November 20, 2013
by Job Smulders
1 Comment

Part 2 of the interview with founder of Don’t Travel Empty Anthony Marett

This is the second and final part of the interview with Mr Anthony Marett the founder of DTE. If you haven’t read it yet you can read the 1st part by starting here.

About the system integration with the fleet management systems.

JS: How long did it took you to convince the fleet management systems to connect their software to DTE?
AM: 2 years, it wasn’t until we won the coveted UK Coach operator innovation of the year award that we got the kudos (credibility) to approach them

JS: Who was the 1st you convinced?
AM: Distinctive Systems

JS: How is your relation with them?
AM: Poor, they have stolen our ideas and terminology and released a product called ‘Connect’. We think it is doomed to failure as they only have 300 operators and are doing today what we were doing 5 years ago. I hope that doesn’t sound like sour grapes. I firmly believe there can only be one portal such as DTE. I am not saying it will be DTE but there can only be one. A concept like DTE will not work with 4 or 5 different systems because what might match from one systems member to another systems member will be lost as they are on two separate systems. It will only work en mass by uniting every coach and mini bus operator.

JS: What was the biggest learning from starting with DTE?
AM: Don’t do it, seriously

JS: This sounds a bit negative from such a positive entrepreneur ;-). Did nothing good came out?
AM: It does sound negative but I would counter that most entrepreneurs, when pushed, would agree with me (not all but most) I think naivety plays a big part in starting any business. If you genuinely knew what was ahead of you, you wouldn’t do it. The beauty of being a positive thinker is that you are unaware of what is ahead of you, have complete faith in your own ability and plough on regardless. The minute DTE is successful and doesn’t need me anymore I will go and start another business based on complete and utter naivety of what I am letting myself in for. That’s half the fun.

JS: What would you do different today if you would have known that before?
AM: I wouldn’t have done it

JS: Why not? The system looks to work fine now. Can you explain more?
AM: Personally, again, like most entrepreneurs, my motivation is not money. My motivation is success, I refuse to fail and a byproduct of success in business happens to be money (which is very nice thank you). However, as you get older you begin to realize that life is also about other important things as well and with DTE it is all consuming, every minute of every hour of every day of every week. I am driven to achieve what I set out to and will not settle for anything less.

About the services DTE is offering and how they are perceived by the coach operators

JS: Who is using the DTE product on a day-to-day basis is that the owner, the traffic manager or the secretary/sales assistant?
AM: A combination of all of them

JS: When offering a software or online product statistics say that most users tend to only use 10% of the available options. Does that happens also with DTE?
AM: At present yes but we are releasing the DTE Coach Records Module (CRM) which is an inbuilt mini coach management system

JS: So do you offer any service or training to the users of the bus rental companies?
AM: Yes, mainly telephone tuition but we do have a customer service man who visits

JS: We understood that you have 2 types of subscriptions for bus companies : a free one and a paid one, correct?
AM: yes

JS: Can you tell us the main difference between the 2?
AM: Paid one gets full cover with the DTE Passenger Recovery service, 24 hour crisis control, full access to all contact details, priority alerts on all jobs coming onto DTE and free use of the new DTE CRM

JS: Is there a risk of paid subscriptions dropping out? How many did drop out? How many do re-new the paid subscription?
AM: Less than 5% drop out

JS: Did you ever ask the bus operators why they are using the DTE system? And what they see is the best benefit?
AM: At present members mainly sign up for the protection of the Passenger Recovery System, we hope to change that with the CRM

JS: In our operation with Rentautobus in Spain we have discovered that although they operate in a touristic market most coach hire company owners are not used to use internet software. Did you encounter the same issue in the UK?
AM: God yes, this is a big issue BUT this wasn’t the case somebody would have done DTE already

JS: If so how do you deal with it?
AM: Education, education, education

JS: Do you have any competitors who are offering similar or related services?
AM: Distinctive Systems, Trip Filler, Voydevaccio. When a good idea comes along there will always be people trying to copy you. Our competitors are all 3 or 4 years behind us, they are where we were in 2009 and we will stay ahead of them

JS: Did you ever consider offering the same or a related service to taxi companies or maybe transporters of goods/merchandise?
AM: Yes, taxis, airplanes and even the haulage sector eventually. DTE is the only automated “matching” system which can be transposed to any logistics sector. All other sites are purely listings sites

About the future of DTE and the bus and coach operators network

JS: Do you plan to offer any new products/services or functionalities in DTE?
AM: Yes, the CRM and something so big it will revolutionize coaching forever.

JS: Can you tell us about them?
AM: Not the big one no
JS: Sounds very exiting! Will DTE charge extra fees to the bus operators who want to enjoy those features?
AM: No

JS: What are your short term goals with DTE?
AM: Having 300 bus operators using our CRM product

JS: The CRM product sounds very interesting: is it OK for you if we contact you again in the near future to discuss it into more detail?
AM: I insist on it 

JS: What is your long term goal with DTE?
AM: Worldwide use

JS: When do you plan to achieve it?
No idea, as long as it takes

JS: OK, so how do you plan to achieve it?
AM: Keep doing what we do best, offer a great service at a great price and not let anybody down

JS: If coach operators from Germany, Holland or Spain who are eager to collaborate and match their empty legs are reading this and want to enlist your service. What would they have to do to sign up?

AM: Simply go to Don’t Travel Empty  sign up and start using it. The CRM is compatible with Europe
JS: Well OK that’s enough information for me for today. Thanks you very much for answering all those questions.

AM: Your are welcome!

