Luxury Coach & Transportation

September 2018

Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.

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BUSES: OPERATIONS PHOTO/ILLUSTRATION: KEVIN HAEGELE, LCT ART DIRECTOR W hen I entered the ground trans- portation business in the early 90s, our company launched as a limousine service. We didn't operate sedans, SUVs, vans, or buses. By 2010, buses had become big business and a staple of the industry. Providing con- tract shuttle service was guaranteed income, steady work for many drivers, and a financial security blanket for our company. Landing a shuttle contract could reignite your cash flow, but will likely have many strings attached. What Kind Of Shuttles? You might be surprised at how many different types of contracted shuttle work are available, such as driving newborn babies home from a birthing center, transporting airline workers be- tween a hotel and an airport, and deliv- ering oilfield workers to the dusty drills and rigs for work each day. We even had a contract with a pro- fessional "firing company" like the kind George Clooney worked for in the mov- ie "Up in the Air." For people assigned company cars, they arrive at work, get fired by a stranger, and are then given a chauffeured ride home. Someone has to do it, and it might as well be you. What type of shuttle jobs you land will depend on the vehicles in your fleet. Or, what type of shuttle jobs you land might determine what type of vehicles you buy in the future. In this type of work, you can put the cart in front of the horse. It is important to match the equipment to the job and for the size to be proportion- ate to the average number of passengers served on a particular type of job. For example, if you land a shuttle contract with a hotel to drive guests to and from the airport, it is likely you might have two to six passengers during any given trip. Running these types of trips in a 24-passenger shut- tle bus with a cargo hold is probably over- kill and not cost ef- ficient to operate. A van with the rear seat removed would be ideal for this type of work. Buying A Vehicle for The Job More than one operator has shared with me a horror story of buying a bus and crossing their fingers they find work for it. is is not a plan nor controlled growth. is is operating willy-nilly, and it will likely cause your business to fail if you get in over your head. New motorcoaches can easily cost $500,000 and up. If you are simply crossing your fingers and hoping for charter bus busi- ness, you likely will not be able to make your bus payment, let alone pay for insurance, buy a tank of gas, or even pay for a $1,200 oil change when it's time. Only consider buying or leasing a vehicle if you have signed a long-term contract that factors in the vehicle pay- ments, insurance, and other operational costs of the vehicle. Ideally, a long-term contract would be for a minimum of three years, but that isn't always possible. Just make sure you have a contract before you acquire a new vehicle specifically for shuttle purposes. Pitching With No Vehicle You may wonder how you can possibly pitch a prospect for a long-term con- tract when you don't have the vehicle needed to complete the job. ere are a couple of ways you can handle this. To begin with, experts in the industry have always recommended farming out work until you reach a level where you are farming out enough business to sustain the acquisition of a new vehicle. For example, many sedan operators farm-out all their SUV work to others who own SUVs. Eventually they get to the point where they are farming out so many SUV jobs it makes sense to pur- chase one and feel confident the income will be there to support it. is is exactly what I did to get into the charter bus business. I developed a relationship with a local char- ter bus company. I began advertising we were running charter buses although we didn't actually own any. I was lucky the charter company I worked with ran buses with no logos. Unless you are in our industry, most people don't look for the legal identification required by DOT regulations. When someone wanted to preview a bus before a charter, we would either have the charter bus company deliver the bus to the client for inspection or make an appointment at our office and have them bring a bus over to our yard. e charter bus company rented their bus for $95/hour but I was able to get $175/hour from our upscale clients. ey knew by allowing the preview of their vehicle they would most likely get the job from us, so it was important they cooperated with previews. In the worst case scenario, you can provide artwork in a proposal to repre- 1 8 WWW.LCTMAG.COM LUXURY COACH & TRANSPORTATION SEPTEMBER 2018 The ground transportation industry has seen a dramatic shift towards moving large groups with vans, minibuses, and motorcoaches. By Jim A. Luff, LCT contributing editor

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