any type of transportation for that needs operating authority and associated MC number -- a motor carrier number."

I did an online search for limo companies near South Bend. Half of the top twelve did not have their  operating authority, according to the Indiana Department of Revenue.

"Operating without operating authority is an out of service condition and they can be stopped and not allowed to continue and written a citation," said Lt. Barr.

In Michigan, anyone carrying nine or more passengers must obtain a certificate of authority with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

Of the nine companies we found in a search of southwest Michigan limo companies -- three did not have a certificate authority.

To view companies in Michigan authorized to carry 9 or more passengers, click here.

According to MDOT, one of them -- Fantasy Carriage -- was revoked last month for failing a safety inspection on its hummer limo seen advertised on the company’s website.

"If I were a consumer I would do my homework and I would only book with reputable motor carriers," said Lt. Barr.

There are online resources that will help you do that homework.

"Any person has access to this website that's called SAFER," said Lt. Barr.  "SAFER is an acronym for Safety and Fitness Electronic Records System."

A properly registered company will have a company snapshot, crash and inspection history, if they’ve ever been taken out of service and if they have filed the proper liability insurance. Companies carrying 9 to 15 passengers must have 1.5 million dollars in liability insurance and 5 million dollars for 16 or more passengers.

"If I were contacting a limousine service I would ask them for their USDOT number and then I would search and if I couldn't find them I would move on," said Lt. Barr.

That USDOT number is required of limo companies and can unlock a lot of information about the company's history on the SAFER website.

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