How the driver can make a difference in the passenger transport service.
Although the law foresees that all drivers must partake in a training course about road regulations and the technical characteristics of vehicles, the professional figure of a highly qualified passenger transport driver has numerous characteristics and skills that only the best drivers in the business have been able to acquire with years of dedication and direct experience on the road.
This article provides drivers with a valuable resource for developing a professional driving style in order to provide first class passenger transportation services.
Not simply a journey but a true experience that customers will remember
In this article, we explore the fundamental characteristics of the driving style that a professional driver must demonstrate to indelibly imprint the travel experience in the imagination of every passenger.
Some years ago I hired a driver in London to easily get around the city and I asked the company if it’s possible to have the same driver that I traveled with on my last visit a few months earlier. Well, my son Edoardo was so impressed by his driving skills, especially in navigating himself through the chaotic metropolis in a totally composed and safe way, so much so that after many years I still reminisce about this experience every time we talk about London or driving safety.
Michele Zaccaria – Sengerio Srl CEO
So what’s the secret in transforming the average journey into an enjoyable experience?
Everybody knows a driver knows how to drive, but it’s not so obvious to recognize how much their style can affect passenger satisfaction.
Passenger satisfaction is influenced by two fundamental factors on the basis of which the driver must drive the vehicle: safety and comfort.
A driver that is able to achieve the perfect balance between these two very important factors earns the trust of the passengers, guaranteeing that by the end of the service they will be completely satisfied.
Avoid abrupt manoeuvres at all cost
The key to finding the best balance between safety and driving comfort lies in the ability to maneuver: For every action the vehicle must be closely observed with absolute attention to make every movement as unnoticeable for passengers on board.
The determining factor that a driver must take into consideration to avoid sudden maneuvers is without doubt the speed: the space in which the maneuver must be carried out and the time in which it must be completed.
When merging into traffic, the driver requires the right space to perform the adequate acceleration in order to reach the speed of the traffic flow without squashing the passengers on the back of their seat. Moreover, stopping requires sufficient space and deceleration time in order not to throw the passengers forward and when turning at a junction or performing a hairpin turn, adequate time to maneuver the vehicle in the confined space without disturbing the passengers on board.
Complete traffic awareness
By constantly and meticulously analyzing the traffic conditions, a highly qualified driver is able to adapt their driving style to maintain the safety and comfort of the passengers.
This ability to read and understand the context in which they are driving, analyzing the flow of the surrounding vehicles and the intentions of the other drivers, together with the ability to comprehend the directions of the road, allow professional drivers to anticipate each maneuver in the time and space suitable for safe and comfortable driving.
From this, two invaluable outcomes arise that form the foundations of an impeccable driving style:
1. The prevention of any situations that pose danger to passenger safety.
2. The necessary time to manage each maneuver in a proper and professional manner.
A matter of balance
Taking into consideration the previous two outcomes, it may seem rather normal to deduce that low speed is always the best choice. However, this type of approach could actually produce counterproductive effects:
1. Low speed mathematically increases travel times with the probability of affecting the passengers’ schedule, ultimately leading to a unpleasurable service.
2. This prudent approach could be misunderstood as uncertainty and incompetence in the eyes of passengers, exactly the opposite of what the driver is trying to convey.
9 precious tricks to the trade
Here are the most important practical elements to achieve the ideal driving style of a highly qualified passenger transport driver:
1. Acceleration and braking
When it comes to comfortable driving, a basic rule is the thrifty use of the pedals for accelerating and slowing down. It may seem commonsensical, but this is precisely because of the obvious nature of the concept. Most drivers underestimate the importance of balancing a vehicle’s movement for the purpose of a comfortable driving style.
A highly qualified driver will have to develop the appropriate sensitivity to manage the vehicle controls at all times in a gentle and gradual way.
Each vehicle responds differently, a smart driver uses the route from the garage to the passengers’ pick-up to get a feel of the vehicle’s behavior, thus being able to gain confidence in the maneuver before the guests board.
2. Automatic transmission
The vehicle automatically manages the gears based on the pressure on the accelerator and the torque motor. To ensure comfortable journey, it is essential to keep the engine speed at medium to low levels (generally below 1,500 rpm) to avoid any frustrating jerks due to the abrupt variation of the gear ratio.
As the vehicle size and weight increases, it proportionally loses its inertia capacity, this results in a greater braking force than that of the torque motor. Therefore, the sensitivity of the driver’s foot on the accelerator becomes more important than ever to ensure a smooth ride, avoiding the unnecessary jerks.
3. Deceleration and stopping
Similar to landing an airplane, this is probably the most delicate phase for passengers. To ensure a comfortable stop, it is essential that the driver is able to guarantee adequate time and space for a gentle and gradual deceleration.
As with both city and motorway journeys, it is vital to understand the surrounding traffic in order to start a maneuver and make the stopping process as unnoticeable to passengers as possible.
A useful technique to ensuring a comfortable driving style is to apply the brake only after the torque motor has decelerated, this helps the stopping process by applying the gradual pressure of the brake only in the final phase.
Speed is a completely personal and subjective perception.
