For transport operators, winning new business is at the heart of their strategy. Tenders are serious business: many companies bid and only one wins. There is no second place. Either the business of new routes, agencies or zones is won, or the tender is lost. In many cases, the difference between the highest and lowest bidder can range from 1% to 5%; so does optimization-related savings matter? Well yes.
Before going into some tips and tricks for bidding in the transport business, we are going to review some basic steps that you must follow when preparing your offer:
Pickup: During this phase, your goal is to collect as much data as you can, so that the tender offer you create is based on accurate information.
Assumptions: After the data collection phase is over, you may need to fill in the missing data, from exact times to levels of from exact times to on-time levels to depot locations.
Creativity: When you review the data you’ve collected, consider new ways to view it. This can be anything from using a labor regulation variance (for example, offering longer breaks or changing their frequencies) or rerouting existing depots.
Run multiple scenarios: In this phase, your goal is to run through as many possible scenarios, to discover the best options, and to gain the insights you need for a winning bid.
1. Don’t Forget the Test Drive: Take the Bus
Some of the best advice we have received is from an experienced programmer. He told us that before bidding, he makes sure to take the bus on that network, ride it from end to end and see what the passenger experience is, where the depots are, if there are punctuality problems, passenger agglomeration, etc.
This way, even before loading your first data set, you get an intuitive understanding of network realities.
2. Put yourself in the shoes of the competition
Bids are competitive by definition. You try to make the best offer possible, just like your competitors. Try to model your offers by looking at your deposits, work rules, and other variables. Take the time to create a scenario that reflects those of your competition, their methods, and more, so you can get an idea of what they’re going to offer.
This process can provide you with a great starting point for creative scheduling and planning.
3. Master relevant labor standards
Researching potential changes when bidding for new business is crucial. One of the remaining steps should be to receive the information related to the Collective Agreements (CBA) and make sense of it; Are there several CBAs that would require optimization in different groups? And more importantly, can you get creative with those CBAs and other work rules? You may consider offering different breaks, rosters, and more to create better results.
Advanced platforms allow you to accurately model the entire crew scheduling cost (runcut) while ensuring CBA compliance, without the need for manual edits to ensure compliance.
4. Deposits can be optimized
In many cases, the location of the depots has a large impact on the programming results. Poorly located warehouses can lead to longer waiting times, which in turn increases costs significantly. For example, if ten routes originate from depot A and another ten from depot B, reassigning the routes to the depots can reduce downtime to the point of making the difference between winning or losing the bid.
Another way to do it is to check if you can add depots at noon, for example by adding a location in the city center where buses can park for a limited time in the central hours of the day. This can save long dead-end trips (and create better rest options for drivers), resulting in a better bid price.
5. Optimize relief vehicles and discover relief points
Optimizing the relay vehicles can be very helpful for the price of your offer. Drivers often need to travel to get to or get out of an assigned vehicle. This can be done by walking, taking the bus as a passenger, or using a specific relay vehicle. Today’s planning and scheduling optimization platforms more quickly identify sub-optimal points in relief vehicle schedules and can deliver better work piece matches, resulting in improved driver breaks, a reduction in downtime and considerably better schedules.
Sometimes adding seats in busy lanes, a dedicated relief driver, or the ability to ride a deadhead can be a huge schedule improvement.
Also, just like you have searched for new noon deposits, you should try to discover new relay points. They must be central, in the sense that they are easily accessible and located in an area through which many routes pass. This can greatly improve your replacement costs and efficiency, as well as improve drivers’ lives.
6. Consider changing your “programming habits”
Agencies and operators have been creating schedules for some time. Many scheduling decisions are the result of ingrained “habits.” Some compliance-related scheduling rules and employment agreements cannot be changed. However, some rules can and should be changed.
Rethink programming practices by testing multiple scenarios with variations on. Specific preferences suggests that adding some flexibility—for example, allowing changes or adding relief trips that reduce split shifts—can lead to further savings.
