8 Ways failed reliefs hurt bus operators

The Trapeze Team | March 22, 2017

While failed driver relief is a well understood issue, have you examined all the different ways it hurts your business? Let’s take a look.

1. Dead running

The most obvious impact of failed reliefs is creation of dead runs. There is a clear causal relationship here between failed reliefs and additional cost in the form of driver pay and fuel. Additionally, it is likely that you will have to pay the driver local agreements on top of their hourly rate, due to minimum overtime payments and ‘straight through’ payments. Dead running also boosts average compulsory overtime, which then impacts on holiday pay, as per working time directives legislation. On top of all this, when a driver is in the wrong place and is too late to get back, you may then have to pay them to stand down until you can slot them back on their own schedule.

2. Opportunity cost

Bus operations run on fine margins and therefore depend on being able to ‘sweat their assets’ as effectively as possible. A bus that returns to the depot because it doesn’t have a driver not only increases the number of preventable dead runs, it is also not earning its keep during a planned active shift.

3. Impact on schedule & other services

Probably the most critical impact of a failed relief is the impact on the overall schedule and services that follow. Adherence is the obvious pitfall, but in some areas (for example London) there will also be fines for not delivering the services you tendered for.

4. Impact on drivers and driver attrition

Failed reliefs cause drivers unnecessary inconvenience because they end up finishing their shift miles from where they had intended (most likely, nowhere near where they parked their car). Not only that; passengers being asked to disembark a seemingly working vehicle often react angrily, causing drivers needless stress and occasionally risk of verbal or physical attack.

5. Impact on the traffic office

Few incidents disrupt the traffic office like a failed relief. Your depot team face the unenviable task of dealing with a critical situation – and time is of the essence since they only hear about the issue after it has occurred. It is likely that your Inspector, Controller and AVL operators – valuable and expensive resources – will all be required to deal with the issue, rather than focusing on the tasks they would otherwise have been managing.

6. Pulling a bus in to cover

Often, the solution to a failed relief is to pull a bus off of its usual route to cover the failed one. While this can help in terms of maintaining the service on the higher priority route, it does rather shift the problem from one place to another. And at the same time, this incurs additional costs in terms of dead mileage, pay for reallocation, and also the very real risk that you are allocating the wrong type of vehicle to the route.

7. Risk to passenger safety & bad PR

Invariably, a failed relief means passengers are forced to disembark and await onward travel arrangements. Should this occur in unfavourable circumstances (for example in the dark), the safety of the waiting passengers is suddenly your concern. Setting aside the obvious duty of care, there is also a potential PR disaster here, should an incident occur. Not only that; consider how many collisions occur as a result of a driver rushing because he needs to finish on time, but the failed relief has ensured that he needs to run back to the garage.

8. Loss of public confidence

Public faith in public transport can be fragile at the best of times, so it doesn’t need much to go wrong to convince people that driving is a better option. The act of asking passengers to disembark a seemingly perfectly functioning bus hugely undermines confidence in bus services – especially since more often than not it is accompanied by little or no explanation. And if there were an explanation, the public is unlikely to be sympathetic to the challenges associated with roadside relief. The impact here is also magnified should your loss be a rival operator’s gain – if a failed relief results in passengers abandoning your services for those of a competitor.

Is failed driver relief impacting your operation? There is a better way:
DAS: Roadside Relief

Want to know more about Roadside Relief?

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About The Trapeze Team

The Trapeze Team are here to bring you news and information from Trapeze Group (UK) and the public transportation industry.