Category: Opinion

Peter Crichton – Buses in the blood

RM1152 bus owned by Peter Crichton

Jonathan Welch chats to Omnibus founder Peter Crichton about his passion for the industry.

Monday 16 October 1978 was a very important day for a gentleman by the name of Karol Józef Wojtyła. It was the day Karol Józef, also known as Cardinal Wojtyła, then aged 58 and Archbishop of Krakow, was elected Pope, taking the more familiar name John Paul II in honour of the late John Paul I.

RM1152 bus owned by Peter Crichton
Peter inherited RM 1152 from a close friend.

Meanwhile, in the altogether more gritty environs of north west England, Monday 16 October 1978 was the day that a young northerner by the name of Peter Crichton embarked on what was to become a lifelong career in the bus industry.

Peter’s career trajectory could have been very different, had he succeeded in one of his other ambitions as a school leaver, which was to join the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. As it was, that October day saw him start down a path involving a very different kind of ‘oily cart’ as he arrived for his first day as a Traffic Trainee, a trainee scheduler with Greater Manchester PTE.

Ominbus Founder, Peter Crichton

Having gone on to found Omnibus with the aim of helping schedulers to produce workable timetables more efficiently and effectively, and devoted his working life to the transport industry, it was no surprise that Peter was presented with a Gold Award for Services to the Bus Industry at the 2022 UK Bus Awards.

Having founded Omnibus in 1989, Peter remains in a Director’s role part time, though as I found out when we sat down for a virtual chat, his schedule remains a full one. “I don’t know how I had time to go to work,” he said, having taken a break from building (I daren’t say playing with!) his O gauge model railway in between rehearsals for a production of the classic Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera HMS Pinafore with, appropriately, the Bus Pass Opera Company at the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton.

Read the full article in Coach and Bus Week (a subscription is required).

Read our post: Omnibus Founder Peter Crichton reflects on his career after winning UK Bus Award

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2023 reflections and the year ahead

UK bus industry in 2023 and the year ahead

The UK Bus industry is ever-evolving and 2023 has been a year of marked change. This year has witnessed the sector navigating challenges, such as the lingering impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and driver shortages, to the ever-present call for greener and more efficient modes of transport. As we approach 2024, we believe the central themes guiding the upcoming year and beyond will revolve around collaboration and adaptability.

UK bus industry in 2023 and the year ahead

To franchise, or not to franchise?

Franchising has undeniably taken centre stage in the narrative of 2023. Introduced in Manchester for the first time since deregulation, this transformative trend looks set to shape the years ahead with Liverpool City Region and West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), amongst others, planning to follow suit. With a growing number of councils bracing for upcoming elections, the widespread adoption of the franchise model seems increasingly inevitable. Yet, as this momentum builds, it is important to consider alternative approaches. By leveraging best practices and enhancing the established systems and processes within operators’ existing networks, there’s an opportunity to transition toward a more collaborative future involving Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) and operators.

Against this backdrop and with funding potentially tightening in 2024, bus operators and LTAs must adopt a prudent approach, carefully managing financial resources to ensure operation of the most efficient services possible. The notable upswing in patronage observed this year underscores the need for a sustained and proficient operation. Collaborative efforts between bus operators and LTAs will play a pivotal role, with the latest technology helping to empower LTAs and operators with the intelligence and insights required to fulfil their commitments and uphold network responsibilities effectively.

Incentivised travel and BSOG reform

The introduction of the £2 bus fare cap in England, not only incentivised bus travel but made it affordable for millions of passengers struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. Introduced as a £2 flat rate fare outside of London until November 2024, the measure has helped to increase patronage post-Covid. However, unless a transitional arrangement is introduced at the end of the current initiative, a potential cliff-edge scenario could see fares increase substantially at the end of 2024, hitting millions of passengers in the pocket and reducing patronage.

