Just The Facts: Industry Success Draws On New Sources

Nothing but the facts
Nothing but the facts
By this time in the decade, we should have all been either fading away or dwindling in a ground transportation market overrun by Uber and transportation network companies (TNCs).

Past speakers and forecasters said operators would be done in by the one-touch world, all-apps all the time. So far, the industry has proven resilient. It collectively has embraced more technology while growing into motorcoach and bus transportation. And it has figured out how to tell its story of passenger safety and luxury to politicians, regulators, judges, and the traveling public.

The past year brought a battering ram of disruption to the disrupter that has bedeviled the industry for the last five years. That four letter word, Uber, now looks less intimidating and is reaping what is has sewn. Since last June, the transportation service pretending to be just-a-technology company lost its disgraced founder and CEO; reeled from exposure of a sexual harassment scandal; reported massive ongoing financial losses; bore the fruits of poor background checks with a relentless stream of sexual assault and criminal complaints against drivers; drew lawsuits, complaints, and labor actions from disgruntled drivers; and blundered through one public relations debacle after another.

Then came a double whammy for the company that has been compared to an electronic hitchhiking service. California regulators in April declared the TNC is a TCP (transportation charter permit) commercial carrier just like luxury transportation services. And one week later, the state Supreme Court shocked the gig economy sector with a ruling that narrows the definition of an independent contractor. Those free-lancing Uber drivers may just end up as employees after all. Or applying at real ground transportation companies.

As a result, 2018 has seen the most progress in leveling the playing field between TNCs and industry operators since Uber popped on the scene in 2009. That doesn’t mean Uber hasn’t taken its toll, as the numbers nearby show. It only underscores the need to adapt, change, innovate, and outsmart.

Survey Trends

LCT reworked its operator survey for the 2017 Fact Book as a new baseline and for this year kept the survey questions, format, and results presentation consistent. This allows for more accurate year over year comparisons. Below are some standout stats:

FYIs

As you’ll see on the next page, the total number of chauffeured luxury operators declined from 6,170 in 2017 to 5,569 as of May 11. LCT counts actual owners and parent companies only, not the number of named “dba” companies, subsidiaries, and/or owned entities. We conclude the decline reflects the continued pattern of mergers, acquisitions, and closures, some of them due to operator retirements. This also caused overall operator industry revenue to fall slightly, from $2.5 billion in 2016 to $2.4 billion last year.For total motorcoach operators, we used the number of actual motorcoach operators from the American Bus Association instead of a broader figure that includes services outside of privately owned charter/tour motorcoach services.The number of respondents to the survey questions ranged from 100+ to 315, depending on the question. In the era of constant emails, text messages, and digital and social media, survey efforts face the growing challenge of getting response rates amid distractions and communication clutter.
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