Hollywood Town Car & Limousine

What does TCP on a Limo Stand for?
How Do I get a TCP Number?

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Want to Get a TCP number in California?

TCP stands for Transportation Charter Permit. A ground transportation company may apply for a TCP Number at any time from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). A valid TCP Number is required for charter vehicles to operate in the same way insurance and registration is required for normal drivers.
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TCP Information

We have compiled a lot of information about the topic of TCP numbers and have broken it down to the following categories:

Once a TCP number is assigned, it enables vehicles to be chartered specifically for individuals or groups for business or pleasure. TCP numbers are issued by the California Public Utilities Commission to ground transportation companies that meet the criteria for up to date insurance requirements, current registration and driver safety.

After a vehicle is assigned a TCP Number, the company itself must comply with other considerations such as participating the DMV Employer Pull-Notice System. Carriers must also participate in the PUC’s drug and alcohol testing program. Additionally, any vehicle seating more than ten is subject to a CHP safety inspection.
And for those of you who really want to know what’s what here’s another fact: Did you know California law provides three types of certificates and three types of permits? Oh yes.
The Class A permit allows a ground transportation company to operate anywhere in the state. This enables round-trip sightseeing services from San Diego to San Francisco and anywhere else in between. This permit makes long distance trips & round trips possible.

The Class B certificate enables a car service to operate within a radius of 125 air miles of the carrier’s home terminal to any other point within the state of California.
The Class C certificate allows ground transportation services specific to commercial balloon operations, commercial river rafting or skiing.
And now on to the Permits!
The “P” permit restricts a car service to use only vehicles with under 15-passenger capacity.
The “S” permit is granted to companies for round-trip sightseeing services.
The “Z” permit is even more specialized. It provides services not offered to the general public such as transportation regarding business, governmental agencies and private schools. Under its umbrella is included the transportation of agricultural workers to and from farms.

How Much will my TCP number cost?

There are many costs associated with getting a TCP number. We will separate the costs into 2 categories.
1. Adjustable Costs – These costs vary greatly depending on the choices that you make. Our suggestions will always be to keep the costs low as you can always make upgrades later once you are generating revenue.

Estimated Costs -

Since everyone has different needs, vehicle costs and insurance costs, here are some estimated costs for you to consider:

  • Getting professional help with the process
    $500-$1,000.00
    Depending on your experience and how long you are willing to wait, the easiest way to protect your investment and ensure that there are no mistakes are made in the PUC filings which will slow the process down. Help is available to ensure the process is done right the first time. Click Here to fill out our form and one of our experts will get back you you soon.
  • Setting up my business - ESTIMATED
    300.00 Basic
    Depending on what type of business registration you decide upon, these cost can vary between about $300.00 for a DBA (doing business as) to several thousand dollars for an S-Corp or LLC
  • Commercial Insurance - ESTIMATED
    $500.00 monthly
    This is just an estimated price as your location, driving record and of course the vehicle that you choose will greatly affect the price.Talk to your commercial insuarnce agent to get an accuate quote
  • Acquiring a commercially registered vehicle - ESTIMATED
    $5,000*
    * If you want to save money in the beginning, we suggest getting a vehicle that you can use for your new limo business but not something outrageously expensive. You can always add that Escalade ESV, BMW 7-Series, Sprinter Limo or 40 passenger party bus later in the process. To make it easier on yourself, you can find a late model MKT for around $5k, If you get one that is already registered commercial, you will thank us later.
  • PUC Filing Fees
    $1,000 to $1,500.00
    Depending on what type of certificate or permit you need, based on what services you want to offer your customers. You can find a list of the different certificates and permits available from the PUC here. We will give more complete data in section 7
  • DMV Pull Notice
    $5.00 per driver
  • Commercial vehicle weight and certificate
    $20.00 per vehicle

As you can plainly see, the costs are not outrageous. The total cost to start should be under $10,000 even if you don’t own a vehicle yet.

If you already own* the vehicle your costs should be around $5,000

*Not financed or leased

Again, keep in mind – we are suggesting you start the process with 1 driver and 1 inexpensive vehicle.

  • If you are attempting to get your TCP with more than 1 vehicle
  • Attempting to register with multiple drivers
  • Trying to use a vehicle with a non-commercial registration
  • Making any mistakes on your document filings with the PUC
  • Trying to use a vehicle that is registered to any entity other than the company name you put on your PUC application

Here is everything you will need to do to get a TCP# in California

We will now begin a complete walkthrough of how to get a TCP Number in the state of California. We hope you find this useful.

