Hawaii's SpeediShuttle to expand Sprinter fleet for exclusive airport contract

Posted on October 25, 2011

SpeediShuttle was awarded an exclusive contract for on-demand transportation at the Honolulu International Airport, which will involve a dramatic increase in its current fleet of 58 Mercedes-Benz Sprinters. The company has already ordered 29 more.

Founded only 12 years ago when CEO Cecil Morton bought two small Hawaii-based shuttle companies, SpeediShuttle is now poised to become the leading passenger transport company in the Rainbow State, which faces some unusual challenges. First and foremost, its island economy deals with the highest fuel costs in the entire U.S., plus the salt air of its seashore environment means rapid rust for many vehicles.

Morton said, “I used to buy used vans for $5,000 that required lots of expensive maintenance. I replaced them frequently and resigned our operation to getting four to six miles per gallon. Then, when the travel business shrank dramatically in 2001, I looked carefully at the real-world costs to operate a fleet of fuel-efficient Sprinters, which can easily get 20 mpg and hold up far longer than conventional vans. At first, I was shocked at their relatively high initial cost, but our Sprinters have actually reduced our long-term operating expenses.

“Our clients and our drivers love the fact that our Sprinters provide so much room for surfboards and golf clubs. Our employees all refer to them specifically as Sprinters, because they’re so much more than just vans.”

With the outstanding fuel economy and low maintenance costs of its Sprinters, SpeediShuttle’s rates are competitive with other companies that use more basic, utilitarian vans, according to the company. While its biggest operation is currently on the island of Maui, the SpeediShuttle fleet on Oahu will be growing quickly because of the new Honolulu airport contract. The company also boasts vehicles on the small island of Kauai and the “Big Island” of Hawaii.

“The incentive travel industry loves the premium appeal of our Mercedes-Benz Sprinters, and we’ve also expanded into pre-arranged departure service for residents and visitors," Morton said. "It may sound simplistic when I tell you our success is based on providing the best possible service. However, that means working smart, and as an example, all of our drivers are SpeediShuttle employees rather than independent contractors, in spite of the high medical insurance costs."

As another example of working smart, when the company couldn’t get all their new Sprinters in the same color, Morton decided instead to order a full array of colors. SpeediShuttle’s rainbow fleet honors the Rainbow State, and regular customers now even ask for their next Sprinter by color.

All Sprinters are powered by a 3.0-liter BlueTEC diesel engine that marks the first-ever use of super-clean BlueTEC technology in the commercial van market. Making the BlueTEC diesel engine as clean as a modern gasoline engine, a Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) injection system doses a special solution into the exhaust, reducing nitrogen oxides to harmless nitrogen and water in a downstream catalytic converter.

All versions are equipped with a number of Mercedes-Benz safety features — ESP stability and rollover control, ABS anti-lock brakes, Brake Assist and traction control. The driver and front passenger seats are equipped with standard multi-stage front air bags, and side curtain and torso air bags are optionally available.

The Sprinter has been sold in the U.S. since 2001 by Freightliner and through select Mercedes-Benz dealers since 2010. Both MBUSA and Freightliner are divisions of Daimler AG, the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles. In the U.S., the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is targeted to small businesses, while the Freightliner version is aimed at its established customer base of commercial vehicle operators.


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