Community transport software (also known as community transport management software), plays a pivotal role when running community transport services whether you are operating from an office or from home. As more commercial transport services are cut due to restrictive Government budgets, community transport is becoming a vital service for local communities all over the world. With an ageing population here in the United Kingdom and with the impact of COVID-19 still ongoing, volunteer drivers and local transport services are more important than ever.
Take a look at what comes installed with the Road XS community transport management software and how it makes day to day operations a dream, whether you work from the office or from home.
Why Using a Community Transport Software Will Transform Your Community Transport Services Over Manual Solutions and Other Transport Systems
Anyone who is running a community car scheme (or volunteer driver service), group travel, dial a ride or demand responsive transport should be using a community transport management software or system to reduce operational transport costs, save time and encourage collaborative working. Not only that, you will be using software built for your specific needs. Simply put, community transport is much more complicated than what commercial systems cater for. There are much more variables to take into account due to mobility aids, personalised passenger requirements and integration with also needing to integrate with volunteers’ lives.
The key drivers for using a community transport software are:
- The ability to schedule bookings faster and respond instantly to changes.
- The ability to work from home or the office.
- To be able to collaborate fully with your transport teams and drivers.
- To maintain accuracy and up to date information, data and records.
- To reduce the admin work required in managing bookings.
- To automate route optimisation and journey mileage estimates and time.
- On-going adaption and improvements to meet increasing demands and requirements.
- Reducing transport costs for your passengers and yourselves.
- To meet data compliance regulations.
- Setting your unique transport options and services
- To collect outstanding invoicing and fees.
- To report and respond to the data being captured relating to funding and other report requests.
- Quickly scaling your services and contracts
- Managing additional charges and fees for your operations
- Pinpointing rural community transport locations
Unlike public transport, community transport is specific to passenger needs. The nature of the service is very different to public transport services. Those using public transport can walk to the bus stop, or walk to the nearest taxi service, but community transport users very often require door-to-door service.
These unique requirements place a greater emphasis on meeting specifically the passenger needs. In a number of scenarios community transport services are operating as a non-emergency patient transport service making sure patients can attend medical appointments and operations. The burden placed upon the NHS transport programme will only place greater demand upon any community transport provider moving forwards.
The community transport system must cater for extensive passenger requirements which would be unmanageable using manual methods as well as volunteer driver requirements including driver availability and more. Unlike commercial transport software, community transport management software must do much more because the range of services is so varied.
A Community Transport System Helps You Manage Everything from One Single Place
In the early days of operating your transport service, you likely wouldn’t think to look for transport software. You’ll be so busy taking phone calls, making notes relating to the passenger journey details and placing these notes into the in-tray for next week’s journeys that you don’t have much time to pause.
Once the details of the journeys are all captured, you’ll then be busy trying to find a driver by calling them up one at a time to fill the slot. Typically, this would likely be a well-known driver who was reliable, and friendly but who is not necessarily that close to the passenger’s pickup point or destination (which increases the mileage cost to the passenger). When the journey is complete, the driver will likely be asked to provide any of the fees (such as a booking fee) back to the community transport scheme to help maintain the service and keep it running
Early on, using this approach is fine, but as things start to grow and you’ll start seeing an increased demand for your services. This is when chaos can ensue. All of a sudden you need to find more drivers to meet the increased demands and it’s likely you’ll have a lot more passengers demanding journeys from you faster than you can find volunteer drivers. Before long you’re not able to take as many bookings as you’d like, or passengers begin to arrive late to their appointments.
Funding your services and keeping your services sustainable is also a key component. Maintaining invoicing records and generating invoices is important. The only problem is that this is time-consuming if you have to do it manually. Given the complicated nature of services contracts, this all needs to be considered. The best community transport software lets you set up multiple contracts with different rates to ensure your invoicing is accurate and adaptable to change. On top of this, the software will be able to automate and generate invoices too with links back to the original journeys for clarity.
One of the biggest, but most vital aspects of your services is providing reports back to your funders. This in itself can be manually intensive and time-consuming and at the end of the month can take up a lot of your time. You have to do it though because this is a crucial part of achieving funding. Very soon you will likely find yourself stuck for time with no way of increasing staff or resources. The whole process is so labour-intensive that eventually, you might even have to turn down journeys from your passengers, despite not wanting to.