November 17, 2013
by Job Smulders
5 Comments

Part 1 of the Interview with Don’t Travel Empty Founder Anthony Marett

Ecological tree image of DTE's bennefits

Ecological tree image of DTE’s bennefits

About 3 weeks ago we have written about the Don’t Travel Empty  (DTE) coach hire and bus operators collaboration platform and it’s ambition to expand globally. We ended up with more questions than answers so today we are publishing an interview with the founder of DTE. Here below is the transcript of RentAutobus.com director Job Smulders interview with DTE’s  founder Anthony Marett. The interview was done via telephone calls and emails exchange between October the 6th and 14th of 2013. We you that all you readers are  very busy so we have split the interview in 2 parts. Read th 1st part below and we’ll publish the next part in a different post in a few days.

About starting the bus and coach operators collaboration platform DTE

Job Smulders: Can you explain briefly what DTE is all about?

Anthony Marett: The primary focus of DTE is to maximize the profitability of our members coach hire companies and their vehicles by maximizing every mile they travel. We do this by Matching one members ‘full leg’ of a journey with another members ‘empty leg’. This reduces ‘dead’ miles.

JS: Where and how did you get the idea of DTE?

AM: In my family run Aylmerton Field Study Centre in Norfolk.  There with our coach hire service Maretts Chariots we constantly create many Full legs and empty legs going to and from collecting and taking our groups home. So I started looking for a website where I could advertise my empty legs or full legs and was surprised to see there wasn’t one.

JS: Do you recall the exact moment? When was that?

AM: May 2007

JS: What convinced you that it was a good idea?

AM: Common sense. I had already started doubling up with groups that came in on a Monday from a similar area to a group who were going home on a Monday. I would charge both groups top rate, book an operator from their area to bring one group in and take the other home and started making massive profits.

JS:  Did you do any market research to coach hire companies in the UK to investigate and to check viability of the idea?

AM: None at all

JS: Why not?

AM: Let’s call it naivety. We had just a belief that it could work. We thought to invest a couple of thousands of pounds and then would be able to see if it would work. When we 1st thought about the concept the idea was that it would a mayor public system where everybody could enter their requests for bus rentals, trips or tours. But then we changed it to be a system for coach operators only.

JS: Why did you make that change towards coach operators only?

AM: Two reasons: 1st it seemed easier to approach 4500 coach operators then 60 millions individuals. 2nd  we want all the savings and additional profits to be made by our coach operators (our members) and not the end user.

JS: Did you start the DTE project alone or with partners?

AM: Just me and my business partner James Howells

JS: Is that partners still working with you?

AM: Yes, plus one other angel investor

JS: Did you get outside financing or did you fund the project from you own sources?

AM: we have invested all our own money and revenues which we generated through DTE. Over £250,000 in cash so far not to mention the time which factored in would take it to well over half a million.

JS: How long did it took you to get the 1st version of DTE online?

AM: 6 months

JS: who was the 1st coach hire company to sign up?

AM: Commonwealth Coaches

JS: Was it hard to convince them? How did that go? And how did the other bus operators follow?

The first 5 signed up on the strength of one e-mail I sent to 100 Coach Operators. I sent the e mail, went and did a school run and was shocked that when I got back two hours later 5 bus operators had signed up. After that I e-mailed everybody I could and got 100 signed up very quickly. The press got hold of DTE and we just grew from there.

Questions about facing difficulties when building the UK coach operators network

JS: After starting: did you struggle with some issues/problems or did all go smooth? What difficulties did you face?

One problem after enough, lack of knowledge about the internet, naivety, money, time, education, confusion over what we did etc, etc …

JS: How did you overcome those difficulties?

AM: We just keep repeating the same message over, and over and over again

JS: What was this message?

AM: The fact that that every coach operator has to become computer and internet literate. To start each coach operator must have a website and this website must be found by his potential clients.

JS: Isn’t that a basic thing for every kind of business for the last 10 years?

Well we have dozens of companies that have millions of pounds invested in buses and coaches but almost nothing in their internet presence. As this for many is becoming their most important sales vehicle it’s really a problem in this sector

JS: When did success came? Right from the start? In the 1st year?

AM: Still waiting, all monies still get ploughed straight back into DTE to further improve and go global

JS: OK that is success in terms of profitability: but you are successful in having a list of happy customers who are paying correct?

AM: Yes.

JS: So what made the list grow from 1 to over 1.000 members?  And what were key moments in that growing phase?

AM: In January 2013 we employed a customer service member he is visiting coach operators and converts them from free to paid memberships. When visiting he converts 7 out of 10. We also have our own great form of advertising. Every time we send a text alert to 1100 operators it is a message from DTE right into their pockets.

JS: Did press coverage also play an important role in the signing up of new coach hire companies?

AM: Very much so! Route One and Bus and Coach Buyer took an instant shine to the DTE concept and gave us great coverage and magazine space.

JS: Looking back now what were important moments that success accelerated?

AM: Winning the award. After that is just ‘slowly slowly catchy monkey’ as we say in the UK

JS: How did you get to that event/moment? Was it only hard work or some luck involved?

AM: There has been no luck involved at all. Everything we have achieved at DTE has been achieved through hard work, belief and dedication to the long term vision of where we want DTE to be on a global stage

 

Note: more to follow in a couple of days! Leave your  comments here below!

Continue reading Part 2 of this interview with Mr Marett / CEO and founder of DTE

 

October 14, 2013
by Job Smulders
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Digital distraction for coach hire companies and their bus drivers

While preparing the expansion for our coach hire comparison platform RentAutobus from Spain to the Netherlands, I conducted a series of interviews with informal leaders in the bus rental sector in Amsterdam and other places in Holland, too . I also had the pleasure of talking with Frans Schuitemaker. Frans is the director of the largest coach hire company in the Netherlands, called Oad. During our conversation he explained to me  that according to recent investigations it has become very clear that digital distractions are much more likely than alcohol to cause a bus driver to have an accident. His comments kept me thinking for soem time but recently this transport security threat has been in the often in the news.

