In 1930, family-owned Capital/Colonial Trailways opened with a dozen buses, just for scheduled service, similar to Greyhound. By the mid-1980s, the company started doing charter work and tours, and the business grew substantially. Frank Montgomery, the owner, purchased the company one-and a-half years ago; he was already working for Capital when he bought it from his family. Shannon Rhodes, vice president and general manager, came on board in 2000.
Since then, Capital/Colonial has consistently increased their fleet to its current total of 90 coaches, up from 50 for Capital and 20 for Colonial in 2000. They also leased six Van Hool coaches from ABC Companies this year. They do this on an as-needed basis, dictated by business growth.
The company acknowledges the integral part drivers play in the motorcoach operation business and started a new program this year: the Driver Performance Incentive (DPI). Drivers receive a bonus if they follow all the rules in the employee handbook, keep a professional appearance, take care of their customers, have no accidents and abide by all company rules. If they accomplish these tasks, the DPI shows up in each paycheck as a cash bonus. The additional money in each applicable paycheck helps morale, according to Rhodes.
Capital strives to provide the very best customer service. “Your driver provides an opportunity for repeat customers. If the customer has a bad experience with the driver, chances are they will not come back,” says Rhodes.
Rhodes adds that he wondered at one point how many customers had problems that Capital never found out about. “People don’t want to call, especially with problems. But they’ll write about them. As a result, our comment cards turned out to be a great way for the company to get lots of positive feedback, and when those negative things have come up, we are made aware of them and can address them.” Capital sends comment cards on every trip. Drivers are rated each time. Through the card, customers are encouraged to give their name, rate driver and bus performance, and share how their trip went, both the positive and negative.
“It’s a good way to hear from the customer. Otherwise, if there are problems, we may not ever hear about it. We get an amazing number of responses every day. We print them and put them on file. We do a drawing and pull a card, and the customer gets a discount on their trip,” says Rhodes. “On average per month, 100 comment cards come in depending on the time of year. They are pre-stamped and addressed, so the customer really doesn’t have to do anything except fill it out.”
Since 2000, Capital has also awarded drivers with a safety bonus based on driving performance, if they’re accident free for the whole year. The bonus is based on their driver income, and they get it right before Christmas. The more they earn driving, the higher the safety bonus (three percent of their driver income). The company also works to help its drivers earn it. “We train individual drivers, and we have at least two safety meetings each year. Meeting attendance is also required to work here,” says Rhodes.
Capital/Colonial received a grant through National Trailways to purchase a GPS system to ensure driver and customer safety. The system was installed last February. There is a computer security system in the office; staff can see what’s happening on the buses.
“We try to be fair and efficient. The customer is the most important asset. How professionally you handle problems is important for securing repeat business,” says Rhodes.
At a Glance
Fleet mix: MCI, Van Hool, Prevost
Employees: Approximately 250
Drivers: Approximately 150
Service area: Southeastern region (but will travel anywhere in the U.S.)
Services: Charter and colleges, universities, high schools, churches, shuttle work, Greyhound schedule work
Annual mileage: 2 million (Capital), 3 million (including Colonial)
Year started: 1930
President: Frank Montgomery