Deciding which of these variations is right for your offer can give you more leeway.
7. Use efficiency benchmarks to understand your options
The platform displays a variety of KPIs for each schedule scenario, with a specific focus on efficiency-related metrics.
The ratio of hours paid to hours earned can shed some light on the efficiency of your operations. Paid hours reflect the number of hours drivers are paid for, while earnings hours reflect the number of hours those drivers spent driving passengers (sometimes this includes dead trips/layovers, etc. ). A poor ratio in relation to your other trades may indicate that the schedule and offer need to be improved.
If the ratio is not good, make sure you understand why and try to resolve the issues causing the problem.
8. Do not forget the happiness of the drivers
Driver satisfaction depends on the quality of tasks and shift rosters; fewer short shifts, fewer split shifts, less interlining, more breaks at preferred locations, etc.
The use of new technologies makes it easier to offer a better quality of work to drivers without harming the results. These new shift and work optimization capabilities help manage overtime, fatigue, burnout, and mitigate the risk of driver shortages. Also, just reducing overtime or guaranteed time can make the difference between a winning bid and a losing bid.
9. Play the passenger satisfaction card
The automation and speed brought by next-generation planning and scheduling platforms allow agencies and operators to reallocate more time than previously spent on operational work (trip trimming, blocking, listing) to the passenger experience ( demand analysis, improvement of frequencies, infrastructure, etc.). In addition to rethinking vehicle types and frequencies, operators can now focus more on On Time Improvement (OTP).
The OTP is defined by the agency and is usually between 85% and 90%. The OTP, or as the passenger perceives it, the reliability, is crucial to improve the number of passengers and their experience. Greater punctuality implies a reduction in waiting times and congestion on buses and an improvement in service to passengers. If you are improving on-time performance, be sure to state that in the offer.
10. Compare, compare and compare again
Use the power of next generation platforms to model many scenarios. Try to model at least three scenarios and compare them based on something other than efficiency.
For example, if a scenario suggests greater efficiency but adds many changes, you are increasing the risk of delays due to drivers changing buses frequently. Therefore, a scenario with fewer changes might be preferable. Other factors to take into account are: the number of stops, the mileage of the stops, the stops, the number of divisions, the number of changes, the distribution of paid time, the total number of hours that drivers spend in taxis, etc. .
11. Play the innovation card
If you use an advanced system, your offer has the potential to expose the agency to better and more modern planning and scheduling, as well as data related to improving the passenger experience.
Currently, PTAs and PTOs work together, but in silos; the PTAs plan and assign the vehicles (vehicle scheduling) and, once this is done, the PTOs assign the drivers (driver scheduling) and create the rosters. This sequential practice creates good and usable schedules, but current technology allows for even better schedules as long as PTAs and PTOs work together. Be sure to play this transparency and innovation card and show the agency whose business you are bidding for the benefits this will create.
An example of this is a PTA that plans a certain frequency/pace, and sends a set schedule (and blocks) to the PTO. If these requirements are shared with the PTO in advance, sometimes a small change in the schedule can create large potential savings and require fewer vehicles to operate on the PTO side. If the PTO shares a set of operational constraints it faces, both parties can together discover the best routes, schedules, frequencies, and the optimal allocation of vehicles and drivers to support that route.
Many public transport operators complain that applying for a tender takes too long. It’s such a time-consuming process that some companies don’t bid as many times as they’d like, simply because they don’t have enough programming resources on hand.
State-of-the-art planning and scheduling platforms offer a fairly quick solution to old and sometimes inaccurate time-consuming scheduling practices. Harnessing the power of cloud computing and AI, operators can better prepare their offer; use optimized schedules and rosters that significantly reduce operational costs, easily model competitive offerings, and gain visibility into the impact of various scenarios on KPIs.
More importantly, these tools offer better operational control and minimize the risk of winning a bid without the ability to contain costs.