Digitally distracted bus and coach drivers in the media

In this last month alone two related news items have drawn my attention. In the video below you can see a Connexxion bus driver filming with one hand while steering with the other hand. The 1st ten seconds show how the bus driver is filming the streets of his route in Haarlem, a city at about 20 km distance from Amsterdam. By coincidence there was a reporter from a local TV station on the bus who filmed the driver while the driver was filming himself.  The reporter who filmed this event also interviewed passengers and asked them for their comments.

The other incident is shown in the video of a bus driver who is texting while driving her daily school transport route. She’s driving a bus full of children with only one hand on the wheel and using the other hand and her attention to write a text message.
This is shocking to see, specially if you have kids yourself. Would you like your children to transported in a rented coach with a bus driver that is texting or checking his Facebook account?

See the video here below.

Government action towards bus drivers digital distractions while driving

In the Netherlands this risk and cause of traffic accidents is high on the agenda of police and government institutions. A fine of € 220 per incident for handheld calling behind the wheel has already been in place in Holland for a few years. Recently an awareness campaign has started and billboards like this one here below have been placed on the sides of the highways.

Digital_distraction_atention_on_road_091013

Above billboard shows various social media icons combined with the text message ‘can wait till’ and an icon for ‘home’.

How can a coach hire comparison platform react to this security threat?

We as operators of the multi-country  and  private transportation and coach hire comparison portal RentAutobus are aware that security issues like this one weigh heavily on the minds of travelers and tourists who are planning to rent minibuses or coaches with drivers. What should we do? Should we rely on local European laws and local law enforcement to handle this issue just as they handle other security issues? Or should we ask our private hire transport partners specific to commit to not using any smart phones during driving?  We don’t specifically ask our coach and bus operators not to cross any red lights or stopping signs either. Those laws are widely accepted, in Europe at least, and it would be childish to specifically ask them to commit to it. As laws vary across the various countries, we are considering to add an ‘abstention from digital distraction promise’  to the security part of the service and facilities offered to the clients.

Minibus and coach drivers caught using smart phones while driving

So what do you think? Are your own hands clean in this matter? Do you ever check your phone when behind the wheel? Do you use your phone only when driving alone or also when driving passengers? How does the law and law enforcement in your country react to this?
So would you fire your bus driver if he was caught using his phone or other digital device when driving school children or other groups? What would you do?

October 9, 2013
by Job Smulders
12 Comments

Will ‘Don’t Travel Empty’ become a bus and coach-matching platform across Europe?

As part of our strategic plan to expand our Rentautobus coach hire comparison platform to the United Kingdom, we’re building a network of like-minded individuals and bus operators located on the other side of the North Sea. About a week ago I had a long phone conversation with Mr Anthony Marett, a remarkable entrepreneur with a love for bus rentals, nature, and child education.

Combining bus rentals, collaboration on empty rides and child education

For years his family has owned two businesses, both of which provide services aimed primarily at children: as coach operators, they provide private-hire and school-related transportation services in the Norfolk region. The name of their company is Marett’s Chariots and they have an 18 -unit fleet of minibuses and coaches. In addition to their transportation service, they run an outdoor learning center focused on primary school kids under the name of ‘Aylmerton Field Study Centre’. They run one business from Aylmerton and the other from North Walsham, both in Norfolk.
As if managing two businesses simultaneously wasn’t enough for Mr. Marett, a few years ago he took on the task of motivating and educating coach hire operators all over the UK to collaborate with each other in order to increase their profits by reducing empty rides.

Focus on collaboration between coach hire operators across the UK and Europe

While the transportation and coach hire market in the UK, Spain, and the rest of Europe has obliged bus rental companies to primarily focus on merely surviving, Mr. Marett has invested a great part of his time and energy to launch a digital coach operator hub which focuses more on collaboration than on competition between the rental companies. Under the name of Don’t Travel Empty (DTE), he has created a platform where bus operators can collaborate with fellow operators and make money while doing so. The concept is simple. A lot of bus trips are only ‘one way’ or ‘return trips’ with waiting days for the bus and driver in a specific destination. This implies having either vehicles parked in an ‘inactive’ state away from the home base of the transport company or having them driving empty. These so called ‘empty legs’ are both a waste of money and resources, but Mr. Marett hopes to turn them into a potential extra source of income for coach operators.
In a few years time his service has managed to enlist a group of about 1100 Coach operators, and in doing so he reached nationwide coverage across the UK. Regions like London and the Midlands have several operators listed, but even relatively remote areas like Cornwall and Scotland have enough operators enlisted to actively participate in matching rides and helping with vehicle replacements.

How does the UK bus operators collaboration network work?

Simply put: all ‘empty legs’ are matched in an automated way by the platform with requests for trips which are active in the system. The basic premise of the system is that it facilitates supply and demand. Operators can enjoy a free subscription or subscribe to a paid one which gives them more customization in matching and monetizing their needs for filling up empty legs.
See a few screenshots here below of how matching is done on the DTE platform:

DTE map of empty and full legs

Map of the UK showing empty and full legs for associated coach hire and bus operators

DTE possible match on sharing a ride

Example of an email notification send to bus and coach hire operators when the DTE system detects a possible match.

Bus fleet management system integration

This is what we admire Marett for most: he managed to convince several of the most-used bus operators in the UK who were using 3-Fleet management systems to integrate their fleet system software into the DTE platform. This integration makes it even easier for fleet managers to publish information about their empty vehicles on the DTE platform. They can either automatically publish information on all empty rides on the platform or they can let their fleet software send an automated warning that they have an empty vehicle with the request to publish it on DTE. The fleet manager can than simply accept or decline the request for publication.

What other services does DTE offer bus rental companies?

A truly creative mind never rests for long, and new services and products have been developed over the last few years.

