Be a better bus boss

Be a better bus boss

Effective fleet management systems can help bus and coach operators to manage their running costs, reduce their carbon footprint, improve road safety, decrease accidents and improve passenger comfort and safety – all of which amounts to better business. But what are the best options? CLAIRE RENCKEN investigates.

Various service providers offer industry-specific expertise and solutions designed to help operators run their fleets, and thus their businesses, better. As a leading industry all-rounder, MiX Telematics is able to provide good insight into what’s happening in this field.

Steven Sutherland, national and export sales manager for South Africa and Africa, says telematics developments aimed at the bus and coach segment can be separated into two categories: those that drive operational efficiencies for the operator’s benefit, and those that contribute towards an enhanced passenger experience.

Operational efficiency
• Telematics platforms now completely integrate with relevant financial systems, providing process functionality to manage all operating cost elements – enabling the seamless exchange and sharing of critical information. Telematics data is now an integral component in the life-cycle management of a mobile asset.

• Interactive in-cab terminals allow for improved communication between drivers and control centres, and drivers can now report a variety of custom events, instances and occurrences. These are captured in the telematics database and can be displayed in the control centre as critical (VIP) or non-critical notifications, or formatted into an appropriate report.

• Improved routing and scheduling, including route adherence and route deviation monitoring, further helps operators to ensure optimal mobile asset utilisation while promulgating customer satisfaction.

• AARTO software helps operators to manage their fines and infractions, and ensures that they are aware of the points status of their drivers and their vehicles.

Enhanced passenger experience
• Driver behaviour modification not only contributes towards an enhanced passenger experience, but also considerably reduces operating costs. Telematics data regarding driving errors (such as harsh acceleration, harsh breaking, speeding, over-revving and excessive idling) is relayed directly to the driver via an in-cab display. A combination of audible and visual infraction indications serve to modify driving style while the associated driver behaviour/performance monitoring and management software provides management with progress or regression results.

• Enhanced camera technology serves as an additional passenger safety feature, providing collision avoidance and unannounced lane deviation alerts. These serve to ensure consistency in terms of following distances and reduce the tendency of drifting unintended into either an adjacent or oncoming lane, contributing to a smoother and safer overall journey.

Emerging trends
According to Sutherland, something that is becoming evident, especially in the rest of Africa, is a move towards the utilisation of smaller buses. With bus frequency based on passenger demand, there are naturally greater frequencies during peak periods. Using smaller buses not only reduces the carbon footprint, but also serves to alleviate congestion and overall passenger waiting time at pick-up points.

Sutherland points out that an increase in incidents resulting in passenger fatalities has led to increased awareness of matters related to passenger safety. “The heightened sensitivities in this regard seem to be directly proportional to how recently the incident took place – and the media coverage it received – and is generally inversely proportional to the investment required to adequately manage and address the underlying route cause issues,” he says.

The strong emphasis on everything “green” is also resulting in more awareness of CO2 emissions. Sutherland believes the right questions are being asked, but that stronger legislation will be required before a significant move is seen in this direction.

In the pipeline
“The increasing use of smart devices such as tablets and smartphones will most definitely permeate into the bus and coach environment as well,” says Sutherland, adding that applications that will increase the level at which passengers are able to interact with public transport operators will be developed.

Scheduling systems will automatically adjust capacity requirements based on real time passenger numbers, and routing systems that use telematics data in conjunction with traffic patterns and congestion will proactively adjust the route. In this way, unnecessary delays can be avoided and passenger requirements can be better met.

Integrated event-based camera technology – triggered by the driver, control centre or a specific event – will provide relevant footage of all activities in and around that event.

Passenger counting systems will result in better auditing of fares collected against passengers transported, as well as subsidies paid.

Sutherland says a critical component to the success and effectiveness of any fleet management platform, especially in terms of driver performance, is the acceptance, buy-in and collaboration of the drivers themselves, adding that technology is not a substitute for training.

New from Ctrack
Tap-I-Fare is a new offering to the transport industry that gives operators the ability to safeguard their profits by providing real-time visibility of their assets and fare collection. At the same time, commuters benefit from a secure and convenient fare payment system.

Commuters are guaranteed peace of mind by not having to carry or handle cash, while the simple “tap” system means their Tap-I-Fare card is in sight for the shortest time possible. And because the card is prepaid, it allows users to plan and control their finances better. It offers operators and commuters total convenience, security and transparency for the first time, with a reduction of fraud and greater security for the offline processing of transactions.

With the in-built support of Ctrack’s tracking, monitoring and fleet management system, owners and operators can maximise the security and productivity of their fleets in real time.

The Tap-I-Fare system provides full financial transparency and visibility with daily, weekly and monthly monitoring of revenue, and regular reporting via e-mail, SMS and the web.

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