Getting your TCP number is quite simple provided that you are armed with the facts about how to do so.

Let’s take a deeper dive and explain how this works.

We will start with a list of all the steps which will be taken in the process.

TCP Checklist

1. Registering your business.

In order to get your TCP Number, you must be own business. There are many resources to research or get the help you need.

There are several different types of companies to choose from and all of them have different attributes and benefits.

Talk to your lawyer or tax advisor to find out which type of company is best suited for your business.

In California, there are many types of businesses to choose from. Deciding which is best for you, can be a daunting exercise. 

Here is a list from the CA Secretary of State Website:

  • Corporation
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Limited Partnership
  • General Partnership
  • Limited Liability Partnership
  • Sole Proprietorship

This is the bottom line of the 1st step in the acquisition of yours TCP number. 

If you don’t know what to choose, help is easily available.

2. DMV 'Pull Notice Program'

In order to acquire a TCP number, it is paramount that you enroll in the DMV pull notice program.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)  checks all drivers on your registration to ensure that anyone driving for your company has a valid driver’s license and a clean record.

We recomend simply adding your self at this point to keep it simple.

You can add other drivers easily once the process is complete.

3. Get a vehicle to use for your TCP registration

This part can be a little complicated as the vehicle must be registered commercially. Many people call us and ask if they can use a vehicle that is currently financed and registered as a “private” vehicle. This will not work. If you are following our steps, you are now a business owner and the vehicle MUST be registered to the business as a commercial vehicle. Here are the possible scenarios and how to deal with them:

What vehicle should I use?

a. I have the pink slip for my vehicle

Easy..

If you want to use a vehicle that you already own and is registered as a “personal” vehicle, this can be done and it is quite simple if the vehicle does not have a finance company on the pink slip and registration. 

Simply go to your local DVM office with proof that you own the business and transfer the registration from your name to the business name.

b. My personal vehicle is financed

Complicated..

If you make monthly payments to a finance company, you are going to have to jump through some hoops. The easiest way is to pay off the finance company and get the title to the vehicle. If you cannot afford to pay off the vehicle, you will need to transfer the loan to your new business and makie the loan a commercial loan. This can be extremely difficult if you don’t have perfect credit.

c. I don't have a vehicle yet.

Simple..

If you want to finance your new vehicle, it MUST be financed to your new company and be a commercial loan or lease. If you want to pay “cash” for the vehicle, make sure you register it to your company as a commercial vehicle. 

Buying a used vehicle for cash and registering it to your company is the easiest way to ge and will save you a lot of headaches moving forward in the process.

Even if you have a beautiful, brand new SUV that is registered to you personally, it may be a lot easier for you to spend a few thousand dollars on a used vehicle and register that vehicle to your new company. Once you have your TCP number, adding and removing other vehicles is a lot easier.

4. Weighing your vehicle

To acquire a commercial registration on any vehicle, you must provide a certificate to the DMV with the unladen weight of the car or truck. We recommend doing this as soon as you decide what vehicle you are going to use for your TCP permit. To get the unladen weight of your vehicle, simply go to any public scale near you that provides documentation for the DMV.

There is a nominal fee associated with the weighing the vehicle and getting the weight certified. This is probably the easiest part of the entire process. Do not go to the DMV to register your vehicle commercially  without the certificate of unladen weight or you will have to make a return trip to the DMV. 

5. Get your Commercial Registration

  • The vehicle type is 31 which indicates a commercial vehicle under 11,500 pounds. We strongly recommend this type of registration for your first vehicle. If you would like to use other types of livery vehicles in your business such as large party busses or the like, wait until you have your TCP number and add those types of vehicles later. 
  • The vehicle is registered to the business (not pictured). If the vehicle is not registered to the business, you will not be able to complete the process with the PUC.
  • Unladen weight (UNLADEN/C/CGW). In order to register any commercial vehicle with the DMV, the vehicle must be weighed be a certified vehicle weight station as noted in item 4.

6. Acquiring Commercial Automobile Insurance

When do I need to get my commercial insurance?

You don’t need commercial vehicle insurance until you submit your initial application to the PUC. Your pull notice will take about 30 days and you will not be able to drive any passengers until you receive your completed TCP number.

