Vehicles

Are You Getting The Most Out Of Each Vehicle?

Thi Dao and Martin Romjue
Posted on August 5, 2010

Whether an operator runs four vehicles or 400, knowing how to get the most out of a fleet determines its profitability.

In the following snapshot profiles, some operators discuss the most important things they have learned about managing and operating their fleets since the recession started. Others share general insights about successful fleet management and operational tactics that work for them.

Q: What are the most important things you have learned about managing and operating your fleet since the recession started?

First Class Executive Limo LLC

Operator: Mary Beall

Location: Phoenix

Founded: 2005

Fleet vehicles: 6

Web site: www.fcelimo.com

"We believe that customer service is paramount. At times when finances are tight, we go the extra mile by offering our corporate clients different options for their travel.

"We've seen a lot of the big businesses here cease traveling or limit their traveling. We've tried to do more transfers to help them economically instead of having a car sit and wait on them. We feel that it benefits our clients and helps them through these times, so when times get better, they'll definitely be there for us still."

 

Avanti Transportation

Operator: Erich Reindl

Location: Houston

Founded: 1996

Fleet vehicles: 34

Web site: www.avantilimos.com

"Controlling costs without sacrificing the most important things, which are safety and service. We've controlled costs by keeping some cars longer in our fleet than previously, and sooner or later you get to a point where the cars are being paid off. You get a little bit more life out of a car, so maybe I can get four or five months with no payment.

"We ask our suppliers, especially mechanics, to give us an extra discount on their labor rate. We try as best as possible to negotiate [bulk] part rates on our own versus doing it through a mechanic or a dealership. Also, we now do preventative maintenance in-house, such as oil changes and air filter changes."

 

L&S Classic Limousine LLC

Operator: Sue Trams

Location: Appleton, Wis.

Founded: 2004

Fleet vehicles: 6

Web site: www.lsclassiclimo.com

"I think the big thing is making sure your customers are well taken care of, and that you really have top-notch customer service. Although things may be tight, you have to keep your name out in front of people.

"We continue to do wedding shows. We work with local hotels as far as checking in with them and making sure they know what services we provide. We also do some promotions with the local radio station during the football season. [We go to] networking opportunities with other wedding professionals. We take advantage of any opportunities that might present itself. We even work with a local performing arts center here. We do all their transportation, and we go to the show and see people there and introduce ourselves."

 

Best Way Limo Inc.

Operator: Shawn Sahani

Location: San Francisco

Founded: 2000

Fleet vehicles: 17

Web site: www.bestwaylimos.com

"Just working hard. Paying the bills first. Cutting down expenses. A lot of smaller operators are hurting, and since [clients] still want the service, they want to negotiate the price. Some corporate accounts, they change [to another] service. They come back again because the biggest reason you can say is: You can beat the price, or you can beat the quality. So maybe [the other companies] are not able to beat the quality."

 

Sole Limousine Services Inc.     

Operator: Amedeo Marrocco

Location: Southern Ontario, Canada

Founded: 2008

Fleet vehicles: 6

Web site: www.solelimousine.com

"Even with the recession going, we've done quite well. We've got all new vehicles. We've just got to keep them clean and tidy and be courteous to all our people, to all our clients. We kept our prices where [they] were at [before] the recession. We tried to market as well as we could and got our name out there. We put out a lot of signs, sent out a lot of emails to repeat clients. We've got our web site up and it's up-to-date.

"We have an all new fleet because we've only been in business for a year and a half. I guess people knew that and [the new fleet] is why they come to us. A lot of companies [around here] use older vehicles that they've been using for 10 or 12 years."

 

GO Airport Shuttle & Executive Car Service

Operator: Lorraine Celestino Wilde

Location: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Founded: 1986

Fleet vehicles: 150

Web site: www.go-airportshuttle.com

"Hard work pays off, and consistently high levels of customer service will be rewarded by customer consistency. 

"We also benefited by being part of The GO Group international network. We found that our advertising campaign needed to be refreshed and additional advertising was needed to reach select markets. All our office expenses were analyzed and overtime hours were cut back. I think our industry will come out of this recession much stronger and wiser."

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?

ETS International

Operator: John Greene

Location: Quincy, Mass.

Founded: 2006

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

Location: Dallas

Founded: 2001

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.

Founded: 2008

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."  

 

Classique Limousine

Operator: Kevin Illingworth

Location: Orange, Calif.

Founded: 1990

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.

Founded: 1964

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."

Related Topics: cost savings, customer service

Comments ( 0 )
More Stories