The BSOG funding process is set to be reformed, with the Department of Transport and industry bodies set to shape the future of the scheme with a focus on incentivising zero emission vehicles and additional funding for rural services. Depending on the approach, and considering work carried out by EPM in collaboration with Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), changes to the current funding mechanism could have significant winners and losers. With a general election next year it is likely that any reform measures decided on in 2024 will not be implemented until Spring of the following year.

Flexible timetables to meet changing work patterns

Travel patterns have changed, characterised by an uptake in remote work and an increase in leisure travel. Therefore, there is a greater need for LTAs and bus operators to understand these changing behaviours. Timetables need to be fluid and flexibly planned to capitalise on emerging trends and to effectively meet the fluctuating demand. This ensures that the changing needs of customers are not only understood but also met.

Driver shortages

This year has seen a shortage of drivers continue to blight the industry. The CPT has identified that almost 1 in 10 bus driver positions are vacant in the UK which has led to a drop in the number of deliverable services. With attributing factors such as long hours and exhausting shift patterns, there is a need for operators to build stronger relationships with their drivers to address this ongoing challenge. Establishing open communication is vital, and leveraging data becomes paramount in understanding and contextualising driver performance. Additionally, adopting driver-centric technologies can prove instrumental in enhancing driver relations by empowering them to access their schedules remotely and easily request time off or overtime.

Innovation to attract more passengers

The key challenge for bus operators and local authorities in 2024 will be to continue to attract customers. Initiatives such as multi-operator ticketing (MOT) and tap on tap off (TOTO) make bus travel a more attractive proposition, encouraging travel and repeat journeys. However, the key metrics of affordability and reliability will determine the continued success and viability of operations. Amid escalating costs and rising customer expectations, on-the-day decision-making will be critical in ensuring service quality. This demands an evolution of control room systems to provide a complete, holistic view of operations in real-time, helping controllers get ahead of problems on the network and proactively find solutions.

The year ahead

2023 has been a dynamic and transformative period for the industry, marked by challenges and significant developments. As we look ahead to 2024, collaboration emerges as a central theme, with franchising gaining prominence and funding set to reshape the sector.

Technology will play an increasingly important role, helping bus operators and LTAs to successfully navigate these challenges and help the bus industry to go from strength to strength.

Solutions to support the year ahead:

  • For planning and managing franchise networks ETM DAS and Contract Performance.
  • To improve driver retention and communication a driver app such as OmniENGAGE.
  • Empowering control room teams to efficiently manage and resolve on-the-day issues to deliver a quality bus service, as well as achieve significant cost-savings with Control360.
  • Data / intelligence streamlined with Insights providing management teams with a comprehensive view, enabling them to make well-informed decisions.
  • Flexible timetable display solution, OmnSTOPdesign, allows for efficient and cost-effective turnaround for roadside publicity.

Ready to start driving forward in 2024? Get in touch to build a tailored solution today

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The importance of accurate scheduling to driver retention rates

The importance of accurate scheduling to driver retention rates - Peter Crichton, Omnibus Founder

Many factors contribute to driver retention, one is fair duty and rota composition, writes Omnibus Founder Peter Crichton.

With the need to retain staff, it is important to ensure that duties are driver friendly.

That does not necessarily mean that they will be inefficient, but that the bus workings, crew duties and rotas are realistic and operable.

The importance of accurate scheduling to driver retention rates - Peter Crichton, Omnibus Founder

How to achieve this?

I have always held the view that you need properly trained schedulers, who understand the basics of manual scheduling. I can hear people say: “Why do we need to train schedulers when we have a computerised scheduling system?”

This is a view that I have heard many times over the years, and more so recently. But you need to make sure that the data, parameters, and agreements are entered accurately and adhered to, and that needs a fundamental knowledge of scheduling.

My response would be: “Would you let anyone untrained use accountancy software to do your year-end profit and loss accounts?” I think I know what the answer to that might be! So why would you put someone with no basic knowledge of scheduling in control of 40% of your costs and the wellbeing of your drivers?