Passenger recovery service

Members of DTE benefit from a kind of security against breakdown while touring far away from their base. If a breakdown happens, they can call the DTE service center and ask them to help them find a nearby replacement vehicle. The DTE service desk immediately searches for the nearest empty available vehicle on its database. If there are none, it sends out messages to its member via its platform, LinkedIn group, and via direct SMS to its members. As a result of these actions, in most cases a replacement vehicle is on the spot in less than 1 hour.
DTE members can therefore save money that they otherwise would have spent on an expensive company insurance policy for vehicle replacements while on the road. This service is cheaper and a lot faster than the four-hour delay that is promised by insurance companies.

Exchange of information between coach operators

Apart from the primary function of filling each other’s empty rides, the bus operators can use the platform for daily communications with other operators. There is a chat functionality which enables users to see and contact fellow transporters and/or to post questions on a forum. In the last few months important information about clients and colleagues has been exchanged, saving some operators the hassle of contracting with a client that is not paying. In the past, if two operators worked together outside of the DTE umbrella and one didn’t pay, then the victimized operator would never work for the offending operator again, but the offending operator had relatively little to lose as they were only upsetting a single operator. By working through DTE there is strength in numbers. If the same situation occurred in DTE, the offending operator would upset 1100 colleagues. This is a very powerful and persuasive tool to prevent fraud and bad business practices.
In addition to the chat and forum functionalities on the DTE platform, there is a LinkedIn DTE group with the same name where users can communicate outside the platform.

How does DTE plan to connect with coach operators outside the UK?

As we understand it, Marett wants to move further than the UK only and cross the North Sea and get all European coach hire and minibus operators to collaborate on his platform, so we’re curious to learn how he plans to make this happen. Will he connect to and integrate with all the fleet management software systems in all the different European countries like the Netherlands, France, Spain and Italy? Will he appoint country managers for each of the countries or work with partners in a franchise system? How does he plan to overcome the cultural differences, language barriers, and different levels of internet knowledge which exist across transportation companies in the different countries?

What competition can DTE expect from related coach hire platforms?

What kind of competition does he think he’ll encounter when conquering the continent? How does he think that related coach hire platforms, such as RentAutobus, will react? What will the big fleet management software services do? Will they join him or will they create similar services? And is there really an advantage in spreading this service around Europe or would it maybe be better to keep focusing on other service products for the UK market? We’re curious to hear your thoughts!

September 20, 2013
by Job Smulders
0 comments

Hiring a self-driving rental coach or minibus in Malaga?

A major revolution in passenger and tourist transportation is getting closer and closer to becoming a reality. In the very near future you can expect to see autonomous, self-driving cars and minibuses transporting tourists to interesting sites and attractions.

In the video here below you can see a train of Volvo cars and trucks while one of the drivers is reading a magazine.

How long before the 1st autonomous, self-driving rental minibus is touring around Malaga?

For some of you this may sound weird or it may seem like a fantasy from the distant future, but one of the biggest changes–or revolutions, really–in chauffeured transportation is getting closer than you may expect.  You might have seen it on YouTube: the self-driving or autonomous driving car is already out there and driving around.  Don’t confuse this with ‘self drive rental cars’ (a rental car that the renter drives, as opposed to chauffeured car rentals). We’re talking about cars, vans, minibuses and, in the near future, large coaches that don’t need a driver anymore. All the driving is done by the systems inside vehicle!
No more drivers who have eaten too many tapas and Spanish sea food and end up dozing behind the wheel. Falling asleep while driving will no longer be a problem. Feeling tired? Go ahead and take a nap. Texting distraction risks? No problem! Answer your email or check your Facebook account while ‘driving’–or actually, just sitting behind the wheel . You can relax, sit back, and enjoy the scenery or work on your computer while your vehicle is driving you safely to your destination and stopping along the way so your group can see all the sights.

Competitive pricing of minibus rentals for tour operators

Imagine yourself being a travel agent or tour operator and operating in the very price-competitive travel market. You enter a tour to ask for a quote comparison for a coach or minibus with driver hire in the Malaga area on our coach hire platform. Your enter all the trip details for your 8 day Andalusia tour which starts in Malaga and the bus rental quotes come in 2 sets. The first set of quotes is offering you a traditional minibus or luxury coach with a professional  driver included to take care of your group transportation needs.  The second set of quotes are offering you the new ‘self-driving’ or ‘autonomous driving’ busses. The pricing for the last set of offers doesn’t include a driver. Since the bus itself is doing all the work there is no need for a driver anymore. The route must be defined and entered into the onboard driving computer and perhaps the tour leader would have access rights to adjust the route later.

Cost reduction in coach hire

Not having a driver on your coach means less service for your guests but also a serious cost reduction for you and the coach hire company. Imagine the prices of these autonomous driving rental buses being 50% lower than the traditional chauffeur driven ones.  Which option would you choose for your Malaga and Andalusia round tour?

Will tourists be comfortable while travelling in a self-driving minibus?

For me, at the present point in time, it would feel strange to get on a bus where there is no driver to control the steering.  Would I be comfortable making my life dependent on the proper functioning of a steering computer while travelling through mountainous  landscapes or very busy city roads such as the ones around Barcelona or in Madrid? At the moment I would prefer to pay a bit more and have a driver watching over me and taking care of a relaxing trip and safe arrival. I used to think the same thing about travelling by metro, but today the fully automated metro line number 1 in Paris  is transporting more than 700,000 passengers a day. No driver involved, no accidents, and passengers feel secure. Machines apparently make less mistakes than humans.  In the airline industry it’s already common: flying is done by an automated pilot for most of the trip.  Maybe it’s just a matter of getting used to a new system.

Will this innovation be a reality soon for busses and rented coaches?

Please note that automated driving already exists not only for 4-seaters but also for vehicles that transport groups.  See the video about a vehicle that transports groups around the campus of the Nanyang Tecnological University in Singapore. The vehicle moves relatively slowly, but that speed will surely increase in the future and for city trips in touristic cities like Seville, Madrid, or Barcelona, a speed of 50 km per hour is already a good speed.

