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Economic conditions have forced many operators to run lean. Vehicles that once ran regularly often sit idle, not earning any money. In this environment, finding the right fleet size is the priority of every successful operator who needs to cut costs, stay above break-even, and maintain quality service.
Companies that would never have considered cooperative relationships with their competitors now see them as a way to preserve and promote business. Operators are pulling together like never before as they cut fleet sizes and rely more on each other for complementary vehicles when demand exceeds supply.
Local Competitors and Work in Your Market
Tom Miller, owner of Regency Global Transportation Group of Pittsburgh, PA, runs one of the largest luxury transportation providers in the region.
"When big events come to your area, you need to be able to accommodate them regardless of the size of your fleet," Miller says. "We work with four or five competitors locally who assist us. If you are a large company, you must have relationships locally."
Recently, Regency had to service this year's NFL kickoff event in Pittsburgh, which because it had the winning team in this year's Super Bowl, had to host the event. Regency transported concert performers Black Eyed Peas and Tim McGraw, NFL groups and the Steelers, and all of the VIPs that came in for the event.
Miller says the bands alone needed eight SUVs for the three-day event. It doubled the company's regular ride load with most of the rides as-directed. Help from local competitors was critical for moving so many clients, Miller says.
Z-Best Limousine in Glen Burnie, MD., which has worked on many major Baltimore-area events, relies on its retail division which has vehicles that most other operators don't have in their fleets.
"When there is an event such as the Super Bowl, we will travel and work with other companies to augment their fleet," says George Rains, Z-Best's general manager. "For this to be successful, you must have a clear understanding up front how the process will work all the way through to the end when you get paid. There should be nothing left to chance. Everything should be clearly defined."
Since most chauffeured transportation operators do not offer vehicles larger than a mini-bus, contracting for motorcoaches becomes a necessity when transporting large groups. Rains works with two major local bus companies to complement the Z-Best fleet.
"By working with two companies consistently, I am able to get competitive pricing and they provide the service I need because of the volume we use," Rains says. "We don't sell buses outside of our service area though. For example, we wouldn't take a school group to Florida overnight. We let the bus companies handle those types of runs themselves, but we do provide buses locally for our clients and for groups. Having a solid relationship is important if you provide buses."
For Marvin Fisher, vice president at Cooper Atlanta, working with bus companies means training drivers to be chauffeurs. "We work with the drivers so that they understand what we need when we deliver luxury service," he says. "Our partner companies understand this and work to deliver that higher level of service."