It’s time to fix failed reliefs

The Trapeze Team | March 23, 2017

We all know that failed driver reliefs represent a huge cost for bus operators. But with depot managers responsible for ensuring hundreds or even thousands of drivers turn up on time, how do you do so while managing all your other tasks? Technology holds the answer – here’s how.

Fix 1: ‘Driver En-Route’ Failsafe

Clearly the best way to fix failed reliefs is to prevent them in the first place. But of course, switching drivers out on the road removes visibility and control: drivers are out ‘in the wild’ and you don’t know what they are doing. Statistically, some drivers will fail to show up some of the time – you just don’t know which or when.

What if you could identify the reliefs that are set to fail, granting the control room a window of opportunity in which to fix the issue?

Trapeze’s Roadside Relief introduces a driver en-route failsafe so drivers can let the office know they are intending to work and en-route to their relief point. Typically this failsafe is set to 15 to 20 minutes before the driver’s duty starts. The traffic office then knows which reliefs are progressing as planned, and has advance warning of any potential issues. The traffic office is immediately alerted when a driver fails an en-route failsafe, granting them time to deploy spares to avert a failed relief.

Should the issue be impossible to address entirely, the traffic office still has time to put in place contingencies, such as adjusting services, or building curtailments into passenger-facing information channels, thereby minimising the impact on the travelling public.

Furthermore, Roadside Relief serves as a two-way communication channel, enabling drivers to send messages to the traffic office. An obvious use is for a driver who has sent a ‘driver en-route’ message but subsequently encountered heavy traffic; in this instance the driver can warn the office of the delay so they can evaluate the impact and identify potential corrective action. Note that this same functionality could also be used to notify the office of early arrival and availability for additional work.

Fix 2: Driver Arrived: Roadside Sign-On

Sometimes a driver will do their best to reach a relief point but fail in the attempt – most often due to congestion. This, of course, is a problem for operators that require drivers to come in to the depot to sign on: the driver has ‘signed on’ for work, but they still need to actually reach their relief point. Given that the vehicle may be 30 minutes’ travel away, there’s no guarantee they will actually make it there by the required time.

While there is no way to guarantee a driver doesn’t become stuck in traffic and become delayed reaching their relief point, Roadside Relief reduces the impact of such occurrences by moving the sign-on point from the depot to the road itself. In effect, drivers can only sign on when they are actually present at the relief point – and thereby ready for work.

In this way, drivers who have failed to reach their relief point are identified quickly and the traffic office has the ability to control the situation by contacting drivers; reallocating duties in real time; or bridging any gaps with service regulation.

Furthermore, the traffic office is able to avoid the ‘disaster scenario’ of a failed relief that they don’t even hear about until long after the bus should have departed – by which time there’s a gaping hole in the schedule, and a group of very unhappy passengers.

Fix 3: Improve Driver Communication

To return to our earlier point: you may have hundreds or thousands of drivers out working, but you don’t really know what they are doing. In this situation, simple communication is a huge benefit – but of course you can’t communicate to hundreds of drivers at a time. Again, that’s where technology comes in.

One of the more interesting reasons for a failed relief is one where a road traffic accident causes a road closure, preventing vehicles accessing a particular part of town. In this instance your drivers may be at the pre-agreed relief point, but the vehicle can’t reach them. In this instance some drivers may even see an opportunity to avoid working, pleading ignorance that the relief point has been affected. How do you manage this?

In this instance, Roadside Relief can be used to identify drivers awaiting relief at an affected area sign-on location. You can then contact them via your Duty Allocation System to advise them of an alternative relief point. In some instances you may have a group of drivers affected, in which case you can message them and then round them up in a shuttle bus to escort them to a substitute relief point, thereby ensuring minimal impact on upcoming services.

Trapeze’s Roadside Relief is set to transform operations for traffic offices, providing traffic staff with confidence that drivers are on their way, and offering means to identify and address potential failed reliefs.

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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.