What about the legal and insurance aspects of self driving minibus rentals?

In the early years of car driving several countries had laws obliging the owner of the car have somebody running with a red flag before the car so that people on the streets were warned that a dangerous vehicle was coming. Although we think it’s unlikely that this law will ever come back we are very curious to see how legislation will be adapted to answer this new technology.
So who is responsible and liable when the hired car or coach has no driver? How is guilt or fault established when there is an accident? This way of driving is very new and as happens often with technical innovations legislation and insurance matters still have to catch up to find an answer this new situations. Technically this innovation is ready for implementation. The inventors claim that it will make our roads and driving more safe.

Which coach hire company in Malaga or Spain will the early adaptor?

So for those of you who are fleet owners and comercial private transportation operators: can you see yourself as one of the early adopters of this new way of driving? Let’s assume that the legal part is solved and the insurance products are adapted and have acceptable pricing. Would you be ready to invest in an autonomous driving fleet of coaches and minibuses for hire? Will it be a bus rental company from the south of Spain or is this innovation more probable to land in a northern city with a bus rental company in Bilbao or maybe at a private transport company in Barcelona? We’re eager to hear your thoughts! Please post them here below in the comment field.

September 8, 2013
by Job Smulders
0 comments

Coach and minibus hire cost factors in Spain

Many of the people who visit our site have never booked a coach and driver in Spain before. To make the hire process more transparent, RentAutobus have created this page to explain how Spanish coach hire companies calculate their bids and what you may see in their online offers. We hope that this short guide will help you plan and negotiate a coach hire in Spain that meets your travel needs and fits within your budget.

How coach and minibus hire prices in Spain are calculated

Clients often ask us how coach hire companies in Madrid calculate the value of their trips. It’s quite simple. Once the companies receive your travel plan they break it down into variables from which they calculate their base costs. From that they calculate their offer to you.

Let’s have a look at how the calculation is usually done.

a)      Number and size of coaches needed. Normally your group size determines the number of coaches needed. You will want to consider your group size from the outset and put a limit on registrations as even one extra person might mean that you are obliged to hire a larger, or even a second coach, thus raising costs substantially. Similarly, if you are travelling with a smaller group you might be as comfortable in an economical minibus as in large coach.

Your destination and tour plans in Spain can also affect the size and number of coaches you need. Your group of 50 passengers might fit comfortably into one large coach but if that coach cannot drive through the narrow streets of an old city centre, you might need 5 minivans. Or, for another example, minivans are also needed to drive down to the small cala’s or beaches on the rocky coast of Menorca and Mallorca.

b)      The route and distance. Fuel charges for the trip are based on the distance to be travelled. Most coach hire companies in Spain calculate their distance charges (fuel included) at €0.80 to €1.20 per kilometre depending on the type of vehicle. Some companies do not charge for distance when the tour is short, for example tours of the centre city area.

c)       Driver time. For point-to-point trips, the cost of having a coach with a private driver is usually calculated as the time the driver is actually at the wheel from the time the bus pulls away from the depot till it returns. But when a group is visiting a number of places with lots of stops, driver wait time is considered, as is driver overtime for early departures and late returns to your lodging. A third scenario is hiring a coach and driver for extended trips that span several days with the driver sleeping away from home.

The cost of a driver also reflects vehicle type, day of the week and time of day. Driving on Sundays and late in the night will raise the total cost. For longer trips, the driver will expect all meals and a good night’s rest in a decent hotel room.

Spanish law regulates the driving and resting times for coach drivers. If your tour covers long distances or has programmes that start at 08:00 and end at midnight, you would need a second driver to comply with the law.

d)      Extra costs. If you are planning  a simple day trip, there are few extra costs beyond parking to keep in mind. If, however, you are planning a multiple day and multiple destination trip the extra costs can add up to a large part of the transportation cost. Highway tolls, parking fees, driver meals, and driver lodging are added to the cost of the vehicle hire.

These are the factors that go into the bid preparation but not all of them will show up on the bid document. For example, the cost of the vehicle and the driver are often merged into a single amount. There is no fixed rule about this. Some companies might charge just for the distance and other companies for both distance and driver time.

Two sample coach hire calculations for a day trip

Let’s image you have a group of 25 persons going for a day trip. So you need to hire a coach in and around Barcelona, leaving at 10:00 and returning to the hotel at 19:00 hours, 250 kilometres.

Sample calculation 1

The price calculation based on hours only might look like this:

Driver time (includes coach hire) = 9 hours x €40 = €360.00

Parking fee for parking near restaurant = €20.00

Highway tolls for the day =  € 65.00

Total price excluding VAT =  €445.00

VAT at 10% = €44.50

Total including VAT is €489.50

In above calculation the coach hire company charged for the driver’s time but not the distance travelled.

Sample calculation 2

The price calculation for the same trip based but including a travel distance charge might look as this:

Driver time (including coach hire) = 9 hours x €25 = € 225.00

KM’s driven = 250 x €0.90 = €225.00

Parking fee for parking near restaurant = €20.00

Highway tolls = €65.00

Total excluding VAT: €535.00

VAT at 10% = €53.50

Total including VAT = €588.50

What other criteria influence coach hire prices in Spain?

There are other factors that might influence the cost of your coach hire or other chauffeured service in Spain.

