The survey shows an industry that serves a broad range of customers and moves them with great fuel efficiency.
Consider It. . . Then Consider It Again
The first step operators should take before buying a bus is talking with their insurance agents and realizing what it will cost to have a $5 million policy. “As soon as you’re dealing with a vehicle that seats 16 or more people, you are required to have that,” Guinn says.
He has talked to many operators who made the leap from a van to a bus that didn’t give it enough thought and become stuck. “They essentially become gypsy operators until they can get it figured out, and that’s so dangerous because they are risking everything they’ve worked so hard for.”
So make sure you can not only afford the new or used bus payment, but also the insurance that comes along with it. When you’ve decided you can handle the financial burden of doing so, you’ll need to immediately start the process of obtaining a DOT number and getting the authority you need to operate legally.
This takes a good deal of time. “If you’re buying a used vehicle, even if it’s across the country, it might only take three to four days, but your DOT number could take a few weeks before it’s fully activated,” Guinn says. Tushing into anything in business can lead to disaster.
Ensure you fully understand the regulations associated with running bigger vehicles and have a plan; the longer you wait to get everything in place after you’ve taken delivery, you’re losing money every day or operating illegally and taking a chance. “That can be a very expensive gamble since smaller companies are using personal credit. That means they are risking their house, savings, basically everything they’ve worked for their entire life,” Guinn says.
One of the biggest issues that can cost an operation immediate money is having drivers who don’t understand the process of vehicle inspections and the importance of reporting even the smallest things to the company.
“If something like a minor oil leak is allowed to continue, you run the risk of blowing your motors or causing other kinds of catastrophic damage and you’ll have a bus sitting there because it needs a $20,000 engine,” Guinn says. If a vehicle has something wrong with a tire and the driver doesn’t understand the process of inspecting, reporting, and fixing whatever the issue is, it could blow out. This can affect clients and cause body damage.
“Not having a proper maintenance and inspection process is probably the number one cost that can be prevented, so you need to spend time training your drivers for what they need to be looking for,” Guinn says. “They are your frontline of defense when it comes to preventing damage to your vehicle.”
Know What You’re Talking About
Guinn started his company, Limo & Bus Compliance, after watching an owner in Texas make some bad decisions which caused him to lose his operating authority and insurability. “He made the decision to not comply with federal regulations; he knew what needed to be done, and decided not to do it.”
It then dawned on Guinn the natural progression of the industry seems to be someone buys a vehicle, sets out to do their own thing, and continues to purchase new, bigger vehicles, but they never really give any thought to what happens when you get into larger ones.
So he decided to start his own company to help aid operators stay in compliance and has spent the last few years educating owners.
Tools of the Compliance Trade
The simplest way to help operators was to become a tool of outsourcing. His company takes on the compliance management roll for businesses who may not have someone qualified to do so. This quickly became more than his team could handle on their own, so he and his business partner, Chris Przybylski, set off to build a tool that would help them manage all of these company’s compliance tasks.
After being told by the Keep Truckin’ team that adapting things for the limo industry wasn’t a priority for them, he created Limo Logs: An electronic DVIR and hours of service logging device. Since then, the tool has grown tremendously based on customer feedback and Guinn’s own knowledge. Once a fleet manager for The Driver Provider, he managed 150 vehicles in three different states, so he understood that side of the business and has also had experience in dispatch, reservations, and operations.
Guinn has since created a body inspection form where a driver can see the image of the vehicle he’s been assigned for the day and can view all the previous damage that’s occurred and report new damage. The app allows one to take a picture of the damage, which then gets sent via email immediately to the person in charge of managing that issue.
“We built the entire software on the premise a busy company doesn’t have time to go and look at a portal every day, and we don’t make anyone sign a contract; if we aren’t the right fit, we want you to go somewhere and find something that works better for your operation.”
Related LCT article: How To Step Up To Better Bus Operations
“The FMCSA has stated for years anyone engaged in prearranged transportation at the airport for hire is regulated in nine passenger and greater vehicles. That law hasn’t changed; however, in January 2017 they released a very substantial clarification of passenger rules that removed any grey area for operators who go to the airport. Every operator in a van or bus doing for-hire prearranged passenger transportation who goes a little more than a buffer zone around the airport are classified as an interstate motor carrier. They must have a DOT and MC number, and are federally regulated above and beyond any local authority including the airport, city, county, or state. If something happens and you don’t have those numbers, you are operating illegally." – Joe Guinn
Related Topics: bus regulations, buses, compliance, eNews Exclusive, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, federal regulations, FMCSA, How To, industry regulations, motorcoaches, regulatory enforcement, state regulations
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