As Business Grows, Motorcoach Top 50 Expand Fleets, Training

As Business Grows, Motorcoach Top 50 Expand Fleets, Training Business was up in 2012 for the majority of respondents. While FirstGroup America and Coa...
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As Business Grows, Motorcoach Top 50 Expand Fleets, Training Business was up in 2012 for the majority of respondents. While FirstGroup America and Coach USA still hold the top two spots, Horizon jumps up to number three. By Nicole Schlosser, Senior Editor or METRO’s 2012 Top 50 Motorcoach operators survey, we expanded our reach and received input from a total of 106 carriers. Therefore, our list is shaken up, somewhat. American Coach Lines of Orlando, AFC Transportation and Colonial Trailways are a few of the handful of companies that are new to the list this year. This time around, we also added questions about marketing segments, seat belts and refurbishment, to get a betterrounded snapshot of the industry.

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Rankings Fleet sizes among the top respondents were larger in general this year. FirstGroup America-Greyhound Lines Inc. and Coach USA, as usual, took the first and second spots, respectively. Dallas-based Horizon Coach Lines moved up to the third spot, from the eighth position it held last year, after purchasing about 900 coaches from the now bankrupt Coach America in September.

New Britain, Conn.’s DATTCO moved up four spaces, to grab the number 10 spot, and Silverado Stages, based in San Luis Obispo, Calif., broke into the top 20, jumping from number 21 last year to 18 this year. A total of 22,276 vehicles are represented among the Top 50 operators in this survey. Among all respondents, the vehicle total is 23,621. The average fleet size among the 50 largest operators, not counting FirstGroup and Coach USA, is 143. The median fleet size is 82. Forty-three of the Top 50 operators, or 86%, have plans to buy more vehicles this year, the same as last year. Slightly more than three-quarters of operators made estimates on their buying plans for 2013, with the remaining quarter having firm plans in place. The most popular vehicle brands selected were Motor Coach Industries (29%), Prevost (20%) and Van Hool (16%). Business increasing Business in 2012 was up for more than three-quarters of the Top 50 motor-

Motorcoaches: 38% (8,372) Total Fleet Size

22,276

Non-motorcoaches: 62% (13,904) There are 22,276 motorcoaches and buses represented among the Top 50 operators in this survey. At 62%, non-motorcoach vehicles made up the majority, with motorcoaches at a little more than one-third. Non-motorcoach vehicles continue to take up a slightly greater portion of fleets each year.

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< mETRO mAGAZINE January 2013

New to the Top 50 list, Cleveland’s Lakefront Lines plans to buy approximately 10 new buses in 2013, expanding its fleet by about 10%.

coach operators and for 64% of all respondents. On average, for the Top 50, the increase was 12%. Business was down for only 3% of operators, and for nearly 20%, it stayed the same. To increase business, two-thirds of carriers obtained government contracts, 57% took on private company contracts, and about one-half partnered with other coach operators and secured school contracts. Twelve percent diversified into limousine or paratransit service. Actions taken to offset costs included rate increases by nearly three quarters of operators, fuel surcharges (66%), staff downsizing (15%), reductions in services (8%), and reduced idling and advance fuel purchases (4% each). Once again, the most favored marketing method was word of mouth at 64%. The Internet trailed this year among our Top 50, selected by only 20%, down by more than 10% from last year. Social media, in particular, was favored by nearly 10%. Additional methods cited were client referrals, direct sales (2% each) and trade shows (1%). While about 3% of all respondents said they used radio, print and TV ads, none of our Top 50 used

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Top 50 Motorcoach

2012 2011 Company Name/Location

14

Total Buses Motorcoaches and Coaches

Total NonPlus/ 40/45-Foot Total Total Longer Motorcoach Minus Buses and 30/35 Ft. Than 45 Ft. Buses 2011 Coaches

1

1

FirstGroup America/Cincinnati

12,892

2,257

10,635

2,049

5,669

167

-483

2

2

Coach USA Inc./Paramus, N.J. and Coach Canada/ Peterborough, Ontario

2,400

1,875

525

1,875

0

0

+758

3

8

Horizon Coach Lines/Dallas

1,200

750

450

750

100

2

+940

4

3

Academy Express LLC/Hoboken, N.J.