  1. Minimum charge. Some coach hire companies, have a minimum amount to leave the garage. If the base calculation for your tour is low, say under €175, the minimum fee is charged instead.
  2. The dates of travel: The coach hire sector is highly seasonal with large differences in price between high and low seasons. The best prices are usually found in January, just after the Christmas Holiday season. You will certainly pay the most if you try to do a last minute booking in the weeks leading up to Easter. At that time year practically all coaches in Spain have been booked months in advance.
  3. The level of luxury. There are understandable differences in cost between a basic coach with no toilet and no video and a coach with leather seats with extra legroom, free WiFI, and individual onboard entertainment systems.
  4. Highways tolls. Most highways in Spain are toll roads and tolls can add up quickly. You can ask the coach hire company to suggest a different route which might involve a small detour but will save on highway tolls.
  5. Parking related fees. Parking is free at some sites but near tourist attractions parking can be costly. If your group is staying in a hotel in the city centre, secure coach parking might be some distance away meaning that your driver must take a taxi to and from his lodgings.
  6. Book in advance. To make the best deal, plan your trip well in advance and confirm your reservation with a cash bond. Your early reservation reassures the fleet owner that vehicles will be in use. If you try to reserve later,  when the level of demand is known, the fleet owner is less likely to give a discounted rate. Last minute bookings might get lucky with an extra low price, but there is the risk of not getting the right vehicle type or getting no coach at all!
  7. Repeat customers. As in any business, you are more likely to get a discount if you are a repeat customer. Travel agents and tour operator should try to use the same hire companies on a regular basis and ask for special prices.
  8. Large or small coach company. Sometimes small companies are less expensive than large companies. The coach hire sector in Spain is largely composed of small, family-run companies. It is very common for family members act as daytime drivers, tour guides, and sales people, and then work again as office staff in the evening hours when all vehicles are back in the garage. These small companies don’t have a department for every subtask or if they do they often don’t calculate double salaries for the extra roles they play. Their price is often based on a flat kilometre and chauffeur calculation.  However, small companies may offer fewer services and might have a hard time organizing a replacement coach in case of a breakdown.
  9. Specialisation of the coach operator. A coach hire company specialized in tours and transfers for tourism might be willing to give you a better deal in their local low season. We stress the word ‘local’ here because low season in the very hot months of July and August in Madrid is different from the low season for coach hire in Barcelona. Malaga is a start and end point for many Andalusian tours originating at its international airport. The combination of this hub function together with the mild climate and nearby beaches keeps Malaga coach companies busy year-round.
  10. Empty segments and buses at rest: Sometimes a coach company drives a group on  a one-way trip. When this happens, the empty return trip is calculated in the quote for the hire.  If another trip request turns up that would fill the return trip, the company can sell a bus that has been already paid for. The price for this subsidized hire can be much more competitive.
    Sometimes coaches are parked waiting a few days for a group to continue the trip. These resting buses offer an excellent cost-savings opportunity.
    Actively matching empty trip segments and resting buses with new requests is one of the products that RentAutobus will soon offer our  associated companies and clients.
  11. Hiring a bit further away. If you plan a tour around Andalusia you might consider hiring a coach from an inland coach operator specialized in transporting school groups. The company might give you a special deal if you book during the school holiday “low” season.
  12. Regional differences. Coach hire companies from one province or autonomous region in Spain can often compete on price with transport companies from other regions because local trade unions make different and separate deals on chauffeur pay rates.
  13. To VAT or not to VAT. Transport contracts paid in cash and without any written invoice are still common in some regions of Spain. Not paying VAT saves the customer a 10% and the transport company some ‘off the record’ income. An entirely legal approach to dodge VAT is to hire your coach in the country next door because companies are not obliged to charge VAT for trips or tours driven outside their home country. You would probably be better off hiring a coach from Portugal than from France, though.
  14. Calculation mistakes. Many Spanish coach hire companies are family businesses that have family members driving during the day. These drivers use their legally required periodic rest periods to send quotes from their Smartphones. These quotes often are calculated by hand and can reflect mistakes made when adding up the totals. This can sometimes work in your favour.

We hope that the information on this page and the sample calculations have given you some insights on how the prices for coaches and minibus hires in Spain are developed. Let us know if it was helpful by using the comments section.

For coach hire companies in Spain

If you own a coach hire company in Spain and you think we have forgotten any important points, contact us and we’ll be pleased add them to this page, or you can post them on the blog page on this website. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

Attention private hire transport companies world wide

If you haven’t registered your company in  our directory, make sure you do so today. We are expanding our directory from coach and minibus hire companies to other services like airport transfers, car with driver and taxi services. We are also expanding our service area from Spain to other European countries and worldwide. Registering your profile in our directory is  free on our site. Once registered you will get a free back link and start receiving requests for quotation from RentAutobus clients.

 

 

 

 

 

August 28, 2013
by Job Smulders
0 comments

Coach hire and with free on board WiFi

Why not offer all tourists the opportunity to enjoy their coach trip with free WiFi connection during their bus travels in Spain and provide a better travel experience?

Since the upcoming of the smart phones and tabloids, we are always connected. At home but also on the road, especially when we are on holiday and far away from home we feel the need to be connected: to talk and send pictures to our loved ones.
When travelling in a group on a coach or minibus we have lots of spare moments when we withdraw our attention from the landscape or our neighbor and feel like updating on our virtual social life.

Nevertheless, the connectivity of the smart phone and tabloids has its boundaries. Most users signed a contract to connect to a network in their own country. However, in a foreign country, smart phone and tabloid users have to pay additional and mostly high costs to connect to the internet network.

Would it be an effective investment for bus hire companies to offer tourists a “free” WiFi hotspot on board during their trip?

Will the availability of a ‘free’ WiFi hotspot in your bus attract new  customers to your coach hire company?

One of the main advantages of the availability of a WiFi Hotspot in the bus for customers is that they are accessible. Even in a foreign country. In this way, they can mail friends and family at home or communicate through a chat application on their smart phone or tabloid.

Furthermore, Customers can search for any information they want as long as it is available on the internet. Image being on a bus tour towards Bilbao and you would like to check the opening hours of the Guggenheim Museum so you can visit it straight up on arrival? This means that you don’t necessarily have to bring heavy travel guides during their trip because all the information is available on their smart phone or tablet.

