Operations

Things I Should Have Known Before Buying A Motorcoach

Hoss Oskouie
Posted on January 18, 2018

Getting into motorcoaches is like no other ground transportation venture. The payoff and profit potential is huge and exceeds that of just about every other fleet vehicle. But you’ll have to earn it with attention to detail and more labor.

Last month, I looked at the first steps: Finding a knowledgeable mentor where you can learn more about the industry and from experienced operators, assessing your market area demand, and embracing the vast world of federal interstate regulations.

Once you’ve cleared those hurdles, it’s time to look at your operations, especially how you handle drivers and maintain your big new purchases.

Bus Operations

Running coaches is different than running any other vehicle. From the fueling process, to Blue Def technology, dumping areas for waste, to the cleaning processes, and parking coach buses, you need to learn all the nuances.  

Remember, you want to grow this area as well. Understand your local laws. Get local inspectors involved before you build things like dump stations and wastewater runoff handling so you know the rules and do not throw money away by making mistakes. Always plan for future growth.

Atlantic Limousine And Transportation

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Founded: 1997

Partners: Robert and Hoss Oskouie

Facility: 55,000 sq.ft. on two-acre lot

Bus acquisitions: Bought first two minibuses, 2003; first two motorcoaches in 2007

Fleet vehicles: 75+

Fleet types: 15 coaches, 13 minibuses, 11 Sprinters/Vanterras/vans, nine limousines and limo buses, 20 sedans, seven SUVs, and a few antiques/exotics

Employees: 100+ office staff, chauffeurs/drivers, detailers, mechanics, and sales personnel. 

Contact/information: (770) 751-7078; www.atlanticlimo-ga.com

Drivers/Chauffeurs

Hiring motorcoach drivers is not the same as hiring a chauffeur for your livery service. But you should expect the traits of a good chauffeur when looking for motorcoach drivers. They should like driving, offer a customer service attitude, and enjoy working with people. 

Remember, you are handing over the keys to a $400,000 plus investment. The person driving not only has to be an expert in driving the vehicle, he needs to understand all the rules and regulations required to run a motorcoach. They must be well trained in customer service, understand how to handle crisis communications, and how to act in the event of an accident. 

There is a CDL shortage in most markets. Just because someone walks in with a CDL that has a passenger endorsement does not mean he is the right person to drive your vehicle. You must put in place a comprehensive training process. We have a full-time driver/chauffeur manager who not only makes sure all the documents are in place about licensing, logs, and hours of service, but who also field tests and extensively trains. This is a cost you may not have anticipated before biting the bullet on motorcoaches.

It’s better to have experience. You need to make sure they are over the road trained, can drive for many hours straight, and can drive at night for long hours. You may need two sets of drivers: One for over the road and one for corporate trips and weddings. If you hire people who were previously bus drivers, you need to change the bus driver mentality to chauffeur mentality: Suit and tie. You could throw away business without it.

Equipping Motorcoaches

You must have outlets for power, WiFi, and even satellite, which is becoming more in demand for over-the-road charters. Wireless microphones are also a great investment. Just as important as having these added features is always ensuring they are in working order. Continuously check your DVD players and monitors, and test the wireless microphones pre-trip for every trip. You could lose $300 to $400 giving concessions if a microphone doesn’t work.

Marketing Your Bus

First, your bus is a rolling billboard for your company. Label it with your logos and phone numbers so when it is seen consumers can get in touch with you. But I caution you not to go overboard with how you wrap or brand your vehicle. Keep it simple and professional. Corporate clients want a professional image and others don’t care if you have fancy graphics. If you have an accident, the cost of replacing graphics is lower with simpler graphics. We have white buses with our logo as it is very hot in Georgia in the summer.

Schools are a tremendous market for motorcoaches. Let them know you have buses as well as the amenities. Talk to your existing clients. Use tools such as email blasts to get your message out there.

Buses need to keep rolling if they will make money for you. We have a charter sales person who works hard to do just this. Many companies will try to offload inventory at a reduced rate to keep the buses rolling. We look at this as the absolute last resort. Our equipment is new and in pristine shape. 

Because Atlanta is a huge city for groups and conventions, we focus on being the go-to company for this work. Speak to local destination management companies who you may already be working with on the livery side. They will like the fact you are now a one-stop shop. We have added a meeting and events staff in-house that understands all the nuances of making these rides an outstanding experience for the client and their guests. We do over-the-road charters, but they tend to put more wear and tear on the vehicles. Our preference is selling locally at our rates. If you provide outstanding service every time, customers who need that high touch are willing to pay more for it.

Investing in motorcoaches is a big leap for any operator. It has allowed our company to diversify. When the sedan business slows down, we don’t always see a drop off on our charter business. We have hired lots of additional staff to service the motorcoach side of the business, but we are also able to use them on the livery side. Without the motorcoach business, we would not have their expertise.

By investing in motorcoaches, we have been able to expand our offerings and become a one-stop shop for all of our clients’ transportation needs. We have expanded our facility which allows us to have detail and maintenance bays onsite. We have planned for our future growth from the onset of making the first purchase.

Yes, there can be headaches operating motorcoaches, but if you buy new vehicles and take care of them, hire the right staff to run them, and stick with your business model and avoid compromising too often, you will see the fruits of your efforts. You will quickly realize the margins are better running coaches than traditional livery vehicles.

Related Topics: How To, industry education, motorcoach operators, motorcoaches

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