707

707

0

606

88

13

+33

5

5

Royal Hyway Tours Inc./Seattle

363

329

34

335

0

0

-56

6

7

Easton Coach Co./Easton, Pa.

314

39

275

39

275

0

0

7

6

Peter Pan Bus Lines Inc./ Springfield, Mass.

259

256

3

4

4

251

-71

8

9

Mears Transportation/Orlando, Fla.

226

176

50

176

201

0

+4

9

10 Arrow Stage Lines/Omaha, Neb.

213

161

52

161

12

0

+1

10

14 DATTCO Inc./New Britain, Conn.

198

78

120

76

2

0

+60

11

11 Martz Group/Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

193

182

11

183

10

0

+1

12

— Lakefront Lines/Cleveland

185

110

75

110

0

0



13

— American Coach Lines of Orlando/Orlando, Fla.

163

44

119

150

13

0



14

13 Lamers Bus Lines Inc./Green Bay, Wis.

158

116

42

99

59

0

+10

15

16 Paul Revere Transportation LLC/ Chelsea, Mass.

155

18

137

98

47

10

+29

16

15 Krapf’s Coaches Inc./West Chester, Pa.

136

17

119

34

2

0

+7

17

17 Le Bus/Salt Lake City

111

106

5

105

6

0

+5

18

21 Silverado Stages Inc./San Luis Obispo, Calif.

110

76

34

76

34

0

+22

19

— AFC Transportation/Houston

104

9

95

7

97

0



20

— Colonial Trailways/Mobile, Ala.

100

100

0

96

3

0



21

— Capital Colonial Southern Trailways/Montgomery, Ala.

96

85

11

85

5

0



22

18 Charter Bus Lines of British Columbia/Vancouver, B.C.

93

88

5

88

0

0

4

23 (tie)

22 Gray Line of Tennessee/ Nashville, Tenn.

92

59

33

59

1

0

+6

23

18 All Aboard America!/Mesa, Ariz.

92

92

0

78

14

0

+3

25

18 Calco Travel/Hotard Coaches/ New Orleans

87

75

12

75

12

0

-2

26

— Bee Line Transportation/Tucson, Ariz.

83

3

80

73

10

0



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Top 50 Motorcoach

2012 2011 Company Name/Location

16

Total Buses Motorcoaches and Coaches

Total NonPlus/ 40/45-Foot Total Total Longer Motorcoach Minus Buses and 30/35 Ft. Than 45 Ft. Buses 2011 Coaches

27

43 Premier Alaska Tours/ Anchorage, Alaska

80

80

0

80

0

0

+47

28 (tie)

23 Trans-Bridge Lines Inc./ Bethlehem, Pa.

75

69

6

69

6

0

+6

28

— Lakeland Bus Lines Inc./Dover, N.J.

75

74

1

74

0

0



30 (tie)

24 California Wine Tours/Napa, Calif.

73

28

45

25

3

0

-1

30

25 Carl R. Bieber Inc./Kutztown, Pa.

73

65

8

66

8

0

0

32

26 Jefferson Lines/Minneapolis

72

72

0

68

4

0

+2

33

— Ambassatours Gray Line/ Halifax, Nova Scotia

71

43

28

32

0

11



34

— Royal Coach Tours/San Jose, Calif.

68

52

16

52

0

0



35 (tie)

29 James River Transportation/ Richmond, Va.

64

34

30

34

30

0

+4

35

— Vandalia Bus Lines Inc./ Caseyville, Ill.

64

52

12

52

12

0



35

— Black Diamond Transportation LLC/Tulsa, Okla.

64

52

12

52

12

0



38 (tie)

28 Premier Coach Co. Inc./Milton, Vt.

63

62

1

62

0

0

+2

38

36 Sun Diego Charter Co./San Diego

63

58

5

58

2

0

+8

40

27 Indian Trails Inc./Owosso, Mich.

62

44

18

58

4

0

-3

41

35 Escot Bus Lines/Largo, Fla.

61

44

17

47

14

0

+4

42 (tie)

29 The Fullington Auto Bus Co./ Clearfield, Pa.

60

56

4

56

0

0

0

42

32 Abbott Trailways/Roanoke, Va.

60

60

0

60

0

0

+1

42

33 Windstar Lines Inc./Carroll, Iowa

60

56

4

7

0

49

+2

45 (tie)

37 Anchor Trailways & Tours/ Nashville, Tenn.

58

44

14

44

14

0

+6

45

29 Holiday Companies LLC/ Randleman, N.C.

58

53

5

53

5

0

-2

47 (tie)

40 Eyre Bus Service Inc./Glenelg, Md.

57

38

19

53

4

0

+9

47

— Red Carpet Charters/Oklahoma City, Okla.

