Fifty Shads of….Utilization
Over the years I have learned that there are as many definitions of fleet utilization as there are bus operators in a given room. Some owners define their fleet’s “maximum utilization” as every bus in their fleet producing one revenue move every day. Others operators define their fleet’s “maximum utilization” as the maximum hours that a driver can legally drive every bus in the fleet every day. Clearly there are many definitions and none of them are necessarily right or wrong.
Regardless of what your definition, one fact remains absolutely true; buses are not getting less expensive. With the average cost of a 45’ motorcoach tipping the scales at over $600,000 per unit, we have to face the fact that every available minute better be a billable minute.
On a recent visit to one of our appraisal clients I was reminded of the ultimate definition of “maximum fleet utilization”. This particular operator runs a very busy bus company with over 200 units in their fleet. In all fairness, these buses almost never operate beyond a 50 mile radius of their home base. The amazing thing about this fleet is that the nearly 100 percent of this fleet operates between 18 and 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Which leaves me to ask, how can you do this?
I asked that very question of the company’s Vice president of Motorcoach Operations, and got the following response. “If our CEO had his way, these units would be operating 24/7/365, but that is just not possible”. He went on to explain that in their operation if the buses are available less than four (4) hours a day, there simply is not time to clean, maintain, fuel and provide the fleet with adequate preventive maintenance.
These short turnaround time frames require a very well-choreographed operation that includes an aggressive maintenance staff and preventive maintenance program. Well refined computer and software systems to track, schedule and clean the units in the given time frame and nearly 200 in-field daily driver changes.
All of these things left me wondering, how many operators could squeeze more revenue out of the valuable assets they already have?
Whatever your definition of “maximum fleet utilization” looks like, I would love to hear from you.
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