As you can see, this entire process above is labour-intensive and requires a lot of steps and local knowledge about the service. Each co-ordinator will also have their own biases towards picking particular drivers and after a while, voluntary drivers will feel that they are not being included and may lose interest.
As a result, all that hard work in recruiting them is lost. The solution lies with community transport management software.
This includes, but is not limited to:
- Working in a consistent manner across your team.
- Performing tasks faster and easier than on paper.
- Ability to grow your services with optimisation.
- To gain real insight into how your services are used.
- To ensure standards are maintained.
- To increase your funding and at the same time save costs.
- To save you time and effort.
- To understand what is happening in real-time by analysing reports.
There are lots of transport software solutions out there, but not many that cater for community transport and do it well. It’s very often something which was added on later. A community transport management software like Road XS brings everything together no matter the nature of your services. It’s been developed for many years and brought connected transport services together to enable the community transport service sector access to the very latest technology in transport software. It has supported many transport providers with a digital transport platform and facilitated growth and support throughout the pandemic too. It also goes beyond what a community transport management software does at a minimal level and keeps all your communications secure and in one place amongst your team and your drivers.
Community transport is at the heart of Road XS and with our community keeping us informed on how their services are adapting and changing we are the perfect partner to keep your services thriving.
Essential Community Transport System Features You Need to Know About
Here we have put together a list of the must-have features any community transport platform should have. Yes, you might be able to live without some of them, but combined you get a powerful tool that will save you time, save your passengers money, and also keep you compliant.
An Easy to Use Design and Interface
An easy to use, modern and uncluttered design is a must. We no longer live in the 1980s or 1990s and users deserve the latest in interface design. There is so much going on each day that a transport manager or admin user doesn’t have time to spend lots of time looking for the information they need. Decisions need to be made faster, journeys need to be booked quicker, and drivers and vehicles need to be allocated instantly.
A friendly user interface with minimal tabs, clear and legible fonts, and carefully considered colour schemes do more than just look nice. It increases productivity and reduces eye strain. It can also reduce mistakes or allow you to quickly spot where errors have occurred and respond accordingly. You will also have a happier team because they will make fewer mistakes and feel ‘safe’ using the software package.
Accurate Journey Bookings
Taking a journey booking should be simple. Showing just the right fields as you make a booking is a key metric to managing increasing journey requests and speeding up the booking process. In using software such as Road XS you also have the added benefit of catching vital information which you don’t have to enter later when it comes to generating your reporting.
This is achieved by ensuring required fields are completed leaving less important fields optional extras. Road XS also reduces the amount of typing an operator has to do as we filter passenger, driver and location data meaning you never have to type in the full address once an entry has been made. This has been proven to reduce RSI and greatly reduce user input errors.
Complete Journey Tracking
Without a clearly defined journey workflow, you cannot track a journey in full from start to finish. It’s also important that the workflow does not have too many steps and that each step on the journey tracking journey can be easily communicated. This enables you to find journeys without a driver, journeys pending confirmation and journeys which are still requiring fees to be paid back instantly. It means you can focus on achieving high standards and ensuring you never miss anything.
At Road XS we have a very simple set of steps a journey must go through before it’s classed as completed. Not only is this tracking the journey itself, but also the admin steps that must be performed to ensure all fees and invoices are collected. It also maintains standards within the service to ensure passengers are kept informed of any events that may occur. You can also keep track of journey cancellations with reasons given to enhance your reporting and spot patterns.
Driver Portal with GPS Tracking
Given the growing demand for community transport, a driver portal today is a must. Not only does it remove a lot of the admin work required by the transport team, but it also makes the driver’s life easier. It helps keep them engaged in any changes and allows the driver to enter their mileage against any estimates, the ability to communicate securely and see their upcoming journeys on any given day.
Using the Road XS driver portal, drivers can also enable GPS tracking via their mobile phones. This provides additional safety to the passenger on the trip and means that if there was an accident or a breakdown, the last known location within a 10 – 30 second window is known. This helps assist with any emergency that may occur.
Without reporting you have no guide on how your services are being run, where funding is going and how efficient you’re really being. Manually creating reports is open to human error. But with a proper software package, your reporting becomes fully transparent and provides credibility to all of your efforts. You shouldn’t need to spend weeks creating manual reports it should be something you can take to any meeting and generate in real-time.
Within Road XS we have focused on building reports which can be broken down to serve whatever requirement you need. Whether this is comparing postcode areas, service areas, transport service, journey locations or even just to see how busy your drivers are, software such as Road XS has you covered.
