Limousines and operator licensing
Although different in appearance to traditional vehicles due to the body style, stretched limousines are still classed as cars, minibuses, coaches or buses.
All stretched limousine style vehicles need to be operated under a licensing system as it is a criminal offence to operate a vehicle for hire (i.e. to convey paying passengers in the course of a business, for payment or otherwise) without a licence.
The vast majority of stretched limousines used in Great Britain are imported from the USA. Legislation governing the construction and use of vehicles is significantly different in the USA and therefore these vehicles will need modifications (significant modifications in the case of larger vehicles) in order to be compliant with British requirements and suitable for hire.
Size and seating capacity
Stretched limousines can be split into three separate groups based on the seating capacity.
The vehicle type is set out in the European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA) framework directive and classes the vehicles as follows:
M1 vehicles designed and constructed for carriage of passengers and comprising no more than eight seats in addition to the driver’s seat;
M2 vehicles designed and constructed for the carriage of passengers, comprising more than eight seats in addition to the driver’s seat, and having a maximum mass not exceeding 5 tonnes (essentially minibuses); and
M3 vehicles designed and constructed for the carriage of passengers, comprising more than eight seats in addition to the driver’s seat, and having a maximum mass exceeding 5 tonnes (large coaches and buses).
The main purpose of type approval is to ensure that all vehicles have been designed and constructed to modern safety and environmental standards before they can be used on public roads.
The classifications of the vehicle type will dictate the type approval and registration requirements that the vehicle will have to meet and also the licensing system that the vehicle must be operated under.