Luxury Coach & Transportation

August 2019

Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.

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12 LUXURY COACH & TRANSPORTATION AUGUST 2019 WWW.LCTMAG.COM COVER STORY: FLEET VEHICLES & OPERATIONS benefits for chauffeurs including health insurance, 401k, PTO, and incentive programs. "We are continuing to create added value for our employees, mainly chauffeurs and office staff. We can hire the office staff we need, but it's hard to find chauffeurs, especially CDLs." Speedier Service: In the on- and near-demand market, The Driver Provider tries to follow a policy of sending a vehicle in at least 30 minutes when getting an ASAP request. The company provides on-demand service at hotels where it has a contract for chauffeured service. While TNCs circulate in the company's market areas, Kaplan chooses not to focus on them, but instead perfect client service. "We're trying to add value and anything we can to differentiate ourselves from the TNCs." Sedan Search: While Kaplan's sedan fleet has consisted mostly of Lincoln and Ford vehicles, they are ordering a few Volvo S90 sedans to test them out. "It's gotten trickier over recent years and we are searching for the right solution." Navigator Switch: The Navigator Kaplan and his wife, Kendra, bid on was the first one they had bought in 10 years. "We have been phenomenally impressed with the Navigator, and then bought the Ford Expedition." Until the auction purchase, The Driver Provider has mostly used Cadillac Escalades and Chevrolet Suburbans in its SUV fleet. Kaplan says the Navigator ride is superior to that of the Escalade, and it has excellent touches, finish, and more room in the third seat row. "For the client, it's about the inside of the vehicle. Anything that provides more comfort for passengers is paramount to us. Our customers are loving the Navigator." Kaplan, who plans to buy six more Navigators and six more Expeditions in coming months, finds the Navigator more practical for clients in ski areas given its larger luggage capacity than the Expedition, which the company mostly deploys to non-ski climates and areas in their service regions. Shuttles & Tours: Motorcoaches are spurring one big growth avenue for Driver Provider. The company has 17 motorcoaches, including 10 Prevosts, three Setras, two Volvos, and two MCIs. Most are new. The Driver Provider is growing its bus fleet with mini-buses and motorcoaches while developing over-the-road and fixed- route contract business, Kaplan says. The company has found corporations in the Phoenix area that need employee shuttles, similar to those used in the Silicon Valley. "It's consistent daily 10+ hours per day shuttle work for businesses with campuses, so employees don't have to use their own vehicles." It also has formed relationships with tour companies serving the western U.S. to generate long distance charter trips for its motorcoaches, Kaplan says. "What we've learned is while a lot of tour business starts in California, the tour operators look for operators out of state, not because of quality, but due to California operators facing higher costs than operators in surrounding states. We can bid on work beginning and ending in California because tour operators are savvy about our lower operating costs. We're trying to get into more bid opportunities." For the near term, Kaplan wants to expand the corporate shuttles and motorcoach divisions, while constantly looking out for possible acquisitions. "We're staying in tune, and if the right opportunity comes, we'll consider it and move forward. We're not in aggressive acquisition mode, but have our ears to the ground and would be ready to move forward." ACTIVE INVESTMENTS PAY OFF Team Approach: At Action Worldwide Chauffeured Services, Carr and co-owner Tammy Carlisle have set up stronger chauffeur and CSR training programs and hired new managers. A new operations manager frees up Carr and Carlisle to focus more on marketing and expanding the business. Their goal is to certify all new team members with PAX Training by the end of the summer and have their most requested lead chauffeurs field train them. "Our mentoring program trains chauffeurs to work together as a team, and helps them understand one error can affect everyone on the team and their income," Carr says. As an incentive, the company awards bonuses to chauffeurs for unsolicited five-star client reviews, which many so far have received. "We are retraining the CSRs on our new Ground Alliance software, attention to detail, and cross training, along with bonus incentives for booking our clients transportation in other cities." Fleet Management: Action runs 41 vehicles, including sedans, SUVs, minibuses, and coaches. Among the makes and models: Lincoln MKTs, Navigators, Cadillac Escalades, Mercedes-Benz Sprinters, and Executive Coach Builders stretch MKT limousines. Others include the wheelchair accessible Stretch MV1, a Hometown Trolley, and two Grech Motors EG40 coaches with under belly luggage. A new fleet manager oversees every vehicle detail to make sure all are perfectly maintained and ready to roll, Carr says. "That has taken a tremendous amount of work off of me." Navigator North Star: "Our Lincoln Navigator has been a true star and our clients love the vehicle," Carr says. "We have two of these luxury workhorses and are planning to add several more. We are very loyal to Lincoln and appreciate their many years of support in the livery industry." Action foresees a need to add more buses and coaches in the future, but will balance any new vehicles with demand. "We handle many corporate events, weekend, weekday charters, weddings, and more," he adds. "Both of the [Grech] coaches stay busy, and thankfully with great local affiliates we can accommodate multiple mini-coach jobs with ease." Turning Tables On TNCs: Like many operators, Carr and Carlisle's business first lost some clients when Uber and Lyft fully emerged in their market in 2012, but most returned within a year when the TNCs' poor service, quality control, and lack of driver background checks became apparent. "Every operator can make a choice to consider them a threat or an opportunity to prove we are more insured, safe, secure, and reliable," Carr says. "We offer high quality and superior service while removing these unknowns for our clients." Atlanta operator Clarence Carr plans to add more Navigators as his operations see more demand for his luxury "workhorses."

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