Adaptive Route Optimisation with DRT Technology
You don’t have time to manually workout every trip and leg that a journey goes through via Google Maps. You need to spend your time dealing with your passengers. This means you need automated route optimisation which factors in all variables related to the passenger journey, instantly.
The emergence of demand-responsive services means that Dial a Ride needs to become fully optimised, not just manually placed into a time slot and hope for the best. In order to get the most out of your resources and to be able to optimise your journeys, you need to factor in variables such as:
- Vehicle capacity.
- Passenger transit time.
- Passenger loading times.
- Time slack.
- Route variables.
- Local traffic.
- and more…
In taking these factors (and more into account), you can ensure you are getting the best-optimised routes available. This helps ensure your passengers are fully catered for and that you don’t overload, or even underload your services.
Transport Service Integration
One of the best ways to get greater control over your services and meet passenger demands is to pool resources. This might be sharing volunteer drivers, sharing vehicles and even handling different service requests on demand. With a community transport platform that is fully integrated, you can scale up or scale down your services accordingly.
By integrating your services, you also ensure that volunteer drivers that might be on a county border, or funding border, can be booked onto journeys and utilised whilst keeping your booking information accurate. It also ensures that you really are finding the nearest available driver for a passenger trip, which is reducing mileage paid by the passenger. Working together you can achieve much more.
When sending messages back and forth you may be sharing private information about a journey. With so many different email addresses in service (if you have a lot of volunteer drivers), this can put your data at risk. For example, you might send out a mailshot that isn’t relevant to a lot of the drivers on the list. You need a software package that you can communicate directly to your drivers keeping all information secure.
Driver and Vehicle Lookup
Any community transport provider should make it a priority to find the nearest available driver for any passenger. This means that the passenger is saving money per mile (if they are having to pay 45p a mile). You need software that doesn’t just find the nearest available driver, but one that finds appropriate vehicles to the passenger’s needs at the same time. You wouldn’t want a driver showing up whose records are out of date (such as insurance or MOT) and you also wouldn’t want a driver with a Smart Car showing up for a passenger who has a wheelchair. Software such as Road XS caters for a number of situations to ensure the right driver and vehicle are selected for trips.
Mobility Aid Response
Your passengers require you to understand their mobility aids. It’s important that this information is held securely but also accessible to those who need passenger mobility information. You don’t want the information font and centre, but you also don’t want the information hidden away or kept from the driver of the vehicle.
Clear design and workflows ensure that you can store information and build your journeys quickly based on the data held on your passengers. This is a key requirement for any community transport system.
Software such as Road XS streamlines your accessible transport solutions so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting vital passenger mobility requirements.
Transport Hub (Service Areas)
This is something which we think will grow within the community transport sector. Given how freely people will start to move around the country again, their needs and requirements don’t change from when they’re at home. With software like Road XS, you can become part of a hub of services that can integrate with others so that your passengers can keep using community transport services.
This means that you could manage transport services remotely, even if you are not in the same area. It’s quite new and has been used more with rural community transport, but it’s something we are starting to see grow within Road XS. In essence, you are outsourcing some of the services you provide, but keeping the management and passenger experience in house – thus providing the same friendly experience. The technology within Road XS means that your passengers are never far away from a friendly voice.
Estimating mileage requires accuracy. Not only that, sometimes you might need to know different drop off locations such as different hospital entrances. This means you need the ability to know exactly where passengers, drivers, locations and vehicles are on a map. Believe it or not, Google Maps doesn’t always get locations right, so the software you use needs a fail-safe to ensure locations can be overridden.
Systems such as What3Words also make it easier to know the precise location of a vehicle whilst it’s on the move to improve the safety and security of the crew and passengers or patients.
Records Management with Passenger, Driver and Vehicle Profiles
Knowing the right information about your passengers and drivers is crucial for success. By having a modern, clean profile on your passenger, you can know instantly all about your passenger’s needs. Interestingly, many of us are used to seeing social media profiles, so something that resembles this means your mind makes associations with what you’re used to.
