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New limousine, party bus regulations to make operators ‘more accountable’: ministry

WATCH: After years of pressure sparked by a number of emergencies, B.C. is cracking down on party buses. Asa Rehman reports.

The ministry of transportation has issued a new set of regulations for limousine and party bus operators in B.C.

Under the new guidelines, all limousine operators with perimeter seating vehicles such as stretch SUVs and limo-buses must have each vehicle in their fleet approved by the Passenger Transportation Board.

READ MORE: The provincial government began cracking down on party buses last year

That includes perimeter seating specialty vehicles that deliver party bus service.

Global BC Legislative Bureau Chief Keith Baldrey says the regulations are a welcome addition to what he calls a Wild West industry.

“There were really no rules out there, other than the ones in the Motor Vehicle Act,” says Baldrey. “One of the problems with party buses is there were no checks or balances with these things. These companies were free to operate as they saw fit.”

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WATCH: Keith Baldrey talks about new rules and regulations for the party bus and limousine industry

The government says the change makes for a level playing field for operators. Previously, limousine licensees could set rates, work anywhere in the province and add vehicles to their fleet at any time. Under a special authorization licence, rates, areas of operation and fleet size are regulated by the Board.

“There will be a much more extensive review process for all party bus operators prior to them receiving lincences,” says Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone. “The board can also initiate fitness reviews for operators at any time and they certainly intend to do so.”

Stone says that means an increased level of scrutiny for party bus operators who may be targeting underage patrons and may be allowing illegal activities in their vehicles such as consumption of alcohol.

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton says drinking alcohol on a party bus, limo, SUV or any other vehicle is still illegal and will be prosecuted by police.

The new rules mean the Passenger Transportation Registrar will have information on all vehicles operating under the authority of the licence and will know exactly where the vehicles are operating. Vehicles will have unique identifier plates so the local police will be able to easily identify the vehicles and determine whether they are operating within the terms of their licence.

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The operators have until May to get a special authorization licence.

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