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Q: What are the most important things you have learned about managing and operating your fleet overall? What are some unique approaches your company takes?
Operator: John Greene
Location: Quincy, Mass.
Fleet vehicles: 35
Web site: www.etsintl.net
"We've always leased our vehicles, working with Merchants Automotive Group in doing 24-month closed-end leases. We can keep our monthly costs down by not dealing with the buying and selling of vehicles. Maintenance costs are down because the vehicles are under warranty for most of the term of the lease. We've been using closed-end leases for past 15 years."
360 Limo Inc.
Operator: Mark Shrayber
Fleet vehicles: 22
Web site: www.360LIMO.com
"We track vehicle use closely on a monthly basis, along with maintenance costs. Knowing what each vehicle costs per mile gives us insights into true costs for a trip. We use unique technology for maintenance that is custom developed in house. We put the workflow on the computer, and the dispatcher, fleet manager, and mechanics are all notified so that all parties are involved. They know the complete flow through on how long it takes to get the work done and when the vehicle will be fixed. [The system] lets the chauffeur know what was wrong. We communicate the information as it's happening so you don't have paper moving around. . . We compile complete records of maintenance which helps our vehicles have a high resale value because we maintain them so meticulously.
"We'd rather be short than heavy on vehicles. We have 22 but operate as if we have 25. We do that for three to six months before adding another vehicle."
Teddy's Transportation System
Operator: Charles Wisniewski
Location: Norwalk, Conn.
Founded: 1932 [bought by current owners in 1978]
Fleet vehicles: 34
Web site: www.teddyslimo.com
"In 1981, my Dad told a friend in Norwalk we would switch from Cadillac to Lincoln. The friend said we would be out of business. Of course, the whole industry is Lincoln now. We're paying about a third in operating costs for Lincoln instead of a Cadillac. We're waiting to see what comes out after the Town Car. We want a nice cushy, sedan ride, not a truck ride. We own all of our vehicles because the numbers work out better.
"The other big financial influence has been tracking the fleet. We have a tracker that sends us idling reports and makes diagnostics reports [when] hooked up to a computer. When you see an issue about fuel, you can manage the fleet-wide behavior to prevent idling for long periods of time. It's a tremendous boost to keeping us financially strong [and] keeps our carbon footprint respectable as well."
East Coast Transportation Services
Operators: Greg Franks and Mike Sobol, managing partners
Location: Jacksonville, Fla.
Fleet vehicles: 15
Web site: www.ectjax.com
Sobol: "We have a provider that provides L car rentals for us. We own sedans at minimal requirement levels. When we get busy and business picks up, we can expand temporarily [to] a rental fleet that matches our owned fleet. There is no difference to customers. Renting is a much better deal than buying the equipment. We get the equipment when we need it, and turn it back in when we don't. One of our strategies is to maintain lower fleet numbers. We'll rent [vehicles] for a month at a time when we have a sustained need for them. We're not paying a premium, so it's the same as what we would be paying for [an owned] Town Car on a monthly basis. Our business is seasonal; we go through peaks and valleys."
Operator: Kevin Illingworth
Location: Orange, Calif.
Fleet vehicles: 12
Web site: www.classiquelimo.com
"If I can do $10,000 per month per car, that's how I judge if I'm up or down. You have to judge fleets on a real number, based on overhead and staff. If you're above or below it, you know where you stand. It's the number I use in deciding to get new cars.
"We have about $1 million in cars, and have the opportunity to talk to clients. You have to take time out to introduce yourself. We have our [chauffeurs] work as a sales agency for us and teach them to get referrals. We train them not just to be good drivers, but to represent the company and get their own runs. All you have to do is sell your work and you'll never be slow."
A-1 Limousine Inc.
Operator: Jeffrey M. Shanker
Location: Princeton, N.J.
Fleet vehicles: 210
Web site: www.A1limo.com
"Preventative maintenance - we follow a proactive approach to maintenance which keeps our fleet moving. We put anywhere from 85,000 to 125,000 miles on a car per year. So that is key. Without it, the vehicle cannot stay on the road. Every 2,500 miles a car is brought in for a 200-point safety check. We recently switched to synthetic oil, and now change oil every 7,500 miles, but still bring them in every 2,500 miles. We found that changing tires at 4/32 inch of an inch instead of 2/32 of an inch has saved us on flat tires and tire issues. During a safety inspection, if one shock is out of spec, then we replace all four shocks.
"Because we are a GM warranty shop, it has saved us time and effort in vehicle repairs. We also have an incredible relationship with Cadillac where we speak to them frequently about issues."