In addition, tourists who booked an organized tour through a travel agency or a tour operator, usually have a tour guide with them on tour. Tourists, who travel without a tour guide, have to take care of their own information. Up to recently  in the form of a booklet full of papers. The WiFi service in the bus will allow them to store all the information on their smart devices and search for any additional information online.

In case of an emergency, tourists are able to look up a closely located hospital or emergency number. Most tourists know what the national emergency number of a country is. Nevertheless, in case of a small accident for which the tourist does not have to call the emergency number but still needs help, he or she will be able to find the contact information they need on the internet.

Looking at trends, social media is becoming more popular than ever. People want to share. People traveling or on holiday want to share more. They share their daily activities, their memories, their opinion, their pictures, their music, their videos and their experiences. AddThis (2011) concluded that sharing through mobile devices grew 6 times in 2011.
Think about it. Normally, travelers are able to show their holiday pictures and share their experiences after their holiday back in their home country. Now, the tourist could already share his pictures and experiences while he is still on his bus tour in Spain.

WiFi on a hired coach or minibus : are tourists willing to pay more for it?


Off course, the installation of a WiFi hotspot and the transmission of data will involve costs for the bus rental company. For tourists on a short transfer from the Barcelona Airport to the Barcelona City center or one of the nearby beaches on the Costa Brava it would probably have little meaning.

For a group of tourist who are doing a 7 day tour around Andalusia it will add lots off value to their experience when being  able to share their Malaga beach pictures. They could Skype with family while on the bus or share their holiday pictures and comments on social media. They could search for local information for their next planned stop or ask the driver to make a detour to check a beach or city center because suddenly the weather has improved.

Maybe the most important argument for coach and minibus hire companies installing WiFI on their vehicles is the fact that the tourists want to make use of their mobile devices during their  travels and holiday’s abroad  without the need to have a heart attack when returning home because of the  expensive data roaming costs.

As you understand, the availability of a WiFi Hotspot in the bus offers many advantages for the tourist who is traveling with a bus company. On the other hand, WiFi presence costs money and so the tourist will need to pay a higher price for the rental of a bus. However, when we look at the booming trend that people love to share their experiences online via their smart devices and take into account that their holiday is most of the time their highest rated experience during the year, these busses who offer WiFi could become extremely popular. This advantage might eventually lead to a return on investment or at least a competitive advantage over bus rental companies that are running behind on the facility.

So what do you think? Do you think that WiFi access would give coach hire companies an competitive advantage over other transport companies that don’t offer it? Do you want to share your holiday experience online while you are still on tour? Do you believe that tourists will choose your bus company  because your coaches have WiFi access?

August 13, 2013
by Job Smulders
0 comments

Coach hire companies in Spanish cities like Barcelona are often considered very conservative in their adaptation towards innovations. Financial incentives for innovations were difficult to concretize until not long ago. Now for those Iberian entrepreneurs in the bus rental market that complain about increasing fuel prices (who isn’t?) there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel!

A team from the technical University of Eindhoven (Netherland) have created a test version of a 4 seat solar powered family car that produces 2 times the energy it needs and can drive up to 600 km on a sunny day. This distance is remarkable because it doubles the distance that an electrical car can do with the current technologies. It’s prototype is also remarkable for being very light in weight: it weighs about 1100 kg less than a normal electrical car.

The car (see video) has a remarkable design with a big rooftop which is needed for the solar panels and it’s low by the ground for aerodynamics. The seating is comfortable with cushions and the dashboard very simple with very few buttons. The Dutch highway authority is very close to give this car a license to drive on the street.

In the video here below you can see images of the 1st public test drive of this car:

Solar Powered Car

A new cost saving option for coach hire companies in Barcelona?

Improvements of the current model would probably just serve for taxi service in a sunny city like Málaga or Barcelona. It can drive 50 km/per hour all day long on solar power on a sunny day and would use it’s extra battery for transport at higher speed over the highway. Those drivers that do  a lot airport transfers between the Barcelona city center and the Barcelona International Airport would off course still need the extra help of batteries.

In a time when electrical powered taxi’s and busses are just about to appear on the streets and energy prices are still rising these are still very good news. Now off course we all can understand that it will be a matter of time before this technology will be moved from just a 4 seater car to a 8 seater van or 12 seater mini bus.  Those companies in sunny cities in the south of Spain that tour around with tourists in places like Barcelona, Sevilla or Málaga would love to economize on diesel spending for their fleet.

Off course bus rental companies should be prepared to make a mental shift in ways of traditional design of vans and mini busses versus the new design. If the new comercial mini bus would probably be a variation of the current low-by-the-ground solar car design. The seating would still be very comfortable but be more individual and as it looks now with no space to walk around in the bus. If the owners of coach hire companies are convinced that clients would love to be picked up for their airport transfer at the Barcelona airport to be driven in an eco friendly way to the city center they would be more inclined to add such a vehicle to their fleet. Off course spending less on fuel would make it a much stronger argument as cost reduction is one of the few ways to stay ahead in competition.

Will it be comfortable to tour in Barcelona in a solar powered hired mini bus?

The basic facilities on the current model might not be enough for a demanding group of tourists touring Barcelona’s province cava wine yards with extra luggage. Air conditioning and on board entertainment are a must nowadays and so are services such as a on board coffee machine or being able to serve cold drinks. All extra facilities come with extra weight and will be there for reduce the action radius of any touristic version of this solar powered car. So probably it will be used 1st for more common services as a simple transfer between Barcelona city and the Barcelona Airport. Groups who plan to hire a coach for a 2 weeks tour around Catalonia will probably still have to wait a few years before being able to board the solar powered bus. We think that tourists will love it because it will make them feel better in leaving less footprint and give them a story to tell about how they have travelled the green way while making a tour in Catalonia. Maybe tourists will even be prepared to travel with less facilities knowing that their travels will have a less negative ecological impact. We, at Rentautobus, will soon start asking our customers to tell us about their green wishes when posting their request for a coach hire quotation on our site.

