New Limousine laws come into effect from 1st October 2009. This clears up the grey area in which many limousines were used.
All operators of stretch limousines must be licensed, afterall you wouldn't use an unlicensed taxi!
There are 2 options:
1) Up to 8 seats the car AND driver must be licensed by the local council.
This means the vehicle is licensed like a taxi and is inspected by the council. Drivers are also licensed by the council and have to undergo a strict police check.
2) If you are traveling more than 15 miles (measured in a srtaight line) the vehicle may be licenced by VOSA. (new name for Ministry for Transport) There is no requirement for the driver to to have anything more than a standard driving licence.
Over 8 passenger seats, the regulations are very strict. The vehicle can only be licensed by VOSA. It would be licensed in the same way as a bus or coach. An Operators Licence (O Licence) is required and the vehicle is continually checked, drivers working times are controled by tachograph and to obtain a licence the vehicle must have COIF approval.
Gaining an Operators Licence for carrying over 8 passengers is no easy task. Stretch limousines were not designed to meet the UK regulations so they have to be modified. This is a very expensive process and so far only 2 types of limousines have received a COIF certificate.
Ford Excusrion, some of the smaller Excursion Limos have received a COIF certificate. Production of these vehicles ceased a few years ago so ther are not that many around. They usually carry about 12 passengers.
Hummer Limos, the latest and only other limo to receive a COIF certificate. These require extensive modification, They can usually carry 12 to 16 passengers. The newer ones will be able to carry 18 passengers. To date there are only a handfull of modified Hummer Limos.
The new laws allow VOSA to confiscate illegaly used vehicles. Now that the law is clear there will be a big change in the limousine industry.
If you are booking a limousine it would be best to ensure the correct licenses are in place.