This basic knowledge allows the scheduler to accurately enter the data to produce an efficient schedule, and make sure that what is generated adheres to these requirements with all work covered correctly, including any additional requirements such as walk times, depot trips, and minimum join-up times.

If these important items are missed, the efficiency of duties will be inaccurate, and you also do not want to risk upsetting your drivers by missing off pieces of work.

The importance of manual scheduling training

I always insisted that every member of the Omnibus team attended Jim Hulme’s TransACT manual scheduling training course. When Jim retired, Omnibus took over the course to make sure that this knowledge continues to be passed on. The course continues to this day, and it proves to be very popular.

With a firm understanding of manual scheduling, a scheduler will know what is achievable with regard to the number of bus and crew duties, and their associated costs, and will be able to benchmark the computer’s output to make sure that it is in line with what they expect.

They will also have the skills to fine-tune the generated schedule to better suit agreements, and even make it more driver friendly.

The next stage of the scheduling process is compiling the rotas. Again, a trained scheduler will be able to make sure that all agreements are correctly adhered to, and where possible, place duties in such a way as to produce rotas that are not only efficient, but, as much as possible, driver friendly.

A computer can produce automatic rotas, but they need to be checked, and sometimes fine-tuned to better suit agreements.

Drivers are unique

Not all drivers want the same thing to achieve their work-life balance. For example, when I drove buses at Hyde Road depot in Manchester in the late-1980s, a ‘one late a week’ rota was introduced.

It did not suit me, because I preferred a similar duty all week, but it suited others. So it could be better to have rotas that may be a little less efficient, but more driver friendly and suit the various lifestyle needs, which in the long run may help to cut staff turnover and all its associated costs.

So in conclusion, having efficient but realistic duties and rotas is necessary to help reduce staff turnover – and I would argue that a skilled scheduler is vitally important to help achieve that.

This article originally appeared in routeone magazine.

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Vision for streamlined operations with new solutions driving efficiency

London bus. Vision for streamlined operations with solutions driving efficiency

22 September 2023 – EPM and Omnibus are dedicated to enhancing operator efficiency with new solutions.

In the dynamic world of public transport, where efficiency, reliability, and data-driven decision-making are paramount, Velociti Group companies EPM and Omnibus, are making significant strides to transform industry processes. With a rich legacy spanning over three decades, the companies are at the forefront of providing innovative solutions to this complex sector.

Nick Brookes, Software Director at EPM and Omnibus, believes that the companies’ commitment to driving operational efficiency and boosting patronage is evident in their approach to product development with enhancements to existing solutions and plans for a new product – Control360 – which aims to revolutionise service delivery.

Article featured in the Passenger Transport supplement for CPT Scotland Conference 2023.

Evolution of control room solutions

In early 2021, EPM acquired Omnibus, a leading transport software company. Since then, EPM has been working to integrate their solutions to provide more value to customers. Nick emphasises the need to bridge digital capability gaps.

“In the intricate bus operations landscape, effective management is crucial for reliable, high-quality, passenger-focussed services,” he explains. “Our focus on integrating the OmniDAS depot allocation system with our existing operator control room tools marks significant progress. This cloud-based SaaS solution provides operators with real-time visibility of driver and vehicle resources, streamlining resource management and ensuring compliance with regulations and local agreements.”

In a world where operators are increasingly focusing on driver retention and engagement, Nick highlights Omnibus’ innovative driver smartphone app, OmniENGAGE, which fosters improved communication with drivers, boosts driver retention, and facilitates efficient allocation of resources by offering a self-service function that takes the pressure away from depot-based allocation teams.

That self-service system has also been expanded to offer an automated sign-on facility for drivers. Rather than signing on for work at a front desk in a depot, they can instead sign on for work remotely using the app. Geofencing technology ensures accurate tracking of the driver’s location, enhancing operational oversight.

