Hiring and retaining drivers is the greatest challenge facing motorcoach operators, according to 70% of respondents of METRO Magazine's upcoming 2019 Motorcoach Survey. The public transit industry is not immune to this issue either. This summer, a shortage of San Francisco Muni bus drivers caused systemwide delays and stranded thousands of commuters, according to a San Francisco Examiner report.
Similarly on the private bus side, the shortage of coach operators is not only resulting in staffing issues, but is now beginning to have an impact on business, with many survey respondents saying they could in fact grow their operation if they had enough drivers to take on the increased work. Some steps being taken by motorcoach fleets is implementing referral and hiring bonuses, and improved benefits packages and increased wages.
Since taking on his role as President/CEO of the United Motorcoach Association, Stacy Tetschner said he's realized how crucial the issue of hiring drivers is.
“I now see the tremendous importance [drivers] play in the health and well-being of our industry. The driver shortage is not just about manpower, it affects the industry’s ability to grow and expand. Not having a qualified driver creates a ripple effect that can hinder everything from operational safety to an owner’s ability to book additional business and/or expand their fleet. A year later, I now understand the importance, and that we need to create greater influence in directing potential drivers to the bus and motorcoach industry as a positive career path, which includes attracting potential drivers earlier in their career/life and also helping owners and operators make this a sought-after position in their company.”
Another key challenge Tetschner has observed this past year is how the pace of change and disruption in this industry has picked up tremendously.
“This increased pace has been a challenge for an industry that has traditionally been change averse. Much of the change has been spurred by technological changes, such as ELDs, that have gained acceptance leading to increasing new technologies and opportunities that are disrupting how business has always been done," he said.
"We have seen online crowdsourcing tools move from being looked at with tremendous skepticism by owners and operators to it being embraced as a new revenue stream for charter opportunities. Operational technology tools have also been developed and rolled out that include new software and smartphone apps for fleet management, safety inspections, and overall security,” Tetschner added.
Looking ahead to the New Year, Tetschner also talked about his three hopes for the industry:
1. “Knowing that the pace of change is going to continue, I hope to see the industry continue to reinvest in itself. Investing in professional development and continual industry education will be a necessity to keep pace with these changes while keeping our workforce engaged and industry growing.”
2. “I also see that with the contentious nature of the relationships in Washington, D.C., the industry needs to have a strong voice there now more than ever. I would be thrilled to see owners, operators and managers descend on Washington, April 2 to 3, for the industry’s biggest, baddest, and best legislative fly-in to date. While we have lobbyists that work for us, these legislators want to hear directly from the businesses owners and job creators in their districts that have concerns and a desire to grow the tax base and create more job opportunities. I do not want to see our industry become a victim of all the rhetoric and infighting in Washington, we have to protect our turf and UMA is powering a powerful yet affordable way to participate.
3. “Finally, I would wish for more drivers," Tetschner said. "I see tremendous opportunity for the industry to grow. Bus and motorcoach travel is the green alternative, as well as an answer to decreasing traffic congestion, and most importantly, it is the safest mode of transportation on the highway today. If we can come together as an industry to make driving an attractive career alternative, the possibilities are endless to creating new business opportunities for our owners and operators.”
Janna Starcic is the executive editor of METRO Magazine.
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