Small charter bus operators overlooked by technology companies
Despite advancements in the motorcoach industry over the past decade, small and medium-sized charter bus operators bear the brunt of its weaknesses. They’re creating jobs and strengthening their local economies, but they’re an afterthought to many of the companies creating fleet management software.
“Companies who aren’t helping young motorcoach businesses stay competitive are essentially lining the pockets of the big players,” says Evan Downton, business development executive at CoachRail. While national motorcoach operators are fighting the same battles as small companies–like compliance regulations, driver shortages, fleet management, and customer service issues–local motorcoach companies don’t have access to the same resources as large companies to solve their problems.
“This past Friday evening, I was repairing one of our vehicles,” says Alan Robinson, owner of R & W Motor Coach. “Simultaneously, I was answering calls from my team about customer inquiries, driver schedules, farm-outs, and more. I don’t have hundreds of employees and custom-built software at my disposal.”
For fleet operators like Robinson, the operational tools available can be expensive, difficult to use, and outdated. Robinson’s current software was originally made for school bus rentals and was later marketed as a charter bus management tool for operations, driver management, affiliates, vehicle maintenance, and more. The customizations needed to make it motorcoach-friendly are expensive.
Small businesses like R & W Motor Coach also felt the regulatory weight of the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate that went into effect this past April. Many of the devices and services currently on the market were made for trucks, causing installation and maintenance issues for boutique bus operators. To add to the problem, many ELDs don’t sync with charter bus management software. Operators have to manually reconcile the data or pay for costly upgrades.
Adding another layer to the problem limitations is data sharing. Robinson says he relies heavily on his operations software to manage trips with affiliates, but these systems rarely sync with other companies’ databases. Because of this, operators have to manually contact other companies to check availability and pricing for large reservations before providing an accurate quote to customers. Not only does it take time away from other aspects of their business, but it can also lead to inaccurate information sharing and double booking.
Nearly 60% of transportation companies fail after their fifth year in business, highlighting the importance of software that truly understands the needs of motor coach companies with less than 20 employees.
“The industry is long overdue for innovation,” says Downton, “and the Davids are feeling it way more than the Goliaths.”
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