With over 50 benefits of membership to the CPT, any coach or bus operator of any size can get something out of it
“Reassurance at the end of the phone.” “The Traffic Commissioner suggested we join.” “On-tap access to Stephen Smith’s 24/7 Emergency Operations team.”
These are but three reasons people give for joining the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) – but there are probably over 50 direct benefits of membership, and they’re growing in number all the time.
The industry's trade body’s primary role is still lobbying for the good of the members – a traditional role that it carries out very well.
But it's now looking to change that model slightly, and make itself even more useful to members, by opening up more commercial opportunities – which could also keep the cost of membership down, as well as providing more valuable services to operators.
It's a members' organisation, so the majority of its revenue is generated from subscriptions.
But, as Peter Gomersall, Deputy CEO of CPT, says: "We're a not-for-profit organisation – so every time our costs go up, there is pressure to increase members’ subscriptions.
“We are therefore developing a model similar to other trade associations, whereby part of CPT’s income is generated from commercial activities, whether in-house or with commercial partners.”
CPT currently has seven such partnerships:
It’s a new direction for the modernising CPT, which moved from Covent Garden to new premises in Chancery Lane in summer 2016.
This year, Peter has taken on more responsibility for developing the commercial side of the organisation, while Communications Director Chris Nice is leading improvements in its digital offerings.
These include the potential to open an online shop – an initiative that, as with everything the CPT does, has been driven by members.
The hope is to sell its existing products, including safety information cards, DVDs, accreditations and waybills, along with additional items that operators currently buy elsewhere.
“It’s really important to us that we can offer discounts or an enhanced level of service to members,” says Peter.
‘Talk about a deep breath’
Joining must be a business decision for operators, with important benefits that far outweigh the cost of membership. Whether it’s access to decision makers; compliance advice; emergency services such as Crisis Control; or saving money by using CPT’s Commercial Partners, operators will benefit from joining CPT and in many cases save money.
“We don't put a price on Crisis Control,” says Chris, “but if you're a member involved in a road traffic incident and in need of instant media and PR support, it’s invaluable – you'd pay thousands for an agency there and then.”
Peter and Chris recall an operator in recent times whose vehicle was involved in a road incident. “It’s your worst nightmare as a transport manager,” says Peter. “But to be able to say to the media that CPT is handling all the calls – talk about a deep breath.
“The operator has now said that as long as they’re running coaches, they’ll be in the CPT.”
The CPT’s utmost priority is to retain existing members, and get new members – “and it has to be in that order,” says Peter. “We need new business.
“I think most trade associations have a challenge to get across to members and prospective members what the benefits are: There are almost too many benefits of being a member of CPT.”
However, the CPT is at a good place now to speak to prospective members and explain what it does, having for the first time a full complement of full-time regional managers.
“A lot of our members and prospective members are small-medium family firms,” says Peter. “The majority are small teams that don't have money to spare.”
But those are the ones that potentially stand to benefit the most: They can pick up the phone at any time, day or night, and get professional advice.
“The level of support in our 24/7 Emergency Operations service, headed up by John Burch, is fantastic,” says Chris. “If you need reassurance or advice at 0300hrs on a Saturday, it’s there.”
“Smaller operators sometimes think it’s a big boys’ club,” says Peter. “But we’ve got 50 benefits of membership, and we couldn’t say one was more important than another, because the make-up of our members is so diverse.”
Whether the service is compliance auditing, DBS checking, or the Bonded Coach Holidays scheme, the CPT often hears the words ‘I didn’t know CPT did that’.
But for as little as £5 per week, it’s well worth any coach or bus business familiarising itself with exactly what the CPT does. With so many changes to the operating landscape expected over the coming years, can you afford to be without it?