Plan operations to maximise vehicle efficiency. Scheduling efficiency must not go against customer-focussed routes and timetables
The goal of a good strategy for efficient use of vehicles is to minimise empty kilometres and to maximise the vehicle occupancy without overcrowding, taking into account the need for simplicity for passengers.
The right choice of the vehicle is usually made by experienced staff according to a certain set of criteria with regard to costs, operating regime, environmental aspects, and vehicle maintenance:
The purchase and sale date of the vehicles is set with respect to the life-cycle costs (LCC) of the vehicle.
New vehicles contribute to a reduced fuel consumption (new engines, energy-efficient driving).
The vehicle capacity matches the forecast numbers of passengers in peak hours.
The vehicle capacity and dimensions fit to most of the lines and not to one particular line only.
Different sizes and types of vehicle may increase maintenance expenditures.
The majority of the bus fleet should be of the same size. Buses of a different size should be assigned to lines according to specific characteristics (weight, power, length of line, passenger load).
The vehicle size per line should be kept generally constant throughout the day even if ridership varies significantly, since frequent changes may result in ineffective operation and unreliable service.
However, where the structure of the fleet allows different working regimes, exploiting this, e.g. by replacing articulated buses by standard-size buses or minibuses during off-peak periods (evenings, weekends), may increase passengers’ feeling of security in the vehicle and lower fuel consumption.
The vehicle provides a reasonable standard of customer comfort and seat availability.
The traction is environmentally friendly (e.g. engine standards of EURO 5 or higher).
The vehicle has a high reliability. The vehicle is reliable and is available for operation when required.
In case of a breakdown spare buses should be of an appropriate size.
The vehicle is equipped with all required technical safety measures (e.g. emergency button).
Strategies focussing exclusively on an efficient use of vehicles result in a less market-orientated service for passengers and may interfere with an attractive headway for the service or interfere with a regular interval timetable. Sometimes smaller vehicles (such as minibuses or midi buses) are used to solve this problem, but on the other hand, minibuses might not have enough capacity in peak hours.
Ipswich (UK): Ipswich Buses Ltd uses a software suite called OmniBASE to enable it to schedule its vehicles and duties more efficiently, removing unproductive elements from driver duties as well as getting the most out of its fleet of buses, helping to reduce its running costs and vehicle requirements - effectively "tightening up" its operations. Its services operate strongly to regular clock face timetables and the company is strongly customer-focused. Ipswich Buses Ltd has a current Peak Vehicle Requirement of 60 buses with a fleet of 76 buses operating a network of 18 town routes and mixture of rural routes and school contracts.