Industry Research

Top 50 Motorcoach Operators Make a Comeback

Posted on February 3, 2011 by LCT Staff - Also by this author

FEB/MAR 2011 LCT: The annual survey snaps a shot of the current motorcoach operator market. Almost half of operators said that business was up for them in 2010 at an average increase of 9%.

2010 proved to be a more prosperous year for the private ground transportation industry, with more business and financing opportunities available to operators. Compared to 2009, this past year was much better for Top 50 operators, according to the list compiled by LCT’s companion magazine, Metro. Nearly half — 42% — said that business was up for them this year at an average of 9%, whereas last year only 8% of motorcoach carriers surveyed had a bump in business. About 20% of operators reported that business was down, at an average of about 7%, an improvement from 2009’s two-thirds figure. Another 20% said that business had remained the same.

Many more actions to cut costs were taken this year, the survey said. These included the typical, with rate increases at 52% and fuel surcharges at 36%. Staff downsizing decreased only slightly from last year’s 30%, coming in at 26%. Operators also reported several other attempts at budget-cutting, including refurbishing older vehicles instead of buying replacements, reducing vehicle road speed, fuel hedging, enforcing idling restraints, switching to more fuel efficient motors, and downsizing fleets.

The most common ways to boost business included obtaining school and government contracts, at 46% each. One-fifth of respondents said they diversified into limousine and paratransit while 10% formed co-ops with other providers. Additional efforts cited included stepped-up sports marketing, at 10%; meeting competitors’ prices; and expanding onboard amenities.

As with last year, Dallas-based FirstGroup America held on to the number one spot among surveyed operators, and Paramus, N.J.’s Coach USA weighed in second, again, with a total of 1,717 vehicles. (At press time, Coach America, a major player that has taken the top ranking in years past, was not available for comment.)

A total of 16,532 vehicles, excluding vans (1,657), made up this year’s list. Motorcoaches totaled 41%, or 7,446, and non-motorcoach buses comprised 49%, or 9,086. The average fleet size is 150, excluding FirstGroup America, which dwarfs all other fleets in size, at 9,175 coach and non-motorcoach vehicles. The median fleet size is 72.

Forty-five carriers are looking to purchase new vehicles in 2011, reflecting a slightly better financial outlook. Nearly three-quarters of operators are planning to buy coaches with seat belts. Anticipated purchases include 257 new vehicles and 79 used vehicles, up significantly from last year.

This year’s list saw fewer ties than 2009’s, with only four versus seven, but there was one tie among five operators for 36th position. New additions to the list included Napa, Calif.-based California Wine Tours; Owosso, Mich.’s Indian Trails Inc.; and Fabulous Coach Lines of Branford, Fla.

By far, the most popular innovation shared was installing Wi-Fi on coaches, with 34% of operators saying they added the technology to some or all of their fleet vehicles. Fewer operators than last year added satellite TV, at only 10%, versus 2009’s 29%. Nearly one-fifth of operators surveyed added GPS, a slight increase from last year. Use of social media, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, held steady at 8%. More operators said that they are making vehicle tracking, real-time arrival-info texting programs, and online booking and seat selection available to customers than in previous years.

Pricing was the recurring top challenge: Slightly more than one-third of carriers surveyed cited issues ranging from dealing with competitors who “low-ball their rates” to increased customer sensitivity to price. Driver recruitment and training, as well as customer service, came in at a distant second, at 8%. Other concerns weighing on respondents were juggling several different services and meeting government regulations.

On the bright side, vehicle financing became much easier to obtain during 2010 for many operators who said earlier in the year that banks had tightened lending. Nearly one-half of the carriers surveyed got financing with favorable interest rates, without encountering any hurdles. Still, slightly more than one-fifth of operators reported more difficulty in getting financed than in the past.

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More News

How One Travel Manager Thinks About Business Travel

Customer needs have evolved with technology while safety and duty of care have become bigger issues in the last few years.

What's On The Must-Have List For Younger Travelers?

The line between business and leisure travel is blurrier than ever for Millennials.

Global Business Travel Likely To Advance Despite Uncertainty

Many signs show the global economy is improving. Total spending worldwide approached $1.3 trillion in 2016.

Stronger Economy Means Higher Travel Pricing In 2018

GBTA Convention Coverage: Air, hotel, and ground transportation rise on back of inflation, higher oil prices, and emerging markets.

Business Travel Spurs $547 Billion In GDP, 7.4 Million Jobs

GBTA Convention Coverage: Much of the industry's economy heft accrues directly to sectors that serve travelers.

See More News

Facebook Comments ()

Comments (0)

Post a Comment

Submit

Blog

See More

LCT Store

LCT Magazine - September 2017 $12.95 MOTORCOACH / BUS ISSUE COVER STORY: * Irizar Racks Up A Good Rookie Year * *
LCT Magazine - August 2017 $12.95 MILLENNIALS/FAST 40 ISSUE COVER STORY: * How to Score & Keep The Best Young Talent * *



Connect

Experience the three annual industry events for networking for business, showcasing vehicles and products, and getting the tools for success.

Read About Your Region

What’s Happening Near You?
Click on any state to see the latest industry news and events in that region.

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Metro Magazine

Serving the bus and passenger rail industries for more than a century

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

Please sign in or register to .    Close