Efficiency and safety across bus operations: Where should I act as an operator and what are the expected outcomes?

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It is well known that bus operators goal are the following:

  • Offering a reliable and comfortable service.
  • Managing a fleet of healthy and performing vehicles.
  • Reducing operating costs.
  • Achieving the net-zero objective by drastically reducing emissions.

These tasks are not easy to accomplish. Operators are constantly seeking new technologies to simplify their daily work and achieve their goals. However, implementing new technology and effectively managing it to attain desired outcomes is also a complex task. Operators often face opposition from unions and drivers who may be hesitant to embrace changes that may affect workers’ rights. Additionally, it may not be clear how to proceed after analyzing data provided by a new system. Questions may arise, such as which actions to take, where to begin implementation, and how to effectively follow-up.

Then it comes another tricky question for bus operators: whom to involve in the actions? Most large bus operators include various organisational layers such as drivers, supervisors, trainers, fleet managers, people responsible for planning and scheduling, depot managers, etc. For instance, operation managers usually have the following objectives:

  • Ensuring that drivers comply with frequency
    • take care of vehicles
    • drive eco-friendly and safely
    • are king to passengers
    • are motivated

Their frustrations come from not having fair and comprehensive information to assess drivers, vehicles or lines, not being able to plan clear targets and actions to improve drivers’ and operations’ performance and having difficulties to follow up on actions’ results. But other people within the operator may have slightly different goals and encounter different problems. So what’s the best approach for operators in order to improve efficiency and safety of their operations?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to these questions. In our experience, the only way to guarantee good results in the long term is to focus a bit everywhere, but to do so following the right methodology.

First, you need the right data and you need to run the right data analysis. It’s key to have a fair evaluation of the performance of your team, with the result that they will accept and implement the recommended actions. Having a fair evaluation means running a contextualised analysis and assessment of the performance, as the context influences a great deal how good someone can do its job.

Then, you need to act at all levels within the internal structure, assessing potential improvements at the drivers’, vehicles’, lines’ and at the operations’ level as a whole. Once potential improvements have been identified, priorities should be defined and an action plan put in place. The actions should be directed not only to drivers, but also to managers, middle managers, supervisors, depot managers, etc. When proposing an action plan, it’s also important not to target an ideal scenario, as such scenarios do not exist. Always keep recommendations and actions realistic, measurable and feasible to implement, otherwise frustration will grow among your employees.

In summary, operators need to follow a holistic approach if they are to improve substantially their efficiency and safety. They also need to reassess continuously the impact of the implemented measures, following a Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle model to ensure improvements are kept in the long term. As you can see this approach doesn’t differ from an ISO seal with which we all are familiar.

While it may sound complicated, all you need to do is seek advice from experts in the field, such as ourselves. Keep tuned to this post and we would guide you in the good direction, towards a more efficient and safer fleet. The potential benefits are well worth the effort.

You may get energy savings up to 20% for diesel buses and up to 40% in case of electric buses, and also accident reductions higher than 15%. Also, additional benefits can be achieved when combining the rigth actions with your maintenance, planning and operations’ strategy and tools, all systems working together, sharing data, information and infrastructures.