You can register a vehicle commercially as long as the vehicle has any kind of liability insurance. Commercial insurance is very expensive and you certainly must acquire commercial insurance to transport passengers in California. To save you some money in the beginning we recommend holding off until everything above this point has been completed and you are ready to send in your application to the PUC.

The last this to do before you send in your application to the PUC is the acquisition of commercial insurance for your new limo company. Again, we suggest you wait until you have completed the DMV pull notice program and have received the pull notice from the DMV.

We highly recommend getting your commercial insurance from someone that is an expert in dealing with the livery business.

Again, this will save you a lot of headaches and time as your application will be delayed if you make any mistakes on the insurance process.

Need Commercial Auto Insurance?

To get your free quote now call 405-345-4443
or

Do I need workers compensation insurance?

If you have taken our advice up to this point and only have one driver and that one driver is also the owner of the company, the answer is no.

If you have multiple drivers and any of them are not ‘officers’ in the company than the answer is yes you do need workers compensation.

Speak to one of our insurance professionals at 405-345-4443 if you have questions about your insurance needs.

At this point, we suggest getting some help...

If you want to file with the PUC yourself, skip to #7 on the checklist. Apply for your permit with the PUC

Dealing with the California Public Utilities Commission is a nuanced process. There is a learning curve. If you don’t mind the process taking a while and possible costing a little more money, you can file the forms yourself. 

If you want some help, simply fill out the form below and one of our expert partners will contact you.

7. Filing an initial application for a TCP with the Public Utilities Commission

Having completed the above steps, you should have the following before you file anything with the PUC:

  • A registered legal business name
  •  A ‘Pull Notice’ from the DMV
  • A commercially registered vehicle
  • Commercial Auto Insurance

Now comes the time for a lot of paperwork. A list of all the forms you need from the CA PUC can be found on their website here.

We recommend bookmarking that page as you will need to refer back to it in the years to come.

Before you begin your filing....

You must decide what type of permit or certificate you want to apply for. There are 6 choices depending on how you want to service your clients in the future. The list below is from the PUC Website
  • “A” Certificate (PUC §§5371.1 and 5383):
    • Chartered service
    • May operate vehicles of any seating capacity
    • May operate from any point to any point within California
    • May also conduct round-trip sightseeing and may charge individual fares in doing so.
    • Except for round-trip sightseeing, charges must be based on vehicle mileage, time of use, or combination of both.
    • May be transferred (fee: $300)
  • “B” Certificate (PUC §§5371.2 and 5383):
    • Chartered service
    • May operate vehicles of any seating capacity
    • May not pick up passengers more than 125 air miles from the carrier’s home terminal.  This mileage restriction applies only to vehicles seating 10 or fewer, including the driver.
    • Charges based on vehicle mileage, time of use, or combination.
    • May be transferred (fee $300)
  • “C” Certificate (PUC §§5371.3 and 5383):
    • Provide transportation services incidental to commercial balloon operations, commercial river rafting, or skiing where no additional compensation is provided for the transportation. (If you will perform transportation that is incidental to a business other than these three, a “Z” permit, below, is the appropriate authority.)
    • Commercial balloon operations:  see exemption under the “Charter-Party Exemptions” link below.
    • May operate from any point to any point within California
    • May be transferred (fee $300)
  • “P” Permit (PUC §5384(b)):
    • Charted service
    • May operate only vehicles seating fewer than 16, including the driver.  If you will operate one vehicle 16 or more, even occasionally, you may not do so with a “P” permit.
    • May operate from any point to any point within California
    • Charges based on vehicle mileage, time of use, or combination
    • May not be transferred
    • NOTE: Even if you do not intent to operate any vehicle seating 16 or more in the near future, if you think you may do so later, consider applying for a “B” certificate instead.
  • “S” Permit (PUC §5384(c)):
    • This is for carriers conducting “round-trip sightseeing service.”  See section below on “Round-trip Sightseeing”.
    • May operate vehicles of any seating capacity
    • May operate from any point to any point within California
    • May charge individual fares.  May also base charges on vehicle mileage, time of use, or combination.  (The “A” certificate is the only other type of TCP authority that allows individual charges, only when conducting roundtrip sightseeing service.)
    • May not be transferred.
  • “Z” Permit (PUC §5384(a)):
    • These are “specialized carriers”, who do not hold themselves out to serve the general public, but only:
      • provide service under contract with industrial and business firms, governmental agencies, and private schools OR
      • transport agricultural workers to and from farms for compensation OR
      • conduct transportation services, which are incidental to another business.  (However, note that if the transportation is incidental to either commercial balloon operations, commercial river rating, or skiing, the appropriate authority is a “C” certificate, above.)