In addition to the limits enforced by the traffic authority, during a journey a highly qualified driver must be able to empathize with the passengers as to what type of perception they have of the speed. This allows the driver to adjust the speed according to the type of vehicle, the traffic conditions and road surface.
It may therefore be necessary to drive at a speed below the legal limit in order to guarantee the safety and comfort to passengers on board.
An experienced driver does not need to show that he is capable of going fast, but chooses the right time when it is possible to do so or avoid it completely.
5. Cruise Control
A very useful and very effective tool when on medium to long distance routes, cruise control allows you to set a constant speed. Even after disabling it you can reactivate cruise control to automatically bring the vehicle back to the preset speed.
Once the cruising speed is reached and activated, experienced drivers are practically able to manage the vehicle speed with the set and resume controls to employ gentle decelerations and accelerations.
This attribute is much appreciated by passengers, who will not have to suffer annoying oscillations and irregular vibrations caused by the accelerator, which for obvious physical reasons a driver is unable to maintain in a fixed position for long periods of time.
A professional driver starts the overtaking maneuver well in advance in order to maintain constant speed.
Waiting until the last moment to change lanes or dangerously approaching the vehicle in front is one of the most annoying habits that a driver can have, not to mention one of the most irritating things for the passengers on board.
The safety is ultimately compromised by the distance of the vehicle in the same lane. The reduced distance requires a sudden maneuver to change lanes and, in the worst case, also a sudden braking which compromises the travel comfort.
This bad habit is one that should be corrected.
Parking is probably the most complicated maneuver with any vehicle. Depending on the context, it can sometimes even lead minor collisions with other vehicles and obstacles.
An expert driver does not park the vehicle with the passengers on board, but stops at the designated drop off point to let them get off calmly. Only afterwards does the driver park the vehicle.
There are many advantages to this:
Passengers avoid any unnecessary obstacles when getting off and there is no risk of damaging the doors when they are opening.
Once the guests left the vehicle, it is possible to take all the necessary precautions to park the vehicle properly.
In the event of accidental damage during the operation, if passengers were on board, an uncomfortable and unpleasant situation could be created for both the driver and passengers.
Stopping at the designated drop-off point prevents other drivers from occupying the stall during the passengers’ descent.
It isn’t a problem if the driver has to refuel the vehicle during a service. As well as an indicator of attention to safety and comfort, refueling provides a temporary break for the driver, ensuring that the passengers are adequately distanced from the petrol pumps.
When refueling is necessary during a long-distance transfer on the highway, an expert driver leaves the passengers at the entrance of the refreshment area to refuel and them collects them once the refueling is complete
If it is necessary to refuel during a city visit, it will be a good idea to refuel during the driver’s break and not delay the passengers’ busy schedules.
This “behind the scenes” care and attention is generally highly appreciated by passengers and undoubtedly represents one of the hallmarks of a highly qualified driver.
9. Using the cell phone
Both the Highway Code and public opinion heavily condemn the use of cell phones while driving.
Writing a message or taking a look at social network on your smartphone for at least 10 seconds while driving means traveling blindfolded at least 110 meters at a speed of 40 km/h.
A professional driver definitely should not ignore the rules because of their driving skills. On the contrary, this is all the more reason to get rid of any doubts the passengers may have regarding their safety onboard.
A simple phone call while driving, even if with the use of earphones, undoubtedly affects the driver’s attention, compromising the fundamental principles of passenger safety and comfort.
Moreover, passengers are fully aware of this.
Here are some useful behavior tips for the driver:
Avoid long or rather personal telephone calls
Preferably use wireless headphones (cables can get in the way of movements)
Do not use the vehicle’s hands-free device to receive calls with passengers on board
Before departure, set up any navigation applications whilst the vehicle is stationary
Put the cell phone on silent
Once you have adopted this type of approach and applied this practical advice to the profession, every passenger who has ever stepped foot in your vehicle will be so satisfied with their choice that everything else will seem irrelevant.
Several years ago I was working as a driver and I was transferring a group of passengers that had their flight cancelled. This was a somewhat uncomfortable context: strangers forced without any warning to cross Italy in the central Apennines and endure a 5-hour coach trip through winding roads to reach a destination they would have reached with an hour’s flight.
I tried to be careful not to worsen their mood and not to make the situation any worse and be made the scapegoat of a bad day.
When I arrived at Rome Fiumicino, one of the passengers approached me while unloading the luggage. An American citizen over 65 years old, accompanied by his wife, judging from their clothing and luggage he seemed to be an expert and organized traveler. Putting the usual tip in my hand, which was not taken for granted on a day like this, he said to me:
”Thanks Sir, it was quick and safe!”
In conclusion, the first golden rule for a professional driver is to be able to communicate with the passengers through an impeccable driving style, in a way that there is no possible travel experience that can top that which you have provided for them that day.
ABOUT JURY BALLABENE
Jury Ballabene is a Marketing Manager and fan of Sengerio. A traveler at heart, expert driver, and experienced within several transport companies, Jury currently directs the sales and marketing department of a historic car and coach rental company in Emilia Romagna.