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Ground transportation: the business of ‘Safety, Responsibility and Transparency’

Work-related driving accidents kill 541 people in 2016

Duty of care for staff is a top concern for businesses of all sizes booking taxis and private hire vehicles, says Roy Hughes, Director at One Transport and OT-24

Licensing, insurance and passenger safety have become hot topics in the ground transport industry. A trawl through recent headlines will alert you to that fact. Over the past two years, we’ve seen more operators really beginning to ‘show their wares’ when it comes to safety and assurance.

While technological innovation and a perceived convenience at the point of booking may appear to trump these essentials, we’ve found that, ultimately, customer safety and care are paramount to being a long-term trusted supplier.

It’s a harsh reality of the world we now live in that many people are understandably fearful when it comes to public travel. We’re witnessing heightened security across the board. The ground transport sector is no exception. As a fully managed service provider for ground transport, we are now seeing safety and security as a core part of the tender process on a corporate level more than ever before. It’s now a case of ‘buyer beware’ – something all PAs will be well aware of.

Businesses owe a duty of care to their staff and it’s up to us – as a business and as an industry – to provide them with the reassurance that we can be trusted to keep them safe. Failure to do so will not only result in bad headlines, but lost revenues, which are not part of anyone’s plan.

So how do we do this? Here are some key elements to assure corporates, SMEs and PAs specifically, that we take the business of staff and safety seriously:

Fully licensed operators: Always use fully licensed operators. Do not engage with any organisation with drivers that are not licensed. Have measures in place in any service agreements that allow drivers queried by customers to be replaced if necessary.

Also ensure all vehicle drivers in the network are DBS (formerly CRB) checked. Make sure all records are kept updated, down to the detail of alerting drivers when their licence may be due for renewal.

Vehicle quality assurance: The safest and most qualified driver in the world is only as good the vehicle he or she operates. Ensure every vehicle in the network or fleet you’re using has up-to-date MOT and safety checks. Go above and beyond the minimum requirements to ensure the best possible service and instil confidence. Membership to the Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) provides reassurance through its regular, independent grading and benchmarking standards, for example.

Tracked vehicles: Tracking facilities for vehicles are becoming increasingly important, allowing businesses to track the movements of their staff at any given time through their journey. For example, we’ve had very positive feedback about our ‘where’s my cab’ functionality. It’s another level of security, providing peace of mind that customers with the required access can monitor the whereabouts and the booked journeys of their team members as part of their travel management policy, going the extra step to ensure their safe arrival.

Reporting and transparency: Customers should be provided with full disclosure on all journeys booked. Receiving one itemised invoice and a complete set of management reports each month can reduce administration and provide complete transparency. For example, we pay all of our suppliers the same rate and the journey price displayed is the price paid.

Breaking down journeys by time, distance, cost and waiting times and for individual team members means businesses always know what they are paying for. Price consistency avoids headaches and confusing paperwork, making it easy to be transparent and fair.

Customer care: Ensure any customer complaint policy is designed with customers in mind. Our Customer Services team handles all complaints and we are proud of delivering our service with a 99.6% success rate, but we are never complacent and have an ongoing policy of continuous improvement. Every supplier has a duty of care to their customers.

2016 looks to be an important year as we continue to strive for a safe, responsible and transparent ground transport sector. Licensing and safety will continue to make headlines as the outcomes of Transport for London’s current consultation on the private hire sector are revealed and will no doubt set the scene for standards for the transport sector across the country.