Real-time decision making with OmniDAS

OmniDAS is a cloud-native platform designed to support on-the-day operations with real-time decision-making capabilities for control room staff. It enables operators to swiftly adapt to unforeseen challenges such as driver shortages and unexpected incidents. This semi-automated system ensures that any changes made during the day are accurately logged and processed, providing a single source of truth for payroll and HR records.

Nick highlights EPM’s Insights solution. It complements OmniDAS by offering comprehensive data analysis tools that help identify trends and issues, fostering proactive decision-making and improved service quality.

“This holistic approach to operational efficiency encompasses both planning and execution, ensuring that meticulous pre-planning translates into passenger satisfaction,” he adds.

Control360: a vision for comprehensive service delivery

While Omnibus is enhancing OmniDAS, EPM is developing Control360. It will provide operators with a comprehensive 360-degree view by unifying disparate data sources.

“Critical decisions are frequently made in the control room, and Control360 will facilitate data sharing, enabling operators to uphold their promises of delivering reliable and quality bus services,” revealed Nick. “By consolidating data from various applications, including third-party sources and open data, Control360 will present operators with actionable insights and early warning alerts, reducing the reliance on gut-feel decisions and fostering data-driven operations.”

One key advantage of Control360 is its seamless integration with existing EPM and Omnibus solutions, such as OmniDAS, Customer Resolution Centre and Accident Management systems. This integration streamlines processes, removes data silos, and ensures consistency.

“Control360’s future roadmap includes plans to assess the financial implications of operational changes, helping control room staff make informed decisions that not only improve service quality but also make financial sense,” adds Nick. “This proactive approach will ensure that bus operators are equipped to handle a fast-paced and complex environment effectively.”

A glimpse into the future

EPM and Omnibus are advancing their journey to provide data-driven bus industry solutions. OmniDAS is available, and integration with the EPM Traffic system is complete. The upcoming Control360, though still in development, is set to be a game-changer by consolidating crucial information, ultimately boosting bus service quality and reliability.

As they prepare for a phased launch for Control360 in early 2024, Nick believes operators can look forward to a future where data-driven decisions and efficient resource allocation – backed by improved communication – are the pillars of success.

“Our view is that for operators to be successful there are two sides to the equation,” he concludes. “The first is to become more operationally efficient and the other is in growing patronage and therefore revenue.

“We want to empower operators with data-driven tools that respond to those challenges by optimising resource allocation and responding swiftly to issues. This not only improves service quality but also fosters growth in patronage, ultimately boosting revenue as operators deliver on their promises to passengers and build a reputation for service reliability and quality.”

Building an efficient bus operation

Measuring end-to-end performance

Cloud scheduling – How cloud migration is driving bus operator efficiency

cloud scheduling

Bus operators of all sizes are turning to cloud scheduling to gain a number of business advantages including enhanced data security, unlocking efficiencies and lowering operating costs.  

Software linked to local machines and servers can create difficulties when collaborating on work and sharing transport data. The cloud overcomes these challenges and opens new possibilities from easy access to systems from home or the office to enabling seamless scale-up. 

Let’s take a closer look at the reasons behind the digital transformation. 

cloud scheduling

Enhanced data security

Data loss is a real concern for bus operators. In fact, it is one of the main motivators for moving away from the traditional on-premise approach. Despite operators’ best efforts, files stored on local computers are more vulnerable to data loss for various reasons from user error to a cyberattack. Also, without an efficient way to share files, there is a risk that multiple versions of the same dataset can be created and data becoming out of sync. 

Storing data in the cloud maintains data integrity and guarantees it is always available, even if local hardware is damaged. With the cloud, data is managed in secured off-site locations with backups and operators can choose from different levels of built-in resilience to guard against threats. Plus, granular security features can be utilised, such as role-based access, to guarantee that data is securely accessed, stored and managed. 

Unlocking efficiencies

Cloud scheduling is not only a more secure way to store data but also makes it easier to access, collaborate on and share. Seamless collaboration removes the need to copy files to shared drives, which is time consuming and can be prone to errors. 

