Freeway’s solution helps keep the buses running

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With bus companies running large mixed fleets on a variety of city and urban routes, and the need to compete in the marketplace for profitable contracts, someone, somewhere, somehow needs to provide a system that can capture huge amounts of seemingly disparate data and generate reports for analysis that give the companies complete visibility into every aspect of their operating costs.

The ideal would be software that has the capacity to cope with large mixed fleets operating on a number of different routes, including the specific requirements of night buses. The system should enable route based costing and vehicle model based costing, incorporating spares, maintenance and fuel spend.

The system would have to capture every single cost – maintenance, repair and running costs, and calculate fuel efficiency. The fuel cost analysis needs to be broken down by vehicle, by route or by user-specified period, and the results be returned within seconds as pence per mile for each asset, each fleet or each route.

Such results would not only indicate underperformance, but would also provide a cost-based comparison between real and forecast costs.

Enter Freeway

Reading Buses was one of the first UK bus operators to install the Freeway transport management system. The company operates a fleet of 165 buses in Reading, mainly on urban routes, and 15 buses in Newbury. 38% of the company’s fleet is environmentally friendly, with 31 electric hybrid buses, 20 gas buses and a further 14 due for delivery next Spring.

Freeway provides Reading Buses with stock control, order management, fleet asset management, vehicle maintenance, and also captures labour costs on non-company owned vehicles, i.e. sub-contracted coaches.

Although not bespoke to Reading Buses, Freeway has developed alongside the bus operator, adding new functionality to accommodate additional requirements as they arise. With the company’s decision to “green up” its fleet, Reading Buses also needed to see the operating costs for each bus model, not only for analysis but also for budgetary purposes.

“As our requirements have evolved, so Freeway has evolved right along with us,” said Mike Batt – Purchasing and Facilities Manager, Reading Buses.

For Tower Transit, the decision to install the Freeway transport management system was based not only on speed of implementation and ease of use, but also on Freeway’s proven expertise in bus operation management.

Tower Transit carries almost 120 million passengers a year. Its London fleet comprises almost 450 buses on 24 routes, including 33 hybrid buses operating in Central London. With the purchase of Impact Coaches, a 130-vehicle coach fleet operating out of depots in Perivale and Croydon, and Cambridgeshire-based bus company Go-Whippet, along with its Swavesey depot, 50 vehicles and more than 80 staff, Tower Transit needed a system that was quick to implement, user friendly and very intuitive.

“Our zero emission buses were put into operation over a complete London bus route, enabling day-to-day testing of the viability of the technology,” said Eddie Street, Engineering Systems, Tower Transit. “The Freeway system is very responsive, and it’s easy to drill down and analyse the data,”

The system can also capture operating defects, and, if required, the procurement function enables auto replenishment of parts – i.e. it first checks if parts are in stock at the “home” depot and other depots before automatically generating purchase orders for parts and labour. If parts need to be purchased, the system, once initiated, obtains authorisation via smartphone before emailing the orders through to suppliers.

With Freeway’s ability to integrate with a back-end accounts package, items are only processed once, eliminating the need for accounts staff to spend time matching purchase orders with invoices and re-keying information into an accounts system.

“In terms of managing a series of bus depots, our suite of software is built for purpose and is exceptionally well suited to this task,” pointed out Patrick Tandy, Managing Director, Freeway Fleet Systems Tandy.

Reading Buses' Mike Batt concluded, “If you asked me what it is about Freeway that makes it unique, I’d say its flexibility and the ability to adapt to our needs. There has been nothing we’ve asked for that Freeway couldn’t provide. That’s pretty special.”

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