Will coach hire companies be able to afford this vehicle?

The solar panels for the car currently only cost about € 3.000 so that sounds OK compared to the high energy savings that this will result in. The car itself now is a costly prototype build as a hand made construction with the use of lightweight aluminum, carbon fiber and probably build.

Once this type of car is taken into production by a manufacturer, prices will level at the average cost of a similar car, van or mini bus of that size. As savings on fuel will be serious, the cost of operations will drop and, off course, the first adapters in the coach hire sector will benefit for a green image that will radiate from using a solar powered vehicle.

Let’s hope that innovative bus builders like the Dutch VDL will follow up with this initiative and soon come up with a solar powered mini bus for comercial use. Maybe it will not be a 100% solar power but even a hybrid solar-diesel bus could bring us serious savings on fuel.

So to all you coach hire entrepreneurs: would you add such a vehicle to your fleet? What would be your list of minimal functionalities on this bus? Which coach hire company in the city of Barcelona do you think will be the 1st one to have this kind of car for it’s daily transport services?

Let us know your comments here below!

 

 

Inventors celebrate after test of solar powered family car

The Dutch team have created the world’s first ‘energy positive’ car, which means it produces more energy than it uses. It can also seat a family of four

‘Our future designs will focus on making the car even more comfortable, practical and energy efficient, so in the end people have the feeling that they could buy a similar car at a dealership.’

 

The lead engineer, Lex Hoefsloot, said: ‘Solar panels are the solution for a sustainable future, and they can increase the range of your car’

 

 

June 26, 2013
by Job Smulders
0 comments

What is the cost of quality for a rental bus in Spain?

What can we do so that bus rental business owners compete less on price and more on the quality of coaches for hire?

Earlier today I was talking to the manager of a large bus rental company in Holland about the progress of our Rentautobus page and about our efforts to expand in Europe.

He commented to me, “I don’t know what to think; we already have quite a few brokers and booking agents in Holland who are working online and offline. If we had one more, we’d be highlighting inter-company comparisons even more, and therefore we would have to compete even more on prices.”

We’ve heard the largest operators of bus rentals in Barcelona in Spain express similar reservations in the past 18 months. It seems that they think there’s more to lose than to gain if a new concept, such as a comparison and reservation service for land-based transportation enters their market. Since convincing them is rather difficult, we’ve focused on small and medium businesses that are happy to receive requests and to be able to exhibit their profile on our page.

What worried me later, when I thought about it afterwards, was the comment about “competing for price.” That made it sound as if they were only competing over price and weren’t thinking about providing high quality. If a travel provider ensures good communication throughout the business process and trip planning, providing high quality and well-maintained vehicles, with polite drivers who have an attitude of service, while making an effort to reduce their environmental impact only to discover that they’re being judged solely by their price, I can see how they would feel disappointed.

That reminded me of the well-expressed thoughts of a famous social thinker and art critic:

“There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man’s lawful prey. It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money — that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot — it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

John Ruskin  (8 February 1819 – 20 January 1900)

 

How can we prevent transport clients from paying too little?

Obviously, no one wants to pay too much, but how do we stop people from paying too little? How can we prevent this from happening in the bus rental industry? What have you done in your company? What can a comparison and trip reservation tool and a land-based transportation tool do to prevent your clients from committing the error of paying too little? We’re curious to know your thoughts!

How can we prevent private transportation companies in a province like Málaga from undercutting prices too much?

Last year we had transportation companies that were offering low prices to get sales but didn’t budget enough money towards calling the clients about the offer because “calling clients on their cell phones is too expensive.” They lost sales because the clients were upset that they didn’t call them. This may be an extreme example, but we know that offering prices that are too low will hurt us in the long run.

So please share your ideas with us about how this bus rental price comparison tool can stop these errors from being committed.

January 18, 2013
by Job Smulders
0 comments

Are coach hire companies in Bilbao and San Sebastian really prepared for snow?

My friend Rolf lives in the very center of the touristic cheese traders city of Volendam and he works in Amsterdam.  Bus loads full of Spanish, Japanese and Chinese tourists arrive from Amsterdam in a hired coach to visit the old center on cheese trading days.  Rolf commutes on a daily basis between those places by bus. He enjoys a very fast coach-bus service that is passing all the traffic because of the special bus road where no private cars are allowed. When he arrives in Amsterdam Central station he continues his trip by using his extra bicycle which he bought for this purpose for the last part of the trip.

Bus driver was surprised by slippery snow

Last Monday the 1st real snow of the season started falling and although everybody received plenty of warnings lot of groups of travelers experienced  delays in reaching their destination. Some bus services were annulated and lots were delayed.

Rolf sent me the picture below of his bus that sliped into verge of a road because of snow that made the road slippery.  Although it was not a big accident passengers got scared of the brusque movement and sudden stop and they all had to be evacuated and to wait in the cold for an replacement coach to arrive. The bus driver got surprised by the effect of the snow and all passengers escaped from what could have been a mayor accident.

Could this happen in Basque Country in Spain?

Luckily there was no ravine on the side of the road and luckily the bus didn’t slip into the other lane of the road.  This event however made me wonder if this could happen in Spain. Of course you wouldn’t expect this to happen in coastal areas around Barcelona or Malaga but maybe one of our associated coach hire companies in Bilbao or San Sebastian might be surprised by a sudden change in the weather while driving with a group of tourist on a day tour.  A sudden change of weather in the mountains is very common and finding yourself suddenly on a road covered with snow without being prepared for it can be dangerous.

Let Rolf’s picture of the coach by the side of the road be an extra warning for all of us bus rental companies to be aware of weather predictions and carry non-skid chain’s in the winters month even if they feel like summertime  for most of the groups of tourist that are enjoying your transport services.

Save and happy driving to all of you!