Firefighting your way to September 4th…and beyond!

For many transport teams now is a time for managing summer tenders and reallocations, usually in the shape of:

  • Thinking about the current children that need school transport
  • Working out the most appropriate routes
  • Sending those routes to operators
  • Going through each response and allocating each route

Typically, because most of this work is completed via emails and phone calls and then recorded (at best) via multiple systems or (at worst) through spreadsheets it begins to put significant strain on the commissioning team. Understandably, transport teams have a tough job leading up to September 4th.

From September 4th and beyond, things become even more interesting as they have to manage various versions of the following:

A service user:

  • Can’t sit with another, which means one needs moving onto a different route
  • Has tendencies to run away from the transport as soon as it stopped at traffic lights
  • Isn’t ready to get on the transport, making the rest of the pickups late
  • May refuse to get onto the transport
  • Usually refuses to get out of the transport at its destination

These nuances are, of course, unavoidable in September but are also embraced by all transport teams, as they look to support individuals' needs. The issue here isn’t the compassion of the team but the resources and tools they have at their disposal to reduce disruption and improve process efficiencies to support everyone.

Perhaps then, the cause goes far beyond the lagging indicators of struggling to manage the changes to requirements and routes, post September 4th. Instead, in our experience the cause is born out of a misunderstanding between procurement and commissioning.

Lost in translation?

Those that assumed (or were told by procurement) that replacing a fixed framework with a DPS would deliver the milk and honey of greater savings, better market management and more capacity are woefully mistaken. More often than not, a DPS alone can’t deliver more choice, more time and more value, because teams are too busy using spreadsheets, email and phone calls to manage commissioning.

Transport teams have been working around their DPS, not with it.

September often becomes the trigger for commissioners, as it becomes even more evident that this approach isn’t delivering what they need it to. This is because a DPS designed for purchasing laptops can’t manage the nuances of passenger transport, especially summer tenders and reallocations.

So, what can transport teams do now?

In our experience, to meet the typical objectives for transport commissioning, most teams focus on:

The next step is to then use these findings to bridge a conversation with procurement, as they rarely have visibility over what is and isn’t working within the commissioning process. It’s likely that procurement have previously pushed back when commissioning knock on their door, usually by indicating that, ‘you need to follow the council wide policy, no exceptions’. So, go to procurement equipped with the evidence of the latent issues and recommendations for a resolution.

What about the evidence?

Our evidence suggests that delivering your DPS (or preferred commissioning model) through a specific/dedicated technology along with pre and post support services delivers more time, more choice and more savings.

Two recent examples come from the London Boroughs of both Merton and Lewisham, who are using our Digital Commissioning technology and continued support to manage transport commissioning.

Merton’s results:

  • 29 providers engaged and 17 submitting bids
  • Averaging 8+ per routes
  • 187 service agreements

Lewisham’s summer tenders:

  • 110 summer routes
  • 1,550 offers
  • 12 offers on average per route
  • Supply base grown from 10 to 28 and 24 actively submitting offers

For sceptics, this may look daunting especially imaging these numbers flowing through the existing approach, but can you imagine firefighting your way through the same process again next summer?

See more detail about how both Lewisham and Merton overcame these challenges and instilled a good deal more sanity

You can also find out a bit more about the model here; as well as keep up to date with the other London Boroughs, Unitary Authorities and County Councils using this approach to deliver passenger transport commissioning, here.