Management & Operations

56% of Small Operators Concerned with Driver Shortage

Posted on March 1, 2002 by Janna Starcic, assistant editor

This year, in addition to METRO’s annual Top 50 Motorcoach Fleets (January 2002), we sent out a supplemental list of questions, where fleet size was not a qualifying criterion, to operators nationwide. Here are the results of part two of our survey. Smaller fleet numbers Although fleet size was not a factor, the survey shows that three out of four respondents (76%) have 10 buses or fewer in their fleets, making this in some way our “small operator” survey. The average fleet size totaled eight buses. Operators listing fleet sizes between one and five buses account for 49% of respondents, while 27% have six to 10 buses. Fleets numbering between 11 and 20 buses represent 15% of the total. Rounding out the list are 9% of fleets having 21 buses or more. This high range topped off at 38 buses from Cardinal Buses Inc. in Middlebury, Ind. With the economy still on a downward slide, these smaller fleets are not looking to expand anytime soon. Conservative bus buying numbers forecast a belt-tightening trend for a majority of the operators responding. A few daring fleets (7%) plan to purchase three or more buses in 2002, while 60% will buy one or two. One-third of respondents have no plans to purchase buses this year. More than 80% of the operators were satisfied with the quality of the buses they received within the past year. The remaining 17% cited high procurement and maintenance costs, faulty computer systems as well as lack of dealer support as reasons for not being satisfied with bus purchases. Driver specific responses The average hourly wage fell between $7 to $15-plus per hour, with the largest number of drivers (34%) earning $10 to $10.50 an hour. The second largest percentage of drivers (17%) makes between $9 to $9.50. Only 16% of drivers earn less than $8.50 an hour, whereas 33% earn a minimum of $11 an hour, with 7% of those being paid the highest rate of $15-plus. The driver shortage appears to be a moderate concern for 37% of operators responding. Forty-four percent of fleets regard the driver shortage as non-existent or mild. The remaining 19% characterized the shortage problem as severe. Target markets Seniors make up the dominant target market for motorcoach operations with a 37% share. Schools come in second with 30%, and the steadily growing corporate market registers with 22%. Capping off with 11% is the “other” category, which includes church groups and the military.

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