The commercial coach hire industry has weathered its fair share of obstacles in the past 50 years, including increasing costs, fluctuating demand and increasingly stringent safety and security regulations. But as we push further into the 21st century, urban transport is increasingly falling behind the innovations available. Some of these are unaffordable to all but the biggest companies, but there are still plenty of opportunities for independent coach hires to revitalise their fleet and bring their service into the 21st century.
Onboard WiFi is a must
These days, connectivity is seen as a basic human right on par with access to clean running water and free healthcare. It’s no secret that a country’s broadband speeds influences how it’s infrastructure is judged. Most people now don’t leave home without a mobile device, and while most of these devices will have some data to help people connect while on the move, this data is often in short supply, particularly on long journeys.
Providing your passengers with onboard WiFi shows you’re willing to ‘go the extra mile’ to ensure an enjoyable ride and keep them connected. By giving your passengers access to the outside world through their smartphones, you also remove some of the monotony from those long journeys – making it more likely that customer will book with you over a coach operator without an onboard connection.
It’s not just the passengers that benefit from an onboard connection – connected drivers are better placed to communicate with each other and manage pickup and drop-off processes, further streamlining journeys.
A mobile app
It’s hard to believe that only twenty years ago if you wanted to board pretty much any vehicle you would have to book your tickets in person from a travel agent or travel office. Nowadays, not only can you book online, you can book on the move, directly through a company’s mobile app.
Even if an official app is out of your company’s price range, ensuring your website is optimised for mobile and streamlining the online booking process can significantly increase the number of passengers. In the modern traveller’s world, convenience is second only to comfort.
A mobile app comes with several other benefits, including the direct line it provides to the passenger. An app can provide useful analytics on your passenger’s needs and enable you to better understand where in the sales funnel your company is losing potential passengers.
Of course, a mobile app is only useful if it works. Make sure to shop around for the best app developer for your particular needs. Your app should, above all, make browsing, booking and boarding easier for the customer.
Transport safety & security
As far as advanced mobility services go, safety and security technologies are often the last to be considered but they’re often the most easily accessible for independent firms. Onboard security features can cover any number of technologies, but CCTV and dashcams are the most commonly cited.
With a Sygnal CCTV system onboard, you can record every boarding and disembarkation and store it for future viewing, adding an additional level of security to drivers and passengers alike. Likewise, the Sygnal dashcam comes with a G-force sensor to store specific video if prompted as a result of increased G-force to prevent crash footage being recorded over.
These features don’t just increase security, they can lead to lower insurance rates, saving your firm money while ensuring total coverage in the event of an accident.
Green transport features
Of course, the modern coach fleet comes with additional responsibilities – to the public and the environment. The transport sector today makes up around 23% of greenhouse gases internationally, with around 75% of that coming from road vehicles. That’s an awful lot of emissions – but green public procurement (GPP) initiatives have helped push green technologies to the fore – and could net adherents a handy tax break.
With more cities pledging to tax or ban outright diesel automobiles within the next ten years, now’s the time for coach hire services to look at upgrading their fleet. Some companies have even begun integrating photovoltaic solar cells onto their vehicles to power lighting and other onboard elements. They can be a costly investment but energy-saving technologies, particularly those based on harnessing renewable energy resources, can equal substantial savings in the long run.
Other technologies including hydrogen and biofuels should become more affordable, and thus a more viable alternative, in the future. Hybrid coaches are already reaping rewards for those willing to invest the time and money.
Onboard the vehicle, there are a number of features to reduce wastage. Most sectors are moving towards paperless operations, but almost 70% of UK coach hire companies revealed they still use paper ticketing for boarding passengers. Switching to e-ticketing doesn’t just benefit the environment, it provides long-term cost-cutting solutions to the business.
Fleet management technology
With the developments in vehicle tracking, quantitative journey data and traffic flows, transport companies are slowly coming to realise that not every technology has to be prohibitively expensive or invasive.
Even today, ground travel management is too often rooted in traditional means of communication, vehicle monitoring and passenger tracking. The benefits go beyond a reduced corporate footprint – with onboard systems like that found in Sygnal’s standard consoles providing satellite GPS to track entire fleets and optimise travel times.
In fact, fleet management can be as simple as tracking overall usage of vehicles, distances, fuel consumption and passenger intake, all of which can be done through a simple data analysis. Big data is fast becoming an integral asset to transport companies. Its ubiquity as an optimisation tool among the big transport companies shouldn’t put anyone off, however.
Big data can be a simple and affordable means to gain valuable insights into passenger behaviour and vehicle performance. With additional technologies like e-ticketing and mobile apps, this data will only become more accurate as time goes by, for both large and small companies within the coach hire service sector.
None of these technologies is a substitute for recognising your passengers as people. The thing is, appealing to your customers as people is a key element of developing and integrating new technologies. By adding new levels of comfort, connectivity and security, coach operators can begin to entice customers away from the rails.