Sonoma Sterling Limousines Prom Guide

Hiring Safe, Legal Transportation for Your School Event

Hiring a limo for prom night or a bus to transport students for a school function isn’t just about shopping for the best price. The most important considerations are the safety of the students and hiring a provider that won’t take advantage of you or show up late on prom night.

Unfortunately, not all transportation providers are legally compliant with California State Law. Because limousine services must meet many requirements (liability insurance, worker’s compensation insurance, vehicle inspection, timely payment of fees, etc.) by the state in order to be licensed, some are out of compliance and can be suspended or ordered to cease operations. But the public is usually not aware of these actions unless they check the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) web site list of transportation providers. For example, in December 2014 alone, 31 companies were ordered to stop operating in the state for failure to comply with regulations or for unsafe business practices.

If you are a parent or school official, you may be responsible for hiring student transportation. If so, it’s important for you to know the law—and also how to get the safe, professional, courteous service you deserve. This guide is designed to help you with both.

  1. Search for limo or shuttle providers online. Pay careful attention to online reviews on Google, Yelp or similar sites where you can see previous customers’ ratings and comments. Avoid those with poor customer satisfaction ratings.
  2. Verify that the company has an ACTIVE permit with the CPUC and is properly insured. You can do this online at or by calling the CPUC at 800-894-9444.
  3. Ask about the company’s alcohol and drug-testing policy, training procedures and standards when hiring drivers. If the company does not participate in the CPUC’s testing program, they are in violation of the law and should be avoided. In addition, drivers should be properly trained.
  4. Ask about the vehicle. You should know the number of passengers allowed in the vehicle you want to rent. If the vehicle holds more than 10 passengers including the driver, state law requires a driver to be School. Pupil. Activity. Bus. (SPAB) certified by the CHP and licensed by the DMV. The vehicle also has to be inspected and certified by the CHP. Even if you have less than 10 passengers in one of these vehicles, the rules still apply You should ask the driver for this documentation before the limo departs. If the carrier cannot provide proof of compliance, your children may be riding in an illegal and possibly unsafe vehicle.
  5. Ask about the driver’s background. Make sure you are comfortable with his/her qualifications and years of experience working with younger passengers.
  6. Ask about price. If a price sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Rarely is the cheapest limousine company the best value. When you are quoted a price, make sure you communicate about all planned stops. Be sure the price includes all taxes and fees, fuel charges, possible bridge toll, beverages and a driver gratuity.
  7. Get a written agreement. The company should furnish you with a contract spelling out all of the services you are receiving and the exact amount you will pay for the services rendered. Be sure it includes the type of vehicle requested, cost, deposit required, refund, tip policies, times for pick-up and drop-off, arrival and departure locations, and any additional equipment or services requested. If you receive anything less than what you were promised, you’ll have a leg to stand on when seeking a partial refund.
  8. Set your itinerary. Ideally, parents will determine the itinerary in coordination with the children. Instruct the transportation provider not to deviate from the itinerary without first calling a parent for approval. For example, if you do not want children in Sonoma County to make a side trip to Sea Ranch after the prom without your prior approval, be sure the transportation provider is clear on this.
  9. Ask to see images of the limousine/party bus you will be renting. Make sure it is clean and appears to be in good repair. You may be able to arrange to see the vehicle in person at the place of business; call ahead first.
  10. Ask about alcohol policy with passengers. No alcohol is allowed in limousines/party buses carrying passengers under 21 years of age. Any carrier who permits this is in violation of state law.
  11. 24 hours before pick-up. Confirm your pick-up with the carrier and make sure they have your complete itinerary. Late changes to the itinerary can sometimes take transportation providers by surprise. This includes all planned stops, including addresses. Keep in mind that adding stops may affect your contracted price and/or affect your contracted timeline.
  12. Check the TCP number when the vehicle arrives. Make sure the charter-carrier number matches the one you verified earlier with the CPUC. It should be clearly displayed on the outside of the vehicle.
  13. Talk to your students about alcohol use. Remember that alcohol is not allowed in limousines/party buses carrying passengers under 21 years of age. Reputable providers require students and one parent to sign a Minors and Alcohol contract. If the driver is transporting only minors and discovers alcohol in the vehicle, or a passenger under the influence, the driver is required to end the service and return the passengers to their original pick-up location. You may or may not be issued a refund for the service.

If you have questions on hiring prom transportation or other School Pupil Activity Bus regulations, you can call your local California Highway Patrol School Bus Officer.

Speaker Services: To schedule Dan Bessette to speak with your school or organization, call him at (707) 542-5444.