With all the schedules securely stored in the cloud, planning and publicity teams can operate simultaneously without stepping on each other’s toes. Schedulers can edit a colleague’s work without having to remember the latest version of a file or waste time searching for files. And managers can avoid confusion by having better visibility and monitoring of who did what and when. 

Having files in one place also means it is easier to consolidate data and have a full holistic view of the operation. Reports can be run over multiple schedules and or multiple timeframes to more easily compare key metrics. There is also the option to integrate with analysis tools to interrogate the data further through real-time management information and dashboards. 

Lower operating costs

Another key factor for migrating to the cloud is to reduce IT and infrastructure costs. Managing local software installs is a manual and time-intensive task, particularly for larger operators. It is also inconvenient for operators’ IT teams as software updates need to be done on each machine where the application is installed. 

A cloud environment not only meets the latest internet security standards, but updates are managed automatically and off-site by the solutions provider. The huge advantage of this for operators is that they will always have the most up-to-date version of the software as soon as it is released. This tremendously reduces the pressure on operators’ IT teams of maintaining and updating applications across the organisation. System users also benefit. With minimal downtime, they can continue focusing their time and effort on fulfilling their work without having to wait for an IT technician to perform a critical function. 

Finally, cloud scheduling also removes the need for local fileservers or data storage. This reduces the provision, management and maintenance of on-site IT infrastructure, saving valuable time and cost. 

How Omnibus can help

Omnibus, part of Velociti Group, provides cloud scheduling and operations solutions, enabling bus operators to work more flexibly and efficiently. Driving efficiency is the key goal behind our software solutions and over the past 30 years we have become a market-leader in the field. 

To book a consultation, complete the online form or call 0161 683 3100. 

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Omnibus and EPM aim for innovation in the efficiency chain

EPM Group aims for innovation in the efficiency chain

Velociti Group aims to support bus operators as they grapple with uncertainties.

It’s a challenging time for bus operators with continuing uncertainties surrounding future funding, the building back of patronage following the Covid-19 pandemic, driver shortages and increasing traffic congestion.

Many are placing their operations and networks under the microscope, but software solutions specialist Velociti Group (EPM Bus Solutions and Omnibus Solutions) believes the answer to many of the problems created by these complex issues can be found by focusing on improving efficiencies and streamlining processes.

EPM Group aims for innovation in the efficiency chain

Article featured in the Passenger Transport supplement for UK Bus & Coach 2023

“We’ve been working very closely on the efficiency chain,” says Nick Brookes, software director at EPM and Omnibus. “We are looking at the complete range of interactions that take place in any bus operator to see how we can help them realise savings and become even more agile.”

The focus of EPM and Omnibus is on realising efficiencies by creating an integrated operational platform. The key components of this vision are drivers and depot allocation, customer services and accidents, and engineering processes.

“We want the data and processes from each of those stages to talk to one another,” explains Nick. “Bus operators create huge amounts of data, but a lot of it is lost in translation. We want to take the data and translate it into information that enables bus operators to become more efficient.”

Helping with driver retention

Driver and vehicle allocation has been a key focus for the group. The Omnibus depot allocation system, OmniDAS, for real-time driver and vehicle management has been enhanced with a move to the cloud and the addition of a smartphone app that creates a complete self-service system for drivers to manage their working life. This includes the ability to offer remote sign-on facility, meaning drivers don’t even have to visit their home depot to sign on for work each day.

Nick BrookesNick believes the sum of these parts is a system that can assist operators to improve their driver retention goals, an important development at a time when much of the industry is struggling with shortages.

“It can really help drivers manage their home life while ensuring they are informed and connected with their colleagues,” he explains. “They can see their shift patterns, apply for overtime, swap their shifts – in other words, they don’t have to go to a front desk or speak to someone. There’s still oversight of what’s going on, but it becomes a back-office process. It makes things more efficient for everyone.”

Nick reveals there are plans to build on this self-service approach. A new bulletin board system within the app aims to supplement the traditional depot noticeboard, allowing staff to review important company information on the go.

