A community transport booking software (also known as a community transport management software or booking system) is a must-have for anyone operating a community transport service. Not only does a system for community transport providers make the booking process easier for the admin team, but it can also save mileage and money for volunteer drivers, and passengers and automate the scheduling of vehicles and driver availability.
Depending on how your services run, you could even allow your community transport users to book journeys too, automating the vehicle allocation and saving hours of admin work. Not only that, with software such as Road XS, your drivers can integrate journeys into their own time frames by choosing which journeys they wish to take and optimise their pickups at the same time too. This reduces a lot of work for the community transport provider too.
By using a transport booking system you also achieve more accurate pickup times and arrival times. This helps bring journeys to life and helps plan, schedule and optimise your services. A modern and cloud-based software is the best way to go as this enables you to work from home or the office and adapt at a moment’s notice. It means you are not tied to one location and can work from multiple devices securely.
As demand for community transport services increases, the time you have to spend on managing your journeys becomes less and you need to begin to optimise a lot of the mundane tasks. This is where a community transport booking solution plays a key role in the management of your services.
Before we cover the must-have features of a community transport booking system, you might be wondering what community transport is if you’ve never heard of it before.
What is Community Transport?
Community transport and rural community transport, are becoming more important and relied upon by communities all around the world. It is a vital aspect of transport which is often overlooked, underfunded and not given enough attention or credit. They keep communities moving.
Unlike commercial services such as taxis or using a bus service, community transport aligns closely with the public sector and public transportation services often provide transport for residents who otherwise would be cut off. This type of service would be provided by a community transport provider.
The main difference is that the service is provided by volunteers and supports those who are unable to use public means of transport or regular transport due to mobility requirements, living in remote locations or needing specialist treatments (amongst other reasons). They are usually provided by not for profit organisations.
Volunteer car drivers might use their own vehicles or drive accessible minibuses or accessible vehicles with the right license. A transport provider might have their own community transport vehicle allowing them to offer multiple forms of transport.
This form of transport provides a safe and accessible means for people to get to and from hospital appointments (including medical appointments), social inclusion events, leisure activities and other events, allowing people to remain inclusive in society who otherwise would not be able to get around.
Many community transit services often offer transportation services to people who require help getting about, try to improve their lives, and want to continue working.
Most community transport will even offer a door-to-door option for low-income individuals with accessibility concerns who wish to take part in the community. This is where these services differ greatly from public bus services.
Types of community transport include:
- Voluntary car schemes.
- Dial ride services (or demand responsive (a.k.a. DRT).
- Group Travel bookings.
- Patient Transport Services.
- Community deliveries (such as medications, food etc were highlighted most during the COVID-19 pandemic).
Unlike the majority of the general public who can move freely from place to place on foot (such as walking to a bus stop), those who use community transport services tend to have mobility issues.
Not everyone is eligible to use community transport services and it varies by area, however, the following people will qualify in most cases to use the services:
- The elderly.
- People with mobility issues.
- Those that live in rural locations are cut from public transportation services.
- Have difficulty accessing everyday services due to lack of transport (often called rural community transport).
- Those in need of transport to hospital appointments who can’t support or drive themselves.
Those without immediate access to family and friends.
- Access to transport for those who are in need of support.
- Those who require affordable transport to vital services.
- Those who need alternative transport that their communities transport network doesn’t provide or cater for.
Given the nature of this service, careful consideration has to be taken to factor in variables not associated with those who would ordinarily use public transportation services.
This makes the choice of software more important than picking just any transport software from the shelf. You need a community transport booking software which is made for community transport providers.
Community transport is not eligible to be used by everyone in society like public transport, but by those who might otherwise be cut off from integrating within their local community due to their age, mobility or other issues. Community transport helps people by maintaining their quality of life especially if they have no immediate family or friends that can support them frequently.
Unlike public transport services and commercial taxi services, this type of service operates door to door and requires more specialist software and a greater consideration to the passenger, volunteer and admin team requirements.
