Operations

Industry Voices Of Reason On The Coronavirus

Martin Romjue
Posted on March 11, 2020
Coronavirus looks scary now but common sense approaches can balance the doom and gloom. (LCT graphic)

Coronavirus looks scary now but common sense approaches can balance the doom and gloom. (LCT graphic)

As the hype-virus of doomsday media coverage escalates, several luxury ground transportation services have responded with messages that help put the coronavirus scare into a longer-term perspective.

I’ve selected some best practices from various e-blasts circulated by reputable operations, which can serve as role models to other operators and counterbalance some of the hysteria that has inundated the global media-sphere.

Think of this as a “best of” compilation from which we can all borrow pieces of sanity. I follow these up with an economic message that seems to be getting lost amid all the cancellations:

Related: Stupidity On Steroids: Got Enough TP For Your Corona Hole?

Cheryl Berkman, CEO of Music Express, and President of Advocates For Transportation, Burbank, CA:

  • At a time of uncertainty, maintain regular communications to reassure chauffeurs and customers. Put plans in place to protect them.
  • Communicate a sense of confidence that traveling with your company is still safe.
  • Instructing chauffeurs to stay home if they are sick.
  • Enhancing cleaning procedures for all your for-hire vehicles.
  • Expanding the use of EPA-approved, hospital-grade disinfectant to clean common touchpoints inside your vehicles between rides.
  • Promoting hand-washing and other hygiene best practices among chauffeurs.
  • Providing clients with disinfecting wipes for use in limousines, on airplanes, and at their destinations.
  • Instructing chauffeurs to not shake hands. This isn't a sign of disrespect, but another common-sense gesture to keep everyone safe.

Steve Qua, CEO, Company Car and Limousine, Cleveland, OH:

  • Diffuse fear about air travel by offering regional ground travel alternatives. Travel in a crowd of two: You and a healthy chauffeur. Promote the safety advantages of solitary “cocoon” travel.
  • Sanitize and detail every vehicle between clients and runs. Tell everyone about it.
  • Have your detailing department provide a deep cleaning of each vehicle at the end of each day. Use additional sterilizing products to minimize your risk of exposure.
  • Send home any chauffeurs or employees who show cold or illness symptoms of any kind.
  • Post an honest video message of what you as an owner are doing personally to protect yourself and what you are thinking about.
  • Offer hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes to passengers upon request.

King Limousine & Transportation Service, King of Prussia, PA:

  • Remove all printed and reading materials from seat-back pockets.
  • Cease offering candy, mints, water, or beverage offerings that are not individually packaged or sealed. Offer sealed items upon request.
  • Limit all physical material sharing between passengers and drivers wherever possible.
  • Thoroughly clean all vehicle interior surfaces with Clorox or bleach-based disinfectant wipes following each ride.
  • Clean and disinfect all company working areas daily.

Terry Murtaugh, CEO/co-owner, United Private Car, Boston, MA:

  • Publicize detailed rate lists for various fleet vehicles to common regional destinations, such as major cities hundreds of miles away. Offer either flat rates or average hourly rates.

United Motorcoach Association, Alexandria, VA:

  • Maintain a sufficient supply of disinfectant for cleaners. Monitor supply for use and resupply. Review proper dilution according to manufacturer specifications.
  • Make sure there is an ample supply of hand sanitizer (65-95% alcohol) throughout the bus or motorcoach.
  • Review cleaning procedures with cleaning staff for effectiveness and safety following Federal guidelines (29 CFR 1910.1030).
  • Stock up on your supply of disinfectant wipes (Clorox, Lysol, etc.)
  • Cleaning products can also kill most, if not all, flu viruses, including products containing: Chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, detergents (soap), iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics), alcohols.
  • Keep on hand tissues and plastic trash liners for proper disposal.
  • Supply disposable gloves for drivers as well as cleaning staff.
  • Advise charter and tour groups to encourage passengers who are ill to remain home.
  • Discuss procedures with drivers and other staff including the importance of washing hands thoroughly with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds multiple times daily.
  • If customers express concerns, advise them of the specific steps your company has taken.
  • Discuss with drivers procedures for handling passengers who become ill.

Amy Yan, owner, Amy Express, Hong Kong:

  • Ensure material preparedness for the next epidemic crisis: You never know how fast basic medical supplies (e.g. facemask, sanitizer, etc.) can become scarce at a time everyone and every country are running after them. The first lesson is to have all your employees/chauffeurs have at least five boxes (with 50 pieces) and five bottles of hand sanitizers in stock. The more, the better. These would not cost much in normal times but can save lives during times like these. Also, at the company level, an operator should have a good stock in place as well to meet emergency needs.
  • Keep enough money tucked away in order to survive: How can an operator survive in such a crisis when no new income is coming in and all business travel is restricted or reduced to the bare minimum? An operator may need to start to reserve right away, assuming no income for at least four months.
  • Diversify business more to survive: Yan’s revenue in February has been reduced to one-fifth of what it is normally, so for the first time in the company’s history, they are running into operational losses. “On the positive side, we still have some income, albeit limited, generated from the rides performed outside mainland China (i.e. Hong Kong, Tokyo, Taipei, and the rest of the globe). These rides help alleviate our pain. We are thankful for our past efforts in business diversification. Otherwise, our bottom line would be badly hurt if we only limited our service in one city or even just one country.”
  • Enable your staff to work from home: On day one, Amy leveraged new technologies to enable all to “work from home.” This strategy proves to be working very well in this difficult time. They can serve their clients without delay or disruption.
  • Hold up high social responsibility as a firm: No one knows how the virus outbreak will end, or when. This is the most difficult time not only for owners/operators, but also for their employees. The government has called upon small and medium-sized business operators not to fire people on a large scale during the crisis.

Economic Pause

Finally, the rescheduling of the annual Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and Stagecoach country music festival from April 10-17 and April 24-26 to Oct. 9-16 and Oct. 23-25 respectively, should serve as a hopeful indicator.

Many trips, conferences, conventions, and vacations being canceled or postponed will likely come roaring back later in the year as the virus dissipates and the economy regains lost momentum. The past decade has seen a surge in the need and demand for face-to-face, in-person business interactions. That will never go away.

Operators should plan and prepare for future ramp-ups and double-duty when this happens, as schedules could quickly fill as pent up demand and restlessness are unleashed. Fleet services may even need some new vehicles after delaying purchases.

All will not be lost. Precautions and cool heads now will yield to opportunity and comebacks later.   

Related Topics: business management, chauffeur behavior, chauffeur training, Cheryl Berkman, coronavirus, COVID-19, crisis management, disasters, driver safety, Driver training, emergency planning, emergency preparedness, fleet management, motorcoach operators, Music Express, operations, passenger safety, safety, staff training, Steven Qua, United Motorcoach Association

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