An unusual transportation service that provides rides for tipsy motorists and their vehicles — Desi The Designated Driver — is gaining popularity, especially during weekends and holidays.
"We’re getting more and more requests for rides home," said Greg Murray, 48, owner of the Tempe-based service that is sponsored by Hensley and Co., Valley distributor of Anheuser-Busch beer.
Murray, a former trucker, charges $25 to carry both a driver and a vehicle virtually anywhere in the Valley. In fact, several signs on the truck confirm the charge: "$25 Anywhere."
The additional costs of providing the transport, including expenses incurred by the rising costs of gasoline, are paid by Hensley and Co.
"We’re not a towing service, so we don’t have to register with the Department of Public Safety," said Murray. "We don’t carry tools or battery chargers. We just bring people who have had a little too much to drink — and their cars — safely home."
Murray, who started the business a year ago, had one of his busiest weekends during the July Fourth holiday. He transported 18 drivers and their cars, including one from Tempe to Glendale, about 30 miles one way.
A regular towing service would have charged the driver between $75 to as much as $150 or more for a similar trip, Murray said.
A taxi cab would charge well over $25 — and the motorist would have had to leave his or her vehicle behind and return for it the next day.
Murray got the idea for his transport business after having a few drinks with a friend in a tavern in Chandler.
"I knew I couldn’t drive home to Tempe in my condition, and I couldn’t afford to get a DUI ticket," Murray said.
"Then, it struck me — we need a transportation service where you can afford to take your car home with you — safely and without it costing a lot of money."
Murray contacted Hensley and Co., which agreed to provide money to help Murray design a flatbed truck that would serve the transportation needs for the new company.
The truck, which also is a rolling advertisement for the beer distributor and brewing company, has a flatbed and folding metal ramps so a vehicle can be driven onto it and its tires supported by canvass straps.
The vehicle owner sits alongside Murray in the cab.
One such owner was Kristin, who prefers not to use her last name, who used Desi The Designated Driver during the July Fourth weekend for the first time.
"I was with a group of friends drinking at a bar in north Scottsdale and I needed to get home to Tempe because I had to catch a plane at 3 o’clock that morning," said Kristin, who learned about the service at a nearby restaurant.
"I don’t believe in drinking and driving," Kristin said. "So I called Desi The Designated Driver. . . . (Murray) pulled up to the bar. I gave him my car keys. He drove my car onto the truck, and he drove me home.
"Otherwise, my car would have been parked at the bar for four or five days. Or, if I drove I might have killed myself or somebody else. It was a great experience."
Doug Yonko, vice president of communications for Hensley and Co., said Desi The Designated Driver is the first of its kind in Arizona, and perhaps the nation.
"The concept is strictly Greg Murray’s," Yonko said. "We supplement the costs, including upgrading his transport truck because it fits in with our ‘Do The Ride Thing’ safety program."
Do The Ride Thing provides reduced rates for drivers who have had too much to drink and who can use coupons for reduced cab fares to ride home, then go back for free to get their vehicles.
Murray said his advertising campaign thus far has included word-of-mouth as well as distributing pamphlets in taverns throughout the Valley.
"My goal is to expand our service and maybe add more transport trucks," Murray said.
"Most people who drink don’t mind taking a cab home, but they hate to leave their cars behind. We can’t predict what we’re preventing by bringing them and their cars home safely. Who knows, maybe we’re saving lives."