Must-Have Community Transport Booking Software Features Not to Miss
If you’re looking for a new community transport booking system or looking to change to a better more modern system than you already use, then this list is a must-have for anyone in the community transport sector. Skipping any of these features will set you back and not make you as efficient as you could be.
Have a look at these key features which you should consider when making your choice of software:
Cloud-Based Transport Software
The software really should be cloud-based. The reason is that cloud software enables you to operate from anywhere securely. It also enables you to receive ongoing updates without having to install anything on your computers. This speeds up deployment and ongoing support. It also increases security as your data is not stored in one central location primed for failure but can be partitioned into many different areas keeping everything more secure and above industry IT standards.
The software needs to have a driver portal. This is because you will likely be dealing with volunteer drivers. Now given that many volunteer drivers may not be all that tech-savvy, some of them will be and in using a driver portal you reduce the admin teams workload by letting the drivers choose journeys they wish to drive on, set their availability and manage and maintain some of their driver records (though not all to ensure records remain accurate). Those that don’t use the portal can then still communicate via email or phone but it will greatly reduce your workload.
Nearest Available Driver Search
You should be able to bring up the nearest available driver for any journey at the click of a button. Why? Because this means you don’t have to ring the driver who can’t make the journey. This saves you time, reduces stress and enables you to get more done. Not only that, the right vehicle for the job should also load. This means that you don’t get drivers showing up in a smart car for passengers who need a 4×4 to take their wheelchair.
Just showing the nearest driver won’t work, it must be the nearest available based on vehicle type and other factors which suit the volunteer’s needs. Your volunteers are precious so the more you can cater to their personal requirements the smoother the service becomes and the happier your volunteers will be.
You need to be able to pinpoint locations on a map. Whilst we all use Google Maps and it’s very good, it doesn’t get everything right. This means you need to pinpoint the exact passenger pickup locations and destinations so that no one gets lost and you get people to where they need to be. This is particularly important for rural community transport.
Postcodes cover too wide an area and longitude and latitude is too cumbersome. Software such as Road XS enables you to pinpoint passengers, drivers and locations with ease.
User Friendly Software Design
The user interface of the software should be uncluttered, modern and intuitive to use. Many transport systems offer additional training, but if the software is designed with a user focus, then you really should not be paying for training. The user guide and workflow of the software should be easy to follow and not require much though. The software should be there to help you make your life easier, not harder.
Mobility and Disability Requirements
In order to provide a personalised service, you need to be able to record the mobility and disability requirements of your passengers. This doesn’t necessarily mean their medical history, but the ability to quickly document their requirements so that you can assign the right driver and vehicles for the job. The more information you record, in a user-friendly manner, the more your team can work together to provide the friendliest service possible.
The transport software should offer route optimisation. Not only will this reduce fuel costs, and dead miles and improve arrival times, but it will also automate a lot of the scheduling and timing in the process. This greatly reduces the admin work and prevents mistakes from happening. This feature will also provide an enhanced service as you will be able to provide more journeys in the time frames available.
Route optimisation is a must if you run dial a ride services or demand-responsive services. Too often software states that a route is optimised but then allows for manual intervention causing drivers to show up late. Real route optimisation happens in an instant and takes into account more than just finding the fastest available route. Read more about route optimisation works here. By using route optimisation you are able to handle more passengers on fewer trips, costing less money and reducing operational costs significantly.
Driver Records Management
Keeping records of your driver is a must. This makes sure your drivers can actually drive their vehicles and your vehicles and makes sure that they have all the required DBS checks in place, MOTs, insurance and more. If any of your drivers do not have their records up to date then you could find yourself in trouble and is also helpful for patient transport in managing qualifications too.
This feature should be in any transportation software because it means that you can maintain your records at the same time.
You need to be able to communicate securely with your drivers and passengers. Within the software, you should be able to send messages and keep all correspondence in one place. This will not only speed up your service delivery but it also means that if any member of your admin team leaves, they will be able to pick up where you left off. This prevents delays and improves safety too.
