News 3 Investigates: Limo companies facing fewer regulations after fatal crash

News 3 Investigates: Limo companies facing fewer regulations after fatal crash

At this point, Teresa Burchard is a pro.

As an inspector for the Wisconsin State Patrol, she checks limousines to make sure they are safe enough to drive around, looking at lights, brakes and emergency exits, among other safety checks.

“I’ve seen drivers that were not qualified being contacted and actually placed out of service,” Burchard said.

She does these inspections on limousines and buses across the state. The state patrol routinely runs checks at Badger, Packer and Brewer games. In 2016, a News 3 investigation showed half of all limos or buses checked at a game at Lambeau Field failed the inspection.

News 3 has been following the regulations on limos since a deadly limo crash in Illinois that killed Terri Schmidt of Monona and injured her friends. Since then News 3 has learned the state has only loosened requirements for the insurance limo companies are mandated to carry.

In 2016, buses carrying more than 16 passengers were required to have $5 million in insurance, and vehicles that carried fewer than 16 passengers had to have $1.5 million. State lawmakers unanimously passed a law in late 2017 that lowered that requirement to $1 million for vehicles that can carry more than 16 and $500,000 for vehicles that carry fewer than 16 passengers.

Most other regulations haven’t changed: Only drivers for large limos or buses need a CDL, companies need authority to drive in the state or across state lines, and only vehicles carrying more than 16 people are required to be inspected.

Rob Tatro, the president of Presidential Limousine Service, takes his cars a step further. He requires inspections on all his limousines and buses before they go out every single time.

“(The customer is) in one of your vehicles,” Tatro said. “They want to be safe out there.”

He said companies need to be able to tell you when a vehicle was last inspected and whether the business has proper authorities and insurance. He also said the DOT number and name of the company should be printed somewhere on the vehicle.

But ultimately, your safety may be dependent on a reputable company and your own homework.

Burchard said before you book, call the state patrol’s Motor Carrier Enforcement Information line at 608-267-9762. There the patrol can research the company and tell you whether or not they have followed regulations.

Burchard also said be wary of companies charging significantly less than competitors, because the cost savings could be coming from skirted regulations.