By Jim A. Luff
Yes, it is that time of year when LCT’s Fact Book arrives. While it is meant to be an estimate of the facts about our industry, it always gives fodder for those with a lot of time on their hands to moan and groan about. It gives people like me something to strive for, benchmarks to establish, and interesting reading.
I would never swear by the numbers published by any industry magazine because there is no real way to tell from day to day just how many operators there are TODAY. I mean, just this year, two operators in my own city have gone belly up. They were probably included in the LCT Magazine count but by the time it arrived, they were dead.
As far as exactly how many operators there are existing today... who cares? What clout does it really carry with anyone? Maybe if the NLA was negotiating a contract with Arrowhead Water to supply water to every single member it would be a factor. I mean, really, California has the largest number of operators followed by New York, and only last week did the PUC attend a livery association meeting. No one is going to take these numbers and fear us because we are so massive. We are still a cottage industry. Goodyear isn’t going to give us a 50% discount because there are 9,654 operators or even 12,000 by some accounts.
I’ll tell you: what is important to me and again, as a mere guideline and not a rule, are the stats. I love stats. If the average of a sedan is reported to be $58.13 per hour, I feel I am doing okay at $54.00 per hour, and could even raise the price a little. If a 120-inch is going for $91.41 nationwide, I am right in the ballpark at $90.00. This to me is a benchmark to compare. Likewise, the average wage of chauffeurs is reported to be $13.92 per hour. At $14.62, our company average, we are paying 70 cents more than the “average” company. Reservationists are averaging $13.37 nationwide, and ours average $11.50 per hour so we are a little low there.
The possibilities for calculating stats in our industry are endless, and some facts just don’t matter. The average of 551 gallons per week per operator is just an average of what all operators around the nation reported. However, operators like myself put serious miles on our vehicles as we make numerous trips each day to Los Angeles and back, traveling an average of 242 miles per trip. But, my friends in Modesto primarily service their hometown and rarely put more than 47 miles on a vehicle on any trip, so that number doesn’t help me, yet I love to read things like this.
Many of you know that I am the president of a children’s charity, and put on a beer festival each year. We provide “the numbers” from the year before on a welcome message and map given to each attendee. It reports 6,000 people attended. That is because we print 4,000 tickets for sale each year and issue 2,000 comps. In reality, vendors sneak “employees” in, and there are literally hundreds of volunteer workers making sure it all goes well, and in the end there are probably more like 7,500 people there having a good time. Really, all I care about is whether everyone had a good time.
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