FLEET FACTS: Tale Of Two Operators

Posted on August 4, 2009 by - Also by this author

NOTHING PERSONAL: “What’s your fleet size?” has become a trickier question of late for operators at all levels downsizing vehicle counts in a troubled economy. Two recent operator interactions with LCT show there are two ways to handle this question.

NO. 1: The Right Way
Steve Levin, owner of Temecula, Calif.-based Sterling Rose Transportation and a 2008 LCT Operator Of The Year, tells it like it is in his e-newsletter about the state of his 10-vehicle company and the industry. Levin had 14 vehicles as of last fall. This type of candor is an example of a smaller operator who is trying to adapt to circumstances and sees strength in publicizing his efforts:
“In a market that is impacting every segment of the economy, chauffeured transportation is certainly no different. Estimates in our industry range from 30% to 50% decreases in revenues from companies both small and large. In our efforts to adjust to changing times, we have been making some changes internally that are designed to "right size" our fleet and operations. Our goal is for these changes to be transparent to our clients and continue to offer the benchmark in customer satisfaction that has created the reputation Sterling Rose Transportation enjoys today.

"Last year, our fleet size had increased to its largest since we began our operations. As it stands today, we now have reduced and optimized our fleet for the appropriate number and types of vehicles. Each month we review our equipment needs and based upon our findings, make adjustments as necessary. One thing we have done during this period is to update our fleet. Some of our older, high mileage vehicles have been replaced with newer vehicles allowing us to continue to offer the utmost in comfort and convenience. With a large number of chauffeured transportation companies sitting on extra vehicles, we are expanding our affiliate network, both nationally and locally, to help support us when demand exceeds our supply of vehicles. We do our best to screen these companies to make sure they will provide the same level of customer service that Sterling Rose clients are accustomed to. . .

"This economy has also caused a number of chauffeured transportation companies to cease operations. We have sent letters out to a large number of companies in Southern California to determine a potential fit for their client base and Sterling Rose Transportation. We are working on a commission structure to allow for these companies to collect something for the efforts they have made to grow their companies. We are currently working with one such company and are looking forward to reporting more about this next month.”
NO. 2: The Wrong Way
While compiling a routine industry news item about an operator, I received this response to a simple question about fleet size and types of new vehicle purchases:
“I would rather not include vehicle specifics as we are  progressing, fairly quickly, towards farming out more and more work and owning less and less vehicles.”
What’s the point in hiding that information? Public records of limo/livery licenses can provide it and chances are this operator’s competitors have at least an accurate clue of the company’s actual fleet count. And how chauffeurs talk amongst themselves.
In this economy, when just about everyone is down, as LCT’s annual 100 Largest Fleets shows, what is the shame in operating less vehicles but staying afloat and making a profit?
LCT Magazine has had to cut its monthly page count by 40-50% as anyone who subscribed to us in 2008 can see. No fear, no shame as economic circumstances beyond our control are prompting us to maximize relevant information and expand our digital media.
Recessions, while preventable, unfortunately happen. Companies then must cut, adapt, transform, and reinvent.
Bottom line: You are not doing yourself a public relations favor by withholding basic company information that can be easily acquired or that is already known. You’ll come off as super-sensitive about your status and undercut whatever positive concept you are trying to promote.
— Martin Romjue, LCT editor
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