‘Technology – at what cost to the operator?’

Times have changed in a big way, facing up to this technological era which we all now relate to in a different context. The advancement is perhaps brilliant, but in terms of operation costs, it’s akin to three steps backwards.

Add-on mod-cons ‘just seem to come as standard’

The price for the job needs to reflect the modern terminology ‘homologation’. This is not in my dictionary; however, immolation is, and it just appears to me that too many operators sacrifice margins to provide all the mod-cons for no extra charge, which is absolutely ludicrous.

When double-glazing was first introduced, I would say to customers do you want a coach wherein the windows steam up and condense, or would you prefer double-glazing for a small extra premium? Look at all the add-ons since those days, but to talk to some operators, everything just seems to come as standard. 

Apart from the arithmetic, which seems to get lost somewhere down the line. It never fails to amaze me how often we all moan about rates. How many of us have said that keeping up to speed with our vehicles will combat inferior competition? How many of us have lived in hope that the industry will get better?

The fact is it never changes, and I have my doubts about any improvement. What I do find scary is how much more technical advancement can we absorb, and should we all be saying enough is enough? As we speak, lane departure warning is the latest add-on which I have no doubt will create havoc and expense, and is frankly an insult and embarrassment to a professional driver.

Thankfully, at the current moment in time our drivers are seemingly trusted to do the rest, until such time as we will have driverless coaches!

On a final note to coach operators, despite us appearing to absorb all the add-ons, we also seem to have the nonchalant ability of being able to turn a blind eye to customer persecution. It’s a problem that has always been prevalent, but we note it’s getting worse and it needs to be addressed. For example:

  1. The customer wants the coach half an hour or an hour sooner – so generally we reschedule vehicles, incurring extra mileage or additional drivers.
  2. The coach, nine times out of 10, finishes later than booked – well we just seem to write this one off, even though it can impede drivers’ hours the following day.
  3. The coach leaves the depot for the airport and during transit the connection can be delayed anything from one to three hours (plus airport parking – scandalous).
  4. The customer books the coach for a stated time and route. The driver then reports the route is somewhat different to his work ticket, be it pick-ups or drops, or indeed the line of route itself. Okay, some operators have trackers; others may issue worksheets to be duly signed to cover for deviations/alterations. This is good management, however, we seem to note with a vast majority this extra work does not seem to make any difference.

From all these common examples there are many different anomalies but the basic facts are we have been subject to extra costs and when it comes to the nitty gritty and the customer is faced with these extra charges, they can become very irate and abusive or refuse to pay.

It just totally dumbfounds me as to why they think they have the right to dictate on our operation, but furthermore they have no respect for our extra services and input.

Of course, one of the biggest problems with our industry is if we administer what is due to us, we fear the loss of a customer and succumb to the persecution. We are the only industry that tolerates this undesirable form of dishonesty.

What I cannot get to grips with is if we go to purchase a pound or kilogram of merchandise that’s what we get, we don’t get 1.25lb for the same price – so why is it expected from us?

It is, in effect, like a vast disease within the industry that needs to be eradicated, so come on guys it’s time we stopped getting skanked.

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