Once you have determined the best type of certificate or permit for your business, it’s time to fill out and submit your initial filing to the PUC.

CPUC form PL739 a-c and PL664

The first document to fill out and submit to the PUC is the form *PL739 which is actually 4 forms in one. The PL739 includes:
  • PL739-A Driver Statement of Application PSG
  • PL739-B Terminal Inspection Fee Statement
  • PL739-C Modified Limousine Inspection Fee Statement
  • PL664 Passenger Carrier Equipment Statement and Instructions
You must include a copy of the DMV commercial vehicle registration for each limousine listed on Form PL664 (a “limousine” is defined as a vehicle seating 10 or fewer persons, including the driver). Click on the following links for samples of the DMV commercial vehicle registration:
Be sure to fill out these forms carefully and attach all of the required supplemental documentation. *any mistakes in your filing will cost you time and you could lose your filing fee. Once you have completed the forms and attachments, mail your completed packet to the PUC here: CPUC License Section 505 Van Ness Ave. San Francisco, CA 94102

Note* 

*If you will you perform interstate transportation such as transfers to Las Vegas, you will need a DOT interstate permit.

Interstate transportation is transportation that crosses a state line, even if the trip begins and ends in
one state, like California. Interstate transportation is not under the jurisdiction of the California Public
Utilities Commission (CPUC) but may require authority from the federal government. If you will
perform any interstate transportation, ask the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA:
part of the U.S. Department of Transportation) whether you will need federal authority:
Mailing Address: FMCSA
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE Washington, DC 20590
Phone: (800) 832-5660 TTY: (800) 877-8339
Web site: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/

8. Find an authorized drug testing facility

After your paperwork has been sent to the PUC, it’s time to wait. Over the years the PUC moves at different speeds depending on their budgeting and demand.

In about 30-60 days, you will get a notice that they want you to enroll in a drug testing program for your registered drivers. 

Contact a drug testing  facility in your area and make sure they are within your budget as drivers will need to be tested annually. The documents for the drug tests will be sent directly from the facility to the PUC electronically. 

Provided there are no problems wit the drug testing, your application should be approved and you will receive your TCP Permit or Certificate in 30-60 days.

After your paperwork has been sent to PUC, it’s time to wait. In about 30-60 days, you will get a notice that they will want you to enroll in drug testing program.

Contact a drug testing facility. We recommend using Walk-In Lab. They offer the most competitive prices, and have thousands of lab locations across the US (with LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics). Their tests are affordable, accurate, and convenient. They also have 24/7 customer service to help you through the purchase process if you have any questions.

Congratulations!

You have been issued a TCP Number by the PUC! 

Usually, the first entity to be notified that your TCP has been approved and issued is your insurance broker as they are notified electronically. At this point, adding drivers or vehicles to your company is quite simple.

To add a driver, talk to your insurance broker to add a driver to your policy.

To add a vehicle, fill out form PL664 for each new vehicle you want to add to your fleet. Make sure they are weighed and commercially registered to your company.

9. Apply for permits to service your local airports

At this point, your are no legal to drop off passengers at just about any airport in California. You are also legal to pick up passengers at most airports, however, many California Airports do not let TCP carriers pick up arriving passengers without a special permit specific to that airport. Some airports do not let you enter at all.

In Los Angeles, LAX, John Wayne and Ontario airport all require a special permit for pick-ups. Burbank Airport (Bob Hope) does not have any such requirements.

It is important to check with any airports you plan on servicing to find out their specific licensing guidelines and the associated costs.

Many small limo companies attempt to pick up passengers at airports prior to receiving and paying for their license,  if caught, the results are disastrous. The fines are huge and they may arrest your driver and impound your vehicle.

Thank you for visiting our TCP walkthrough. Please feel free to permalink this page or to leave any comments below.

2 Comments

  1. Hi,

    Great detailed instructions on getting a TCP number from the PUC. I currently drive with Uber and Lyft, but want to slowly transition to my own business and do both with the same vehicle (I have to raise capital through App based businesses to afford all the fees).

    • Hi Jerry,
      Thanks for the post.
      If you own your vehicle your costs should be around $5,000 or less.
      You may have an issue with Uber if you register the vehicle commercial and get a TCP as Uber will want you to be Uber Black at that point.
      Make sure you check with them if you plan on using the same vehicle.

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