Given the sensitive nature that some passengers will use your community transport services, you need to know where they are in case anything were to happen. The software should accommodate GPS tracking so that you can get real-time updates and in the worst event, an accident, be able to support the emergency services and inform family members. This is a must for improving safety especially given how busy the roads are today. This of course is especially important for patient transport services and non-emergency patient transport which often supports transport to hospital appointments as standard.
Ability to Integrate into the Community
It is likely that you will provide transport services for a number of organisations in your community. You need to ensure that your transport software could integrate with these organisations seamlessly. In doing so it improves communication with key stakeholders and enables your community members to book journeys directly into your service without delay. For example, a local GP could book a journey when they are sitting with the patient to ensure they have the confidence that they will be able to get to their next appointment. It’s these little touches that go a long way and keep you fully in control.
You need to be able to grow your services too in an instance to better support your communities. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, transport operators switched on new services instantly to report, support and deliver transport to those who needed their jabs and booster jabs. The same happened in supporting the transport of Ukrainian refugees who came to the UK.
Everything happened seamlessly and with the press of a button with no extra training and everything including reporting worked immediately. That’s the power of transport services run in the cloud.
The software needs to be secure. This includes using two-factor authentication (2FA), IP auditing, logging and IP blocking along with secure password management and policies. You also need to ensure the software fully adheres to the GPDR and supports your data security policies. If anything, it should enhance them. If you are unsure of the sort of security that should come with a community transport booking system then you can find out more here.
You also need the ability to export your data at a moment’s notice. No longer can a transport system retain your data. They must, under GDPR provide data within a clear readable format. A transport software which takes its data security seriously will allow you to do this at the click of a button so that you don’t have to wait for anyone. This includes your driver, passengers and journeys not just some of the data.
Integrated Transport Services
The software you choose should be able to scale with your operations. Each aspect of your community transport services should be integrated with each, meaning that your passengers can pick and choose which services they use. For example, one day they may require a community car scheme journey and then the next day a dial-a-ride service. You should be able to offer any service and work seamlessly between them.
Automated Invoicing and Payments
Payment structures tend to be complex for these types of services. This is why the software should not only cater for the complexity but also automatically generate the invoice per service, passenger and driver. This means that you don’t have to manually do your billing and invoicing and if you want to be really modern, even take payments online too. This helps reduce your workload considerably and save you hours of time. It also makes you fully transparent as you can link any invoice and instance back to an invoice too.
Detailed Real-Time Reports
Based on the number of stakeholders who may use and support your transport services, you need transport software which can give you the data you need in real-time. This can help with your funding and ways to grow your services too. For example, you may wish to compare postcode areas with different parts of a town, you may wish to find out which services are using the most drivers, which services are receiving the most cancellations and why.
Data and reporting are the backbones of better-informed decisions and they should be easy to understand and immediate. It also means you don’t have to manually calculate the data. One thing which should also be included in your reports is the ability to export to CSV format too. This means you can restain your data and merge it with other information you have as well.
Key Take Away
The transport software you choose should be cloud-based, user friendly and easy to use which requires little to no training. You should be able to use it across multiple devices and it will enable you to get more done, automate some of your tasks and enable you to provide a more personalised service. It should also support the whole range of your transport services, not just a particular service and automate your invoicing too reducing your admin teams workload considerably.
By using a modern forward thinking software you will be able to keep your team better connected, react to real-world situations that crop up and reschedule journeys.
A community transport booking software keeps community transport operators connected and able to keep on top of advanced bookings, personal passenger requirements, driver needs and availability and more. It should support all community transport users and the whole community transport project and community schemes it is deployed for. Unlike conventional transport, the software needs to adapt to specific requirements, and put safety, data security and record-keeping as a high priority.
If you have any questions or concerns about using community transport software, then please don’t hesitate to contact us and we will be more than happy to help you.