Further enhancements are likely to see the app integrated into EPM’s accident management systems, in other words, drivers will be able to record vital details and evidence in the immediate aftermath of an accident. And on that EPM plans to later this year improve its accident reporting solution with new features that will assist operators in tracking accidents from when they happened right through to closure and then analysis afterwards. Nick adds this will allow operators to scrutinise insights that will help them drive down the possibility of a similar accident reoccurring.

Integrating systems

Those plans to integrate the app and accident reporting hint at other aspirations. Nick is keen to evolve EPM and Omnibus solutions into an expanded platform that helps bus operators realise efficiencies. He describes this as being about creating a “single source of truth”.

“What we want to do is create outputs for operators that offer a good, accurate and consistent overview,” he adds. “We want to streamline workflows and integrate them across the business.”

Nick highlights the operations platform elements of EPM’s offering. “Our Customer Resolution Centre is integrated into that,” he explains. “We wanted it to work harder to help operators rebuild patronage and it’s an area where some operators have struggled in the past.”

While other systems are about logging these interactions, EPM’s platform aims to be more proactive in addressing them. It can automatically consolidate customer feedback from multiple sources to produce a complete overview of customer interactions.

“It means operators can respond to customers quickly and efficiently from a range of platforms, including social media,” adds Nick. “Downstream processes, such as creating feedback forms from the staff involved or evidence requests are automated. It’s about resolving the issue quickly and creating a consolidated view of the entire process.”

Another example of that integration is in engineering systems. While EPM has no plans to create an engineering solution of its own, it is working with third-party providers to ensure systems ‘talk’ to one another in order to streamline processes.

Nick says a good example is if a vehicle is off-road for repair: the engineering system will talk with EPM’s systems to ensure the depot allocation system (OmniDAS) knows that the vehicle can’t be allocated for work for that day. It means that telephone calls or potentially unreliable paper-based methods between engineering and operations departments are avoided and there’s also the advantage that the entire process is automated.

Tying it all together

A big focus for some time for the EPM and Omnibus product team has been on control room processes.

“Our BIRS (Bus Incident Reporting Screen) solution enables operators to work flexibly and efficiently, but we want to expand on that,” explains Nick. “A lot of information already flows into and out of the operator’s control room, and we want to consolidate that data into a single dashboard. This is a key focus for us because it will allow control room staff to make more informed and proactive decisions.”

He adds that this process will take disparate systems out of their silos, consolidate them and then use historical data to allow operators to determine trends.

“Efficiency is a big focus for us this year,” Nick concludes.

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Control Room Efficiency – Streamline the recording of bus driver incidents

Streamline the recording of bus driver incidents

Disruption to bus services has a negative impact on the customer experience so it is important that transport operators can manage re-allocation problems on-the-spot and with the least number of processes for faster resolution. 

But the impact of driver shortages and staff sickness is increasing workloads for controllers. They use multiple systems to resolve staff-related operational issues and this eats into their time, which would be better spent managing the network. How can operators streamline the recording of bus driver incidents and free up their controllers to focus on higher value work?

Streamline the recording of bus driver incidents

Challenge: Time lost to manual data entry

Operators use a range of control room systems – often disparate technology that is not integrated – to record information on absences, customer feedback, accidents, lost mileage, and monitoring punctuality and reliability. Each operational action may also require a record to be made or updated on one or more separate systems.

A staff-related incident, for instance, that results in changes to planned mileage is recorded in the depot allocation system and the bus incident reporting screen. If using disparate data sources (systems which function on their own without sharing data or working with other computer applications), the controller rekeys the same information twice; once in each system. This is not only tedious and time-taking but also makes managing disparate databases difficult as the bus operation grows.

Challenge: Rekeying data leads to errors

There is also a lack of data integrity borne out of two different sources of the same information. Re-entering or transferring data is prone to human errors and lack of precision and can result in varying versions of the same information being entered into different systems. In addition, any discrepancy takes time to identify and rectify.

