Management & Operations

Innovative Operator Profile: Running Leaner Through Downsizing

Posted on April 17, 2013 by Camella Lobo

St. Louis, Mo.-based Mid American Coaches has seen a lot in its more than four decades in business. The company, which began as a six-bus transit line and occasional charter in 1927, has grown into a successful 23-vehicle charter service and tour operation.

Dennis Jones, vice president, and Roger Jones, president, whose father Ralph purchased the company in 1957, are discovering there’s no better time than the present to tighten Mid American’s enterprise.

“The economy is hurting everyone,” says Dennis Jones. In response, the company recently made some bold changes to its operation, which have drastically affected Mid American’s bottom line.

After a detailed inspection of the company’s maintenance department, Dennis discovered a more lucrative method of managing its parts supply. “We realized that our parts situation was out of hand,” he says. “For years we were too heavily stocked.”

Although to some operators, having more than you need is better than not having that part when you really need it, Jones saw the situation as an opportunity to save on the cost of having a fully stocked parts department. With the availability of next-day air and the close proximity of manufacturer facilities, Mid American no longer needed to spend the extra money to keep all of it its parts on hand. “It just didn’t make sense anymore,” he says. “We have saved a lot of money just by changing that one thing.”

“The state of the economy has made us more conscious of exactly what our costs are,” says Jones. Because of this, he adds, the company has reduced the size of its fleet from 43 vehicles in the early ‘90s, to 23 vehicles today. Jones believes this has made a huge difference in revenue.

“Instead of having unused vehicles in the yard,” says Jones, “sometimes we just have to say no on the busy days.” The cost savings in vehicle maintenance and equipment more than make up for it, Jones adds. In turn, downsizing has found Mid American running leaner and more efficiently in the long run.

Instead of holding on to hardly-used motorcoaches, the coach company also recently purchased five new fuel-efficient coaches to add to its fleet. All of the new vehicles are equipped with the latest in EGR engine technology. “We prefer to invest in new coaches with newer technologies to protect the environment,” says Jones.

In addition to efficiency, Mid American Tours takes its safety record very seriously. In a tough economy, with many operators attracting business by slashing rates, Mid American is tightening its safety standards and saving money at the same time.

The company has two dedicated safety officers who manage the safety and training of its drivers. “In the past, we were incurring a lot of damage to our vehicles,” says Jones. “This program has changed everything.” The training team does frequent ride-alongs, monitors the company’s DriveCam systems and retrains drivers when it is deemed necessary.

In addition to minimizing damage and eliminating unnecessary fuel costs due to idling and speeding, Jones says the program has instilled an added sense of morale among Mid American’s drivers. “Our drivers have a great rapport with the safety officers,” says Jones, “and appreciate the training.”

MOTORCOACHES: 22

FLEET MIX: MCI, Prevost, Setra, Van Hool

EMPLOYEES: 54

DRIVERS: 41

SERVICE AREA: U.S. and Canada

SERVICES OFFERED: charters and tours

YEAR STARTED: 1927

VICE PRESIDENT: Dennis Jones

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