PUC Patrolling Hāna to Regulate Illegal Tour Operators
The Hawai’i Public Utilities Commission today issued a reminder to the public that its enforcement officers continue to be on the road at unannounced times statewide to ensure that motor carriers are in compliance with state laws and rules. High-traffic tourist attraction areas such as Kailua, Oʻahu and Hāna, Maui are among the patrolled areas specified by the PUC.
Napua Hueu, Administrative Board Member with the Hāna Highway Regulation organization reported multiple individuals and /or “companies” charging for chauffeured Road to Hāna tours, catering visitors by way of personal vehicles, with no PUC motor carrier for hire certificate, and “likely a lack of adequate insurance coverage.”
In a letter to Maui Now in December, Hueu explained saying, “Illegal ground tour operators contribute to a flood of the Road to Hāna activity marketplace by undercutting legal commercial operators, soliciting and satisfying tours for often half the market cost in light of their absence of obligation from the various costs of legal business service trade and other State of Hawaiʻi, industry specific compliance.”
Hueu continued saying, “illegal tour operators advertise and facilitate ground tours, un-rightfully contributing to the existing chaos of the Road to Hāna as it is pressured to hold capacity of more visitors and traffic than it can realistically accommodate. The Hāna Highway is faced with severely compromised land caving issues in six areas, resident frustration with traffic and overcrowding, lack of infrastructure facilities including restrooms and parking.”
Hāna Highway Regulation, a non-profit in formation status, was organized to play an intermediary role between residents, visitors, businesses, community organizations and the government. The organization of 47 registered members spent its first initial meetings gathering community insight and drafting a code of conduct for companies with commercial interests of the Road to Hāna to encourage better operating standards.
The organization has submitted multiple complaints and declarations with the PUC on behalf of a few of its members who are owners of legal tour operations, some in business for over 20 years on Maui.
Hueu said long term goals are to implement a Hāna Highway activity reporting method for commercial operators, to help the organization better calculate the impact of and hold entities accountable for sufficient community give-back.
Hueu, who is a share-holder and general manager of Platinum Tours, a company that conducts in primary, Road to Hāna tours said the effects of illegal commercial operators on the Road to Hāna have affected her home community, residential quality of life and professional career.
The PUC regulates motor carriers, which are companies that transport persons or property for compensation or hire on public highways of the State of Hawaiʻi; this includes tour operators, but excludes taxis.
Under state law, all motor carriers must:
- Have an active Certificate or Permit issued by the PUC;
- Prominently display, on both sides their vehicles, their name, logo, or company initials and PUC number;
- Carry adequate commercial insurance coverage as required by law; and
- Charge rates approved by the PUC.
Failure to abide by all applicable state laws and rules may result in civil penalties of up to $1,000 for each offense and, in the case of a continuing violation, up to $500 for each additional day during which the failure or refusal continues.
The PUC reminds the public that illegal motor carriers may not carry adequate commercial insurance. Additionally, the fares illegal motor carriers charge customers are not reviewed and approved by the PUC to be just and reasonable. For these reasons, the PUC encourages the public to stay safe by only doing business with PUC certified motor carriers.
For more information on how to apply for a PUC motor carrier certificate or permit, please visit the PUC’s website at http://puc.hawaii.gov/filing/motor-carriers/application-for-motor-carrier-certificates-or-permits-for-transportation-passengers/.
Anyone witnessing possible illegal motor carrier operations may file a Declaration with the Commission at http://puc.hawaii.gov/filing/complaint/declaration-witness-motorcarrier/.
Questions regarding motor carrier activity and certification may be directed to PUC’s Compliance and Enforcement Section by phone at 808-586-2020 or by email at [email protected]