One over the EIGHT.....
There is a great deal of controversy over the issue of how many passengers can
be carried in a stretched limousine, but it is surprisingly simple.
If the Operators' limousines are licensed by the local authority for private
hire, the maximum number of passengers that can be legally carried is eight. No
If they are not licensed with the local authority, then this may not matter to
them, but it should matter to you. Of course, local authority licensing is not
the only option open to legitimate operators, they could also apply for a small
bus operators license which is issued by VoSA. However, in spite of what some
may claim, they must still adhere to the rules. These state quite clearly that
any vehicle that carries more than 8 passengers must have a Certificate of
Initial Fitness (CoIF) and because of the costs involved, there are currently
less than 20 vehicles in the UK that meet this requirement. If they have got a
CoIF, you can guarantee that they will be shouting this from the tree tops, so
it will be all over their website and they will not object to providing you with
In recent months, some more enterprising operators have found another 'legal'
way to allow up to 14 passengers to be carried in a stretched limousine, without
the need for a CoIF or, for that matter an operators' or private hire license.
They simply hire the vehicle to you on a self-drive hire basis, on the
understanding that you either have an "appropriate" license or experience, or
(most likely to be the case), you use a chauffeur from a 'pool'. From what we
can see this may well be legal, certainly none of the authorities seem to be
taking any action, but what does it mean for the hirer?
Well, of course, all of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the hirer.
For example, if you were to share the costs of the hire, then you would be
acting for 'reward', which means you need to be licensed for 'hire and
reward', in other words a licensed private hire operator. If there was an
accident, then you need to consider who would be responsible for any claims and
for paying the excess, would it be you, the chauffeur or the company hiring the
limousine on a self-drive basis? If you were to accept payment from a friend,
would the limousine be insured, after all, most self-drive policies state that
the vehicle cannot be used for hire and reward, and if the insurance company
were to extend the insurance to cover hire and reward, would they then be
complicit? The bottom line is this remains a complex area, it has not been
tested, it may well be legal legal in terms of the current legislation, but in
our opinion it is fraught with risk, and from what we can see, most of this will
fall on the shoulders of the hirer.
There are many self-professed "experts" from the industry that frown upon any
organisation that seeks to detract from their view that this is a perfectly
legitimate and legal way to operate. Our view, to which we are entitled, is that
even if it does prove to be legal (and this can only be proven through the
courts, otherwise it is just 'counsels opinion'), is it is at best morally wrong
to operate in this manner given this was never the intention of the original
Aside from any of the legal implications, hirers would be well advised to
consider the fact that the reason vehicles used for hire and reward are required
to have a CoIF is for your safety, otherwise, why bother? This method of
circumventing the rules to achieve the same end (to carry more than 8 passengers
without having a vehicle with the appropriate certification and or license) may
prove legal, but it makes the requirement for a CoIF for other passengers
carrying vehicles a complete farce.
The industry is placing pressure on the Government and their agencies to amend
legislation to allow the carrying of more than 8 passengers and we fully support
this move. However, we will not use what we consider to by a 'loophole' to
circumvent regulations and laws which were intended to offer some form of
protection for fare paying passengers.