57

57

0

52

5

0



49

— Burke International Tours/ Maiden, N.C.

55

43

12

43

0

0



50

— Roadrunner Charters Inc./Irving, Texas

53

35

18

30

5

0



< mETRO mAGAZINE January 2013

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Top 50 Motorcoach

Growth opportunities Government

64% 12% Limo/Paratransit

57% Private Companies

45% 52%

Partnered With Other Carriers

Schools Two-thirds of carriers increased business by obtaining government contracts. Fiftyseven percent took on private company contracts, and about one-half partnered with other coach operators and secured school contracts.

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those marketing methods, and no operators reported using the Yellow Pages. One new survey question addressed marketing segments operators made a special effort to reach. Eighty percent chose universities; about one-half selected seniors, sports teams, and church and religious groups; and about one-third selected commuters.

< mETRO mAGAZINE January 2013

Innovations Wi-Fi and GPS were the most popular innovations cited, with one-third installing them this year, a slightly higher number than in 2011. Approximately onefifth added electronic onboard recorders or iPads for driver convenience in compliance tracking, and 8% added 100-volt outlets and created apps. Lakeland Bus Lines of Dover, N.J. enhanced the user-friendliness of its website, particularly with capability to send status alerts to customers’ phones. Another operator that has been on the Top 50 list in the past, Sebring Fla.’s Annett Bus Lines,

installed technology on its coaches to let customers track their buses in real time. Challenges The biggest challenge carriers said they faced in 2012 was hiring, training and retaining good drivers who understand customer service. Perhaps in response, more than 80% of the Top 50 operators, and about three-quarters of all operators surveyed, stepped up driver training in customer service, (27%), ADA requirements (31%), and to a lesser extent, eco-driving (6%). About one-quarter of operators struggled with pricing and operation costs, and slightly more than 10% faced the obstacles of competing with low-ball operators and keeping up with regulations. We asked again this year about whether coach carriers think that the federal government’s focus on motorcoach safety is effective. Three-quarters responded yes, which was the same response as last year. Those who were not convinced that

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the safety efforts would pay off once again said that enforcement is the real issue, with rogue operators not being targeted enough and upstanding operators being unfairly penalized. Additionally, providers noted that more focus needs to be placed on the driver and not the vehicle and equipment such as seat belts. As one operator put it, “I’ve been on plenty of buses with seat belts. No one wears them, so how can it improve safety?”

Easton Coach Co., based in Easton Pa., saw a 10% bump in business in 2012.

Business was up Stayed the same Down

Seat belts This year, we asked about the portion of vehicles with factory-installed seat belts in operators’ current fleets. Only 6% of the Top 50 operators said their entire fleet, or nearly their entire fleet, had the belts installed. Thirty-two percent responded that 1% to 10% of their vehicles were equipped with seat belts, onefifth said that 11% to 20% of their vehicles had seat belts, and about one-fifth have no factory-installed seat belts in Page ______ their fleets. Eighty percent of carriers

3%

18% How was business in 2012 compared with 2011?

79%

Up

Business was up for more than threequarters of the Top 50 motorcoach operators and for 64% of all respondents. On average, for the Top 50, the increase wasMET0712ceniehoff28volt 12%.

said they plan to add motorcoaches with factory-installed seat belts to their fleets in 2013. About two-thirds of operators claimed to only be interested in buying buses with factory-installed belts. Refurbishment We also included new questions about refurbished coaches. Three-quarters of operators responded that they have refurbished coaches in their fleets. The average number of refurbished vehicles among those surveyed and in the Top 50 is seven. Operators that are considering buying refurbished coaches in the next year totaled to about threequarters. Carriers who said they are not looking into buying refurbished coaches in 2013 responded that they refurbish in-house (33%), only buy new, mostly due to contract requirements (33%), don’t have money in the budget this year to buy any vehicles (22%) or think it’s too expensive (3%) (see refurbishment story on pg. 43).

January 2013

mETRO mAGAZINE >

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