People Aren’t Parcels

Feb 22, 2024 | Stories

Most transport software treats people in vehicles like you would a parcel, not taking into consideration the experience of the passenger in the vehicle or the time they are spending in transit.  Many transport operators have to manually calculate the best route based on their local knowledge, or use transport software which says they optimise dial-a-ride routes but don’t.  You can always tell this as they always require manual intervention!

At Road XS, we’ve developed something unique.

We have blended demand-responsive transport technology with dial-a-ride door-to-door pickups.  This means you can either operate a DRT service, Dial a Ride service, or run both services together.  The software adapts to your unique set of rules.

We have developed the only fully automated dial-a-ride software which takes into account not just route optimisation, but vehicle optimisation too.

The best way to explain this is to show what people usually do compared to what can now be accomplished in Road XS.

We call this the “People Aren’t Parcels” story.

Toby’s Transport Problem

Toby is a transport manager operating a community transport service across a large area. He oversees a fleet of 5 minibuses which serve his local community. He accepts bookings via phone 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday, and often takes bookings for journeys a week in advance.

Toby takes a call from the passenger and notes down the requested pickup time.

He informs the passenger that he will be in touch once he has worked out if he can fit them in, and if there’s a time slot available.

He says goodbye and puts the phone down.

Toby then opens up his spreadsheet and views the vehicle’s manual ‘run sheet’ for the day once he has checked there are enough spaces available on a vehicle.

He then manually enters the passenger’s address into either Google Maps or the AA route mapping website to work out an appropriate time slot for his passenger.

He enters this estimated time onto the run sheet and calls the passenger back with a guestimate as to when they might arrive.

Toby continues to do this for each passenger during the week.

To begin with, Toby can easily estimate the mileage and times because there are only a few passengers booked onto the vehicle, but as the passenger numbers increase, this becomes increasingly difficult.

This is especially true when some passengers have already been booked a week in advance and have already been given their time slots which have already taken time to work out. He also needs to make sure that the vehicle is not overloaded with too many passengers on the vehicle at any given time otherwise not everyone would be able to fit on.

Toby’s problems and stress levels only increase as the week wears on, and what was fun on Monday is a chore come Friday. He often comes to realise that his estimate from earlier in the week leads to real problems further down the line as in reality, the times he thought could work, don’t. This means that vehicles show up too early, or too late and sometimes they even miss passengers completely.

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When things get hectic, Toby doesn’t have time to manually calculate how long passengers spend in the vehicle, and this leads to some passengers realising it would have been quicker to get a friend to drop them off, but that at least they have had a nice chat along the route.

Slowly, Toby becomes more and more stressed and hates receiving calls from passengers either complaining that they weren’t picked up or that they were late for their appointment.

Toby blames himself but decides he must do something.

He decides therefore that they need to build in more realistic ‘approximations’ to their times.

Initially, it works, but then he learns that they aren’t handling as many passengers and that actually what’s happened is that passengers are just waiting longer and longer at their destinations or on the vehicles.

Despite the problems and the difficulties Toby faces, the transport service is extremely popular, and demand is high. Why wouldn’t it be? After all, Toby and his team are providing a vital service to the local community, but the pressure is starting to show.

To add to Toby’s worries, funding is limited. It means they can’t just bring on more staff, expand their drivers or simply buy another vehicle. The fluctuating petrol prices and maintenance costs are bad enough!

Despite limited funds, Toby is being asked to deliver more and more. The increased demand is good news for the transport services, but it’s bad news for Toby as it has become increasingly more difficult to manually work out all the permutations to meet the passenger demands.

Ultimately, despite trying to fix his estimations, Toby has had to start turning passengers’ requests down especially when they are busy, leaving minibus seats empty when they could be filled.

Toby decides enough is enough. He opens Google and types transport software. He takes a deep hopeful breath and presses search.

Toby Finds a Solution

To his excitement, there are a lot of different types of transport software for haulage and fleet management and deliveries.

He even finds one that says they’ll do what he needs, but then after giving it a quick try, he realises that it doesn’t do route estimations, and he has to manually drag and order passengers in 15-minute slots whilst still manually working out the pickup times – just like he was before on a spreadsheet.

Toby gets deflated and then decides to give it one last go. He types in dial a ride software.

Now he’s interested.

One even offers Dial-a-Ride services, but he lets that go for now as it seemed too good to be true, knowing how the previous software worked, and he scrolls down the list.