Furthermore, driver availability issues mean operators are cancelling and amending services in lots of different systems. If the controller is distracted and there is a delay in recording information, the data is logged incorrectly or they forget to enter it in one or more systems, this can result in out-of-date information going out to the end-customer.

Data that is manually entered in multiple systems or generated from a variety of sources can become unreliable if it is not consistent. This, in turn, may lead to difficulties with reporting and poor decision-making, and result in significant cost implications for the operator and directly impact the service to the end customer.

Solution: Reduce duplication with software integration

Operators can overcome these challenges by automating interactions between their data systems and in doing so streamline processes. For instance, staff-related changes recorded in the depot allocation system can automatically transfer to the bus incident reporting screen, meaning data only needs to be entered into one system. This reduces the time required to record the incident, therefore, increasing staff efficiencies, and allows for faster response times to solving problems as they arise.

Software integration also ensures operational data across systems is consistent. The removal of duplicate data entry points reduces the opportunities for human error, providing operators with a single source of truth for decision-making and reporting purposes.

How we can help

With over 30 years’ experience in software and consultancy services, Velociti Group (EPM and Omnibus) has comprehensive knowledge of the passenger transport industry and well-established software solutions to improve operational agility.

Control360 automatically consolidates operational data from multiple control room systems into one central location, empowering operators to efficiently manage on-the-day issues and achieve significant cost-savings.

To book a free consultation, complete the online form.

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Grow patronage, boost revenue, and drive operational efficiency.

Driver communication – Are holiday requests creating a time drain for your drivers?

Driver communication

At a time when driver recruitment and retention are the biggest challenges across the transport sector, bus operators should consider how they can make their organisation a place where people want to work.

One such area is the process for managing driver holiday requests.  

Driver communication

It can be quite frustrating for a driver, who at the end of their working day needs to speak to someone about a holiday request, only to find that person is unavailable or busy seeing to other drivers. It is possible for the driver to have a clear and easy way of requesting leave that does not affect their own time, such as a driver app which can be used remotely and independently when convenient. 

Other options that make managing the driver’s work-life balance easier can also be available. For instance, it can be easy to swap a shift for a more suitable start or finish time or know where they might be at a given time on a given date in the future. Having easy access to duties weeks in advance and the content of those duties empowers your drivers with better management of their own time. 

The benefits go beyond the time saved discussing leave or swaps with the person responsible for driver allocation; the quality of information is vastly improved, and it differentiates your organisation to current and potential employees. 

Drivers who want to volunteer for overtime can also be accommodated. They do not have to scan the noticeboard after each shift or burden the allocator; they too can request overtime at their convenience or even just let the allocator know they are available.  

If a driver can do all this at any time, it adds an element of fairness. The driver does not miss an opportunity to request holiday just because they could not get into the office and the overtime does not always go to the person who is in the canteen at the right time. If overtime is available through a driver app, it is available to all your drivers at the same time in the same place. 

Driver requests are a time drain and fraught with inaccuracies when done manually. By leveraging technology, you can make the process a positive experience where staff are encouraged to take the appropriate leave and come back recharged, refocused and recuperated. 

Drivers need support to help manage their home life around varying shift patterns and you need an efficient and fair process which makes the depot allocator’s life easier, whilst improving the level of control and accuracy of information.

Coming soon – In part 2 of our series on driver communication, we consider how you can ensure your staff are kept in the loop about operational and business decisions. 

How we can help

Part of Velociti Group, Omnibus has over 30 years’ experience in software and consultancy services and has comprehensive knowledge of the passenger transport industry and well-established software solutions to meet your challenges.  

Our driver app OmniENGAGE enables operators to stay connected with drivers whilst reducing administration to your operations team remain focussed on service provision. 

To book a free consultation to see how we can assist with your challenges and requirements, complete the online form or call 0161 683 3100.

