By Pat Maurer
Michigan Department of Transportation Spokesperson Janet Foran reported Wednesday that the Taylor’s, owners of the Harrison Drunk bus, have been contacted in an effort to resolve any issues with the service.
Their service, officially the “Phone a Friend Bar Shuttle,” is unofficially called the “Harrison Drunk Bus.” The service has been in operation in Harrison since New Year’s Eve of 2005. Laura and Jim Taylor offer rides so people won’t “drink and drive,” Laura said in an earlier interview.
The service came to an abrupt halt August 24, when a Michigan State Police trooper and a Motor Carrier Enforcement officer from the Michigan Department of Transportation came to their home to tell them that the service was illegal and they would have to stop accepting any money even to cover expenses like gas and maintenance.
Laura confirmed Wednesday that they recently talked to a “very nice gentleman” from MDOT about what had happened. “He said to us, ‘Let’s get this resolved as soon as possible. You have a lot of support in Harrison.’”
Foran said, “I think there is a misconception out there. There is some confusion about friends offering to drive friends that have had too much to drink home. A friend helping a friend is perfectly legal and not a business. And It is perfectly all right to offer that friend gas money. That is an informal arrangement between friends and we encourage that.”
“It is different if it is an established business with website, or a face book page — If you are offering yourself as a business or a service for a fee.”
“We contacted the Taylors to discuss options to solve their problem and answer any questions they might have about how to become licensed limousine carriers,” Foran said. She said there are about 750 licensed limo companies in Michigan operating more than 3,000 limos.
Foran said MDOT had outlined the benefits of becoming a licensed limousine service. “Our purpose is to keep passengers safe and set a standard for those who provide limo services,” Foran said. “We understand that there is a great deal of support for this service in the Harrison community.”
“If this is a service the community wants and there are ways to keep it in operation, that would be wonderful. If she needs help, we are here to help her. And we do have two specialists that are available weekdays during business hours at MDOT. We do this for about 750 companies in the State of Michigan.”
To be certified through MDOT, Foran explained, the Taylors would need a “certificate of authority,” which costs a one-time fee of $300 (not $2,000 as the Taylors said they were told); and a registration of $50 for each limo (15 or fewer passengers is a limo, 16 or more passengers including driver is considered a bus) This is a State Law, the “Limo Law or Public Act 27 of 1990”. Limousine operators are also required to carry sufficient liability insurance. For nine passengers or fewer a $1 million liability policy is required. For nine to 15 passengers, it would be a $2 million liability policy requirement. She added that the vehicles would also have to undergo annual safety inspections for each vehicle at a licensed repair facility. (for passengers’ safety as well as protection for the service.)
There are certain exempted services,” Foran said. “They wouldn’t need to be a licensed limo carrier if they were offering services as a non-profit organization. Another option would be working under the umbrella of an existing transit agency like the Clare County Transit Authority,
“There is a lot of work that would go into making either of those options work, “ she said.
More information is available on the MDOT website at www.michigan.gov/mdot . On that page go to “rail and public transit,” then “bus and limo licensing.”
Laura said they have decided to become a total non-profit organization. “We are meeting with the Lions and will go from there,” she said. She continued that the Drunk Bus would be completely different from and daytime “Harrison Shuttle,” which would cover a larger area and benefit many more people.
Taylor said the lowest policy they had found for liability would cost $2,500 annually. “We can’t afford that,” she said. We would have to charge too much for rides. This way, if we go non-profit, everyone will be able to benefit from it.”