SAN ANTONIO — There are a lot of hot topics to follow in the motorcoach industry, according to a diverse panel of experts gathered for the Motorcoach Expo 2018 education session called “What’s Hot, What’s Not: Just Staying Ahead of the Curve.”
“If you are not watching how things are changing, you are going to fall behind and you are going to be run over,” said Joe Gillis, owner of Northwest Navigator Luxury Coaches in Portland, Ore.
The hot topics covered by the panel included regulations, technology, insurance and financing. The not-hot topics included financing practices and autonomous passenger carrier vehicles.
“If I were looking into opening this company today, I would not go into this industry,” Gillis said. “It is crazy — the changes in regulations, the costs that have raised, the things that have happened in this industry and business in general would stop me.”
Insurance rates certainly are a hot topic. Recent declines in fatal motorcoach crashes have not been accompanied by a decrease in the costs of passenger insurance claims, said Tim Delaney, senior executive vice president of passenger transportation underwriting at Lancer Insurance in Long Beach, N.Y.
“Congestion is up. As the economy recovers there are more miles traveled and driver quality goes down,” he explained. “In the last five years medical costs have been rising like they never have before.”
The cost of repairing vehicles has risen because the more technology put in vehicles, the more expensive they are to fix, Delaney said.
“The result is a bunch of years of rate increases, which aren’t fun for any of us. In the commercial auto part of the insurance world, nobody has made money in over five years, even after all the increases we have gotten.”
New safety technologies and telematics will reduce accidents and assist in defenses against liability for damages, Delaney said. “Taking advantage of these things can help with loss control, safety and compliance.”
Entertainment technology also is hot.
“The millenials and even some of our more seasoned travelers are opening up to technology,” said Tim Wilson, director of United Bus Technology in McLean, Va. “Before you talk about the year and model of the bus, the first questions will be, ‘Will it have Wi-Fi? Does it have electrical plugs? USB ports?’
“The days of everybody watching the same DVD are long gone. Everybody wants their own individualized experience on the bus. That means being able to set the Wi-Fi and listen to their music. If they want to watch a movie, they want to watch the movie of their choice and do that on their own time.”