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Optimising control room and engineering communication to improve operational efficiency

Optimising control room and engineering communication to improve operational efficiency

Bus operators have invested in multiple control room software systems from depot allocation to incident management in order to run a smooth operation.

To maintain operational efficiency, they need to work in harmony as often an action or data point in one system has an impact in another.

Optimising control room and engineering communication to improve operational efficiency

But without integration this can lead to double entry of data, which is an inefficient use of time and can lead to inaccurate data. Also, the team can make poor service decisions if all the relevant information is not easily accessible to them.

Improve communication

Control room teams and engineers rely on each other for information. The engineer needs to know when a vehicle has broken down, what to expect when attending or dealing with a breakdown and if a driver has reported a vehicle fault. In most instances, the engineer only discovers a vehicle problem when they receive a message from the operations team, and this does not always include all the key information they require to efficiently deal with the problem. 

The depot controller needs support from the engineering team to keep the service running by providing the required vehicles. They need to know when a vehicle is available after being worked on by the engineering team. The receipt of this information can be slow, and this results in a delayed resolution to a time-critical problem. 

Communication between controllers and engineers can be poor or slow due to several reasons. The control room and engineers are often based in different parts of the site and can be completely remote from each other. But more importantly, both functions use different software tools, so email and phone calls are the current means of communicating and sharing data. 

What is the solution?

An operator’s engineering teams use a range of software solutions and providers to manage vehicle maintenance, inventory and costs. Integrating these third-party solutions with your vehicle allocation and incident management systems can improve operational efficiency by automating data flows. 

For the engineer, this means that when the depot controller records a vehicle defect, the data is automatically populated in the system with the relevant incident categorisation against the correct vehicle. Time is saved as there is no need to enter the data manually; the system is updated automatically as soon as the driver reports the incident to the operations team. 

For the depot controller this means that when a vehicle is taken off the road for maintenance it is automatically marked as not available for allocation. Similarly, when it is released by the engineering team using their software system, the vehicle immediately appears as available in the depot allocation system. The controller does not waste time chasing the engineer on the vehicle’s status. 

The controller can also supply details of vehicle incidents, with details of the bus and any defects, straight to the engineering team. This saves valuable time as there is no need to rewrite the information in an email or relay it over the phone. Furthermore, the controller does not need to then mark a vehicle as unavailable in the allocation system because that is updated automatically as soon as the engineer takes it off the road. A double timesaving for the operator! 

How we can help

With over 30 years’ experience in software and consultancy services, Velociti Group has comprehensive knowledge of the passenger transport industry and well-established software solutions. 

We offer an end-to-end solution. For engineers and depot controllers, we can integrate with engineering software solutions to improve your operational efficiency by automating communication and data transfer. As soon as an incident occurs, it can be logged through the Bus Incident Reporting Screen (BIRS) in the EPM Traffic system and reported to engineering. Engineering can quickly process the issue and make the vehicle unavailable, and this is then automatically updated in OmniDAS. 

To book a free consultation to see how we can assist with your challenges and requirements, complete the online form or call 0161 683 3100.

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Video – Measuring end-to-end performance of a bus operation

Measuring the end to end performance of a bus operation

A bus operation is a complex business relying on many moving parts or links in a chain, which need to work in harmony to achieve optimum efficiency.

Key performance indicators measure how well each part is working and drive efficiency across the whole operation. The links fall into three broad categories: planning the network, delivering the service, and performance (operational and engineering) review.

In the videos below we discuss how to measure the performance of each of the components which make up an efficient, profitable and sustainable bus operation.

Measuring the end to end performance of a bus operation

Planning the network

Duty efficiency is part of the efficiency chain. In the following 4 videos we discuss how timetables and layover, vehicle utilisation, rostering and the allocation of drivers impact the efficiency chain.

Timetables efficiency

Peak Vehicle Requirement (PVR)

Schedules efficiency

Actual driver cost vs planned driver cost

Building an efficient bus operation

Measuring end-to-end performance

efficiency ebook