Limo owners, state take precautions

As printed in The Norwalk Hour, CT Post by By Michael P. Mayko

Santo Silvestro says he doesn’t believe in leaving anything to chance.

Every day, Silvestro said, he or his fleet manager inspect the vehicles that have gone out from his Hoyt Livery or Crosstown Limousine, both in New Canaan.

“I’m here seven days a week,” Silvestro said last week. “I’m out looking for dents, checking the tire pressure. … If I see a something wrong, even it it’s a tail light out, that car does not go out until it’s repaired.”

The Silvestro family, which has owned Hoyt Livery, also known as Hoyt Limousine, since 1987, maintain their own body and repair shops — New Canaan Auto Body and New Canaan Auto Repair, on the same Cross Street site.

Photos by Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

The deadly crash of a re-manufactured Ford Excursion — a so-called “super stretch” limo — in upstate New York that killed 20 on Oct. 6 has sounded warning bells in the heads of brides and grooms scheduling parties and receptions, parents preparing for proms and others, including state. Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, who sits on the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee.

“They have to pass (inspection) before they can do business.”
Kevin Nursick, Department of Transportation spokesman

“That crash has left questions about the vehicle and the driver,” Boucher said. “We need to determine if our laws are well-written as to the qualifications of drivers and the inspection of these vehicles.”

In Connecticut, limousine services using vehicles carrying fewer than eight passengers are only required to be inspected once by the Department of Transportation, and that’s when the company is applying for a license. “If they don’t pass inspection, they are not licensed,” said Kevin Nursick, a DOT spokesman. “They have to pass before they can do business.”

He said the majority of vehicles inspected are “sedans and SUVs, not stretch limousines.” And he added vehicles operating under services like Uber and Lyft are not inspected at all.

That’s another problem Boucher said the Transportation Committee needs to look at.

Stretched out

Vehicles carrying eight or more passengers in the state must be inspected every six months by Connecticut’s Department of Motor Vehicles. “Stretch Limousines operating in Connecticut can only do so if they are specifically certified by the factory manufacturer to be altered in such a way, and only if the modifications are or were performed by a factory-approved establishment,” Nursick explained. “These vehicles would also be inspected by CTDOT prior to service. Vehicles not meeting this criteria are immediately rejected, and cannot be registered for livery use in Connecticut.”

But DOT’s requirements only extend to vehicles garaged in Connecticut and transporting passengers within the state. Additional requirements for commercial motor vehicles traveling into and out of Connecticut fall under the regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The Silvestros said they never operated with any super stretch limos. They sold their two conventional stretch limousines two years ago because there wasn’t much call for them.

“A reputable company really needs to be careful,” Silvestro said. “Any time you take a car, chop it in half and add a piece — how safe can it be?

Federal and state investigators in New York are attempting to determine the cause of the catastrophic upstate crash. Published reports claim the 2001 Ford Excursion, modified into a stretch limousine, ran a stop sign, struck a parked sport utility vehicle and rolled down an embankment. The 17 passengers and driver were killed, along with two pedestrians.

Safety measures

Nationally, there were 28 fatal crashes — and 39 total deaths — involving large limousines from 2008 through 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That compares with nearly 318,000 fatal crashes and nearly 347,000 total fatalities in crashes involving all types of vehicles during that period. Of the 39 fatalities, 24 were occupants of large limousines, while 15 of those killed were pedestrians or in other involved vehicles.

The administration, through its Fatality Analysis Reporting System, defines large limousines as as automobiles with more than four side doors or a stretched chassis with sections added within its wheelbase to increase length and passenger/cargo carrying capacity.

The term does not refer to regular-sized automobiles that might be chauffeuring passengers like a town car. It also does not refer to utility-truck-based limousines, such as the Cadillac Escalade, Hummer, or Suburban limousines.Silvestro said each of his cars is equipped with a hammer to break glass and seat belt cutters. His vehicles also have fire extinguishers and flares. Newer vans have push-out glass on the sides and the roof, Silvestro said. “Our drivers have been trained in safety procedures,” he said.

“I personally hire them. They have been with us anywhere from five to 23 years. He said his insurance company requires periodic safety inspections of his vehicles, more than the state requires. “If I’m told by a driver that something doesn’t sound right in a vehicle, its coming off the road,” said Linda Silvestro, of their family owned businesses. “We’re in the business of transporting people — that’s precious cargo; I want to be able to put my head on the pillow every night and go to sleep knowing we did the right thing.”

“Any time you take a car, chop it in half and add a piece — how safe can it be?”
Santo Silvestro, owner, Hoyt Livery, New Canaan

Three Decades of Driving: Hoyt Celebrates 30 Years!

This October, Hoyt Livery celebrates 30 years in business serving Fairfield and Westchester Counties and surrounding areas with their ground transportation excellence. Owners Santo and Lynda Silvestro of New Canaan, CT purchased Hoyt Livery in 1987, and through three decades of hard work and dedication, have expanded the company to over 60 vehicles with more than 40 drivers. A key factor in Hoyt’s success has been a continual commitment to learning about changes in the industry and improving on their already superior customer service. Hoyt was recently named Best of the Gold Coast Winner for Best Limousine Service 2017—proof that their attention to detail has been recognized by their clients.

The Hoyt Experience

Hoyt’s mission from day one has been “The Hoyt Experience.” To make sure each client is transported with the utmost satisfaction from the moment they make their initial reservation until the moment they reach their final destination. This is accomplished with Hoyt’s friendly, helpful reservationists and professionally-dressed, knowledgeable chauffeurs.

“Our success is largely thanks to our stellar staff and loyal clients,” says Lynda Silvestro. “We have the best of both, and we couldn’t have lasted this long without them. “We know that there are other transportation options out there, but time and time again we see the same clients calling back. We truly appreciate that,” adds Santo.

Rewards Programs

Another reason for client loyalty is Hoyt’s Referral Rewards Program. When a client’s friend or colleague hires Hoyt, the company will send the person who referred them a $25 American Express gift card.

And for frequent travelers, Hoyt offers the Marquis Rewards Program. When a client completes 10 rides, they receive a free airport transfer.

Hoyt Livery Travel App

“We realize that customer preferences and expectations change and evolve, so it’s on us to keep up with the times,” says Lynda. To meet the demands of digitally savvy clients, in 2013, Hoyt launched their mobile app, which allows clients to schedule a new trip, check their reservation and keep a record of their frequent destinations to make booking easier for future trips, all from their iPhone, iPad or Android phone.

“Most of our clients are very busy business travelers—they’re not behind their desks, they’re on the go,” said Lynda. “We felt they needed this app to be able to book and manage their trips from the palms of their hands.”

Download the app here.

Drivers are Employees

Another major differentiator: Hoyt’s drivers are employees — licensed, insured, and trained in Hoyt’s standard of excellence. Many other limousine companies, on the other hand, are merely transportation “brokers.” Upon taking reservations, they hire freelance drivers without any regard for their experience, insurance status, or vehicle condition; a reminder for the buyer—or in this case, rider—to beware.

Always Adding to Fleet

Hoyt has consistently added new vehicles to their fleet over the years. The lineup now includes more than 60 Lincoln Town Cars and stretch limousines, Chevrolet Suburbans, Ford E350 Vans, and more—all impeccably maintained and cared for. “When that car pulls up to a client, that’s their first impression of us as a company, so we want it to be a positive one,” says Santo.

With an open mind and an open ear, Santo and Lynda continue to talk with customers about every aspect of the business, and encourage feedback and welcome emails. Cheers to 30 more years of excellent transportation service!

To make a reservation with Hoyt, visit us online or call (203) 966-5466.