This year’s International LCT Show began with a high note and ended even better with more than 3,500 total show delegates from 46 states and 24 nations. The event has a long-standing tradition of hosting a grand opening general assembly that lays out the state of our industry. This year that message was delivered by Scott Solombrino, president of Dav El Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation in Boston. Among other hot topics such as the car rental business knocking on our door, and the looming overtime wage issues followed by driver union threats, Solombrino spent a lot of time on the green movement and fuel costs, and what that all means to our future.
If you Google most anything “green,” it’s not hard to find all kinds of bad news about fuel prices and environmental doom and gloom relating to traveling — particularly via plane. In fact, in January, Nike announced a new travel policy. They are offsetting carbon emissions for all business air travel. Every time an employee books air travel, one cent will be charged back to that employee’s cost center. What’s more, I read one of their press releases online that says, “Nike is making it easier to collaborate with colleagues around the world without getting on a plane.”
The article reviews the merits of virtual meetings and online conferencing in place of face-to-face. If air travel for business continues to be perceived as gluttonous, in other words, a faux pas resulting in businesses seeking other options, the chauffeured car industry will absolutely be affected.
So what should we be doing? For starters, we should be proactive. One of the greatest selling tools we have is that our vehicles are big — big enough for multi-passengers. If we can just sell enough companies on the advantages of ride sharing, we should be able to create a bustling luxury carpooling business, complete with captain’s chairs, a complimentary newspaper, head phones, and hot coffee. Wow, what a concept!
According to the American Public Transportation Association, using their easy commuting solutions saves 14 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. That’s 1.4 billion gallons of gas. It would be interesting to do a study inside our industry on the same. We may even have a chance at government subsidies and incentives under the Clean Air Act. The NLA would do well to look into this.
I was listening to the radio the other day and an ad came on from Shuttle Express promoting luxury chauffeured rides from Seattle to Portland (a total of 150 miles). The company was selling against both trains and commuter flights, and elaborating on their high-end fleet of executive vans and buses with first-class style amenities that suggested the experience would be head and shoulders above the regular “cattle car” experience of commuting. It was very compelling.
I realize there’s a scramble going on to purchase environmentally friendly vehicles, but that’s a rush to judgment in my opinion. At an average of 50,000 miles per year placed on the average sedan, there isn’t a product on the market that can withstand the wear and tear we put on our cars, nor has one been safety tested for the livery market. We’re getting closer on the SUV side, but we’re not there yet.
So, in the here and now, I suggest you dust off your presentation skills and get out in front of your corporate clients to sell them on your newest service, Eco-Commuting. Keep it in theme with the true spirit of our core competency — LUXURY transportation — and I think you’ll have a winner.