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As he looks deeper into the websites, one is just a very basic booking software which offers nothing more than a calendar.

Others say they are what he is looking for, but they don’t include journey estimates, a route map or any automated optimisations and he’d need to manually estimate all the times.

He’d seen enough, Toby scrolls up back to the top and this time clicks on Road XS which is the one he scrolled past before.

He sees instantly that Road XS is an integrated transport software handling car schemes, group travel, dial a ride and caters for demand responsive transport services.

He looked through the website and felt that in comparison this was different to other transport software websites he’d seen. It looked modern, touted many, many features and the software looked easy to use.

He decided to book a demo with Road XS there and then.

dial a ride door to door pickup

The Dial-a-Ride Software That Works

The call didn’t last long, just over 30 minutes.

Toby was impressed. Unlike the other software Toby had seen and tried, Road XS had been built to solve the problems that he faced daily.

Not only that, Road XS is the only transport software available which focuses on the passenger and not the vehicles or fleet entirely. It also includes automated journey times, pickup and arrival times as standard and to his amazement optimised his fleet of vehicles to ensure each vehicle has a consistent number of passengers on them automatically.

On the call, Toby learns that, unlike the other transport software providers he’d seen, Road XS took a unique view that ‘people aren’t parcels’ and they have developed something which had not been done before. As they pointed out to him, the problem with the parcel approach that other vendors took is that parcels have no feelings, nor do they care how long they sit in the vehicle. With Dial a Ride, this approach just doesn’t work.

Toby learns that this is why Road XS is different.

They focus on the passenger and ensure that the journey is built around the passenger experience meaning that not only are the minibus routes optimised, but they do not stay in the vehicle for long periods between their pickup and subsequent drop-off point.

He finds out that Road XS had developed their own technology to ensure that all journeys that are entered, factor in estimated arrival and transit times, meaning they deliver a truly demand-responsive service even on the journey day itself!  They can even ensure that passengers arrive on time when they use the arrive by booking feature, meaning they won’t arrive after a certain time period.

Using and switching to Road XS, would mean that all Toby had to worry about was booking passengers onto his services.  Better still, some passengers who are more tech-savvy could use the passenger booking app.

No longer would he be required to manually work out the journey estimates on Google or the AA, nor would he have to worry about the time the passenger spends on the vehicle. It would all be handled for him.

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He realised that Road XS is one of a kind.

After giving Road XS a try, Toby saw that this was exactly what he’d been looking for.  He can now take a call from a passenger, add them to the journey there and then, providing them with an accurate pickup window.  They even receive an SMS notification to their phone there and then plus a reminder on the day of travel and when the vehicle is only a few minutes away.

Every dial-a-ride journey is now fully optimised from the passenger’s point of view and this ensures that the vehicle takes the most optimised route it can, taking into account the care of the human passengers on board.

He can very quickly onboard passengers onto the vehicle and watch as the routes magically re-configure in an instant, something which used to take ages and caused immense stress for him and his team previously.

He now feels in complete control.

All routes offer pickup and estimated arrival times and when they change they get automatically in a matter of seconds, fully updated into the driver portal and onto the driver’s mobile devices including any cancellations.

Better yet, the drivers now have a driver app which they can follow when driving which takes them exactly to the pickup location.  He no longer needs to provide directions as everything is pinpointed and provided in the app.

For Toby, gone are the days of long spreadsheets and ‘guesstimates’.

Toby now has the luxury of sitting back and watching detailed real-time reports on how their services are operating, something he has never had before.

He can even get breakdowns within custom postcode groups too which he can communicate to funders and local councils about how transport is being used in their local areas.

Road XS means they didn’t have to buy additional vehicles nor employ additional staff.

The future of dial-a-ride and demand-responsive transport is here.

drt software with road xs technology

Summary

This story paints a picture of what it’s like operating a dial-a-ride service manually, versus using an innovative software like Road XS.  To run a dial-a-ride service efficiently, to get enough throughput onto the service you need software to sit in the middle and manage all the calculations which are humanly impossible to calculate as quickly as Road XS can.

The DRT technology in Road XS is completely changing the landscape for dial-a-ride and DRT service providers.  We have enabled operators access to technology which was previously unaffordable, and not only that, because of our community transport background, we are people-focused and have built a solution which works, is user friendly and evolving all the time.

Take a look at our technology in action and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your journeys come to life with accurate pickup windows, calculations and realistic routes. Book your free consultation and demo today.

Made for People…

Discover why transport operators are switching to Road XS