A driver profile enables you to keep up to date on your driver activities. It also enables you to maintain accurate document details on the driver too. How many miles they have driven for example and when their vehicle details next need reviewing. You can also show data such as allowed mileage and payments (AMAP) to make sure that everything is up to date and in line with HMRC. With DVLA lookup you can also check that the vehicle details are automatically updated to reduce admin work and automate some of the time-consuming record keeping and document detail management. This also means that a driver who does not have the appropriate records doesn’t show up for a journey, or is breaking the law. Road XS, for example, comes pre-set with standard record-keeping fields to make sure you’re all covered.
Another important factor is ensuring that your minibuses are kept up to date. Sometimes your motor vehicles may be off the road due to a breakdown, requiring an MOT or be booked out somewhere else. Maintaining accurate records is also a key requirement for BSOG. With Road XS, if the driver and vehicle document details are out of date, then the driver will not be able to complete the journey. This means you increase your safety and quality of service without wasting unnecessary time and ensuring that the drivers all have the right licence type for the vehicle being driven. If a driver is driving a vehicle without the right licence type then this is an offence and could land you in trouble, but keeping on top of all of this is much more difficult without using an easy to use transport software.
With transport software in place, all of your journeys will be tracked and accounted for. The data which is captured during the journey creation process also means that your journeys can provide full transparency from an invoicing perspective. You will know how many miles a journey should be via estimates and through a driver portal, drivers can add their actual mileage. All of this can then be used to generate an automatic invoice whether it’s for driver admin fees, passenger fees or contract work. This can save a massive amount of time, and if there are any questions, each invoice links directly back to the journeys completed.
The Future of Community Transport Management Software
Community transport software is evolving and Road XS has been at the heart of this change in the community transport sector.
A lot of the software available to providers until now, has been outdated and built upon old technology with no easy way for it to be updated. You can always tell when the user interfaces are old, cluttered, and full of tabs, and when it doesn’t work easily across multiple devices. They also tie you into year-long deals because they know they don’t have the desire to keep their software up to date and moving forwards. This keeps many transport providers stuck in the past, on outdated and inefficient software. This does nothing but hold back the sector.
Transport providers now need quick answers and feedback such as estimated mileage, journey costs, passenger mobility requirements and key journey metrics all in an instant. They also need to know where people are and be able to respond quickly, especially with rural community transport services when journeys might be happening further away from urban locations.
Community transport providers can’t standstill. With greater demand being placed on services, the ability to quickly book journeys, allocate drivers, and get more from your volunteers is greater than ever. At Road XS we have exciting new developments going on behind the scenes to enable our users to respond faster than ever, and to allow approved service providers to book their own journeys into the platform reducing much of the admin work.
Road XS provides the first integrated transport hub which caters for:
- Community car schemes.
- Dial a Ride and Demand Responsive Transport.
- Group Travel.
- Patient Transport.
Each transport element integrates with one another to ensure you don’t have any duplication of data and can keep your eye on everything going on. Community integration is likely to play a key role in the future and this means integrating your transport services further with:
- Volunteer drivers.
- Medical services and health centres.
- Local, district and county councils.
- Your passengers and their wider family.
- Community clubs and events.
- Commercial services.
- Local businesses.
As services become more reliant upon shared resources, it will also be important that you can scale up your services to meet customer requirements. For example, you might have a number of vehicles not being used at certain times of day and be able to run additional services into the evening to ensure community members arrive safely to events. You may decide to commercialise some aspects of your services to cover cost-cutting in other areas. Community transport management software brings it all together so that you have your finger on the pulse. You also need a community transport management software that will evolve with you and not be stuck in the past, unable to adapt to the dynamic and exciting future ahead.
There are a number of resources that can help community transport providers. The main association is called the Community Transport Association. You can visit their website here: www.ctauk.org
Another helpful resource we came across recently was set up by a provider called the Community Transport Forum. Here you can sign up and talk amongst fellow community transport providers. Visit the website here: www.communitytransportforum.com
Of course, there is our community page where you can see what’s new on Road XS can’t download some helpful eBooks and more. Visit our area here: www.roadxs.com/community
We hope you’ve found this article helpful in giving you an overview of what you should expect to find in community transport software. Some key insights from this article:
- Pick a software that is modern and easy to use – your transport team will thank you for it.
- A driver portal will save you work, help maintain accurate records and improve driver support.
- By automating your invoicing you can provide full transparency and automate time-consuming tasks.
- Make sure the software you choose is updated regularly to keep up to date with technological changes.
- Be wary of software that ties you into multiple year-long deals – they won’t change.
If you would like to know more about what’s possible with community transport software we’re here to help.