TOPIC: How did you come to the decision to adopt, or not adopt, motorcoaches in your fleet? How did you know it was or wasn’t the right time?We added a motorcoach to our fleet in 2005 because we won a contract to transport a big group out of town each week. When we noticed that the coach pretty much worked seven days a week, we bought another. And then when we realized that the second coach bus also worked seven days a week, we bought our third coach. Our plan was to add one coach each year. That plan ended with the recession of 2008. Finally in 2015, we were able to add more coaches. We sold the three we had and then doubled the size of our coach fleet to six.
Kristina Bouweiri, President & CEO
Reston Limousine in Dulles, Va.
We run a fleet of 15 minibuses (25 passengers) and midsize buses (35 passengers), but do not run any full-size motorcoaches, largely because of the expense. Large coaches are more maintenance-intensive than a regular cutaway bus, and parts are more expensive. Coaches also require more of the mechanics’ time, and it adds up quickly when you pay them $25 per hour. We also found that most of the large bus companies in the area do not run smaller coaches. This gap left a big hole in our area and created a great niche market for us. You also run into space issues with the larger coaches, not to mention needing a super-large lift or pits for repairing or inspecting the bus.
David Brown, President
Premiere Transportation in Albany, N.Y.
We decided to get into the motorcoach business in 1992. At the time, we realized that we needed bigger vehicles to better service our customers; sedans, vans, and limousines could not accommodate our larger groups. We now have a high-quality bus service with a full-time safety department, dedicated bus mechanics, and full-time cleaning crews.
Denise Sam Cali, Co-owner
J&J Affordable and Luxury Transportation in Allentown, Pa.
It was time when my groups started to become larger and I couldn’t get the mom-and-pop bus companies to answer their phones after 5:00 p.m. and on weekends. A few years ago, I had a group in from Australia for the Master’s tournament that required a change in itinerary at 5:05 on a Friday evening, but I couldn’t get the bus company on the phone.
So two years ago, I bought not only two coach buses but also a coach company. We now have three brands: CLT Express for corporate clients, SC Coach for road work, and SC Express in Aiken, S.C.
This allows me to have control over the quality of the services I provide, which you don’t have when you farm out work. I can manage my entire client base, and it gives me the opportunity to never say no to anything. While the expense of having buses is greater than sedans, the profits can be much greater, too.
Jeff Canady, Co-owner
CLT Express in Charlotte, N.C.
We just recently rolled out our motorcoach division to diversify our market presence. One of the main reasons we moved forward was the volume of local motorcoach farm-outs. It should be noted that motorcoaches are a major undertaking and due diligence is required.
Alan Candeub, President
Park Avenue Limousine in Feasterville, Pa.
We have always promoted ourselves as a one-stop call for all of our clients’ ground transportation needs. Over the years, I have changed or added different vehicles to meet customers’ demand. As we continued to take care of our clients, they consistently booked all their transportation through us—including motorcoaches. Eventually, I realized we were booking enough coach work to support buying one. I felt that it was important to have the Premier logo on the vehicle showing up at the pickup locations. It’s the best billboard I have ever invested in!
Janet Cherrier, President
Premier Transportation in Minneapolis, Minn.
We had requests for larger vehicles and tried using local companies; however, while some provided great service, some were terrible. As a result, we bought a 50-passenger coach, which was a mistake—one just wasn’t enough since the busy days are all the same for every company in the region.
After six months, we decided to sell the coach and wait a couple years. Currently, we run two motorcoaches, which is working well enough that we may add a third later this year.
Gary Day, CEO
American Limousines in Baltimore, Md.
The decision to incorporate motorcoaches into our 80+ vehicle fleet was threefold: profits, hedging against TNCs, and our clients’ service expectations. In 2015, we farmed out more than $700K worth of local coach work. We spread this work over three or four motorcoach operators. We were leaving a lot of money on the table. Currently, we are experiencing a 30-35 percent profit margin and continue to grow our coach fleet (eight coaches as of March 2017). We anticipate purchasing another one or two this year.
Second, all our business models are changing with the onset of the TNC phenomena. Like many other companies, shifting our business model to include motorcoaches was a move that needed to take place. In retrospect, it is a move that I made two to three years too late.
Last, but most importantly, our clients asked us to add motorcoaches to our fleet. We feel that there is marked difference between a driver and a chauffeur—whether you are in a sedan or a motorcoach. We decided to go with a black exterior with wood flooring and a mix of leather and cloth seats, WiFi capability, and all the other bells and whistles offered. Clients appreciate the chauffeured transportation approach we use with coach bus operation—both in the way we communicate and by how our chauffeurs provide professional, safe, and flexible service.
Eric Devlin, President/Owner
Premier Transportation Services in Dallas, Texas
Windy City made the decision to add motorcoaches to our fleet for a few key reasons. First, we had been paying close attention to the concerns of our corporate meeting planners and DMC partners. They were all reacting to new guidelines for meetings and to directives regarding cost cutting. We increased our minicoach fleet and expanded to add motorcoaches.
Second, we knew there was a high demand for motorcoaches in our area, but the choices for clients were limited. Many of the motorcoach operators were using older buses that did not live up to our service standards. Farm-out options were limited, and many of the owners and drivers were not accustomed to handling high-profile, high-demand clients. When farming out motorcoaches, we still had to maintain the liability but lost control of the customer experience.
Being the official transportation company for all the major sports teams in Chicago, as well as universities and schools, definitely influences our decision to continually purchase motorcoaches. Our clients demand quality vehicles, trained professional chauffeurs, and a company that enforces a culture of paramount service, safety, and reliability.
At the end of the day, it’s been one of the better decisions we’ve made: Our motorcoach fleet is sold out most days and we’ve recently upped our buses to 20, making us a real player in the market.
Kathy Kahne, Vice President
Windy City Limousine in Broadview, Ill.
Signature Transportation Group decided to purchase motorcoaches when many of our corporate accounts started requesting our services for long distance trips and transfers requiring additional luggage space. We took a good look at the revenue generated by outsourcing of motorcoach requests to make sure the purchase of these vehicles was justified. We presented our findings to our advisory board and gained approval to buy four motorcoaches. Based on the utilization reports, I expect we’ll continue adding these vehicles to our fleet.
Sal Milazzo, CEO
Signature Transportation Group in Arlington Heights, Ill.
We started booking a lot of wedding shuttles and farming out the work. After a while, I decided to invest in one and then started doing other work with it as well. Little by little, we started getting more clients and some long distance trips. Unfortunately, we had some issues and breakdowns, which were hard to deal with, and I realized if we were going to do long distance trips we needed to get newer buses. In June 2016, I bought a new coach, which was a large investment and a bit scary—but it worked out for us. Then in November, I had an opportunity to acquire a bus company along with an established tour business. In December 2016, we added another coach, so now we have eight buses, which seat between 24 and 56 passengers. Currently, we are in negotiations to buy five 50-passenger coaches to service trips from NYC to the Hamptons and Montauk.
Mark Vigliante, President/CEO
M&V Limousines in Commack, N.Y.
We’ve loved hearing your answers to our benchmarking questions since debuting this interactive section—but we always welcome suggestions for future topics, too!
Have you wondered how others in the industry have tackled a concern you’re currently facing, handled a delicate issue, implemented a certain policy, or do you simply want to propose a topic for our consideration?
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and you just might see your query answered in a future issue. We look forward to your input!