We challenged Phil Hitchen, MD at Belle Vue Coaches to give us his absolute best rundown on how to make successful school trips. Here’s what we had to say:

“We are transport providers to the education community across Greater Manchester. I want to talk to you today about how to make all your school trips under budget and how to make them safe. They are all in our value proposition brochure.”

How do schools obtain best value?

The perception is that they go out and obtain 3 prices and pick the cheapest. This is false economy as sometimes the cheapest price can mean a cowboy operator. Belle Vue offers best value to schools and colleges with 3 key elements:

  1. We assess a school or college’s annual transport spend. That means we look at all the transport arrangements across the year, We take them away and then integrate them within the existing transport services offered in our transport department. This makes efficiencies and can offer up to a 15% discount.
  2. The Government funded Yellow School Buses that Belle Vue uses is the 2nd key element in offering best value. We use our Yellow School Buses from Home-to-School contracts. This means that the standing vehicle cost of those vehicles are a lot lower because we don’t have huge capital outlays like we do in our Executive Coach Fleet division. This is a benefit, of course, that we pass back to clients.
  3. We track all our vehicles. Tracking is a system that we put on all our vehicles that monitors the acceleration, the braking and the cornering of each and every driver. Those drivers operate their driving to a certain score. They are limited in what they can do incorrectly. This means that we have our fleet running at maximum efficiency all of the time. This saves Belle Vue up to 12% of our fuel costs. We also pass this back on to our clients.

When it comes to safety, there are 3 things that schools can do to make sure their trips are safe.

When you’re dealing with a bus or coach operator, you can ask them for the OCRS rating. This is the DVSA scoring card for where the company is up to at present (with the DVSA). They operate it on a scoring system of red, amber or green. Red is dangerous, amber’s not so safe and green is good to go. You want to make sure your transport operator is green, which Belle Vue Coaches is, of course!

The second thing you can do is you can ask for a copy of the insurance claims record. This is a record of all the insurance claims and all the accidents the fleet has had. You can then judge for yourself if you are travelling with a safe operator.

The third thing is that Belle Vue has numerous audits – about 8 a year. Virtually every other month there’s an audit coming in and we have to maintain our service to certain key levels of professional standards.

Everybody always expects great service on a school trip, but they don’t always get that, do they? What Belle Vue does to ensure they get a great service is 4 things:

  1. When we recruit and train our drivers, we do a personality assessment on them. We have a key system called iMA which tells us what type of personality that person has. That’s best pertaining to school trips.
  2. We train our drivers above industry standards. Everybody should be trained to CPC. The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence. Belle Vue also trains its drivers in iMA and in counter terrorism.
  3. We compete in industry awards for service every year within our industry. We often win as well.
  4. We do an after sales form for every trip so we can measure each minute detail that you liked and didn’t like to make sure the next trip is twice as special.

If you’re looking for a transport service that ensures an annual discount, ensures an accounts manager that looks after your account, has a set driver team that looks after all your transport needs, that meets safety standards and gives service with a smile, we’re the people for you.