by Michael J. Shapiro | July 28, 2015
While rental cars and taxis are the most common forms of ground transportation used on business trips (36 percent and 24 percent, respectively), ride-sharing companies now represent 11 percent of that market, just behind chauffeured transportation (13 percent), according to a new survey by the Global Business Travel Association Foundation. The 2015 Ground Transportation Study was released Tuesday morning at the GBTA Convention, in a panel discussion called "Ground Transportation in a Sharing Economy." The research was culled from the responses of 810 business travelers and 211 travel managers.

Findings suggest, however, that corporate policy is still catching up with the sharing-economy trend. While 24 percent of respondents said their policy forbids the use of ride-sharing services and 5 percent said it was a preferred form of transportation, the vast majority (71 percent) noted that they are processing and paying ride-sharing expenses but do not have a specific policy in place to address the use of such services.

Such findings "reveal a need for education about the benefits and the risks," noted GBTA executive director and COO Michael McCormick. "GBTA hopes this study is the start to closing that knowledge gap, and we welcome an open and constructive dialogue on this topic."

Participating in the panel discussion were Scott Solombrino, president and CEO of Dav El/Boston Coach Chauffeured Transportation Network, and David Seelinger, chairman and CEO of EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services, whose companies sponsored the study; as well as John Rose, chief operating officer of iJET International. According to Solombrino, executives of the ride-sharing companies declined to participate on the panel.

While iJET's Rose noted that the new companies represent an opportunity for travel managers to gain access to specific, real-time data about their travelers whereabouts and expenses, both Sellinger and Solombrino raised questions about duty of care and regulatory inconsistencies.

"When you come into a market and completely disregard any local ordinances or state laws," said Sellinger, "that causes all of this controversy we're hearing about. There's no balance between chauffeured car services and transportation network [ride-sharing] companies. We're just looking for a level playing field."

Solombrino added, "No one is denying that they built a better mousetrap. What we want to do is to be able to compete with it by building our own technology for the future." He asserted that in order to follow regulations and ordinances that do not apply to ride-sharing companies, and the fact that ride-sharing companies treat their drivers as independent contractors, it costs chauffeured transportation companies 40 percent more to operate.

The panelists agreed that corporate travel managers should put specific policies in place with respect to the new companies. "You can't ignore the fact that 100 percent of you out there have employees who are using these services," said iJET's Rose, "even if you've attempted to ban them. You need to put policy around it; what we want to have is protected people. That's what it's all about."