On Tuesday, July 13th, Commute with Enterprise, in conjunction with RIDE Solutions, hosted a webinar within RIDE Solutions’ service area to inform local business representatives about how vanpooling could benefit their companies and organizations as well as their employees’ commutes. Ms. Kay Young-Brown, a vanpool expert with Commute with Enterprise, which is a division of Enterprise rental car agency, led the discussion, which also included numerous human resources and management representatives from the Region.
During Ms. Young-Brown’s presentation, she noted how vanpooling could improve local employers’ efficiency and functionality. Among the benefits Ms. Young-Brown noted were the following:
- Vanpooling can boost companies’ competitiveness by increasing accessibility to a wider pool of qualified workers. For instance, if an employer in the Martinsville area identifies a number of qualified candidates living in the Roanoke or Greensboro areas, the employer could serve as an impetus for the creation of a vanpool between the workplace and one of those cities. The vanpool would make commuting more attractive for the potential group of candidates by providing them options aside from driving alone and putting unnecessary wear-and-tear on their vehicles, while allocating them personal time to either rest or catch up on tasks.
- Vanpooling can minimize employee turnover. Employee retention has been identified as a significant struggle for employers in our region. Often, an employee gets hired, but does not always have access to reliable transportation. Vanpooling can help to furnish employees with a consistent, reliable transportation option, thereby reducing turnover.
- Vanpooling can help improve productivity and, ultimately, a business’s bottom line or the greater fulfillment of an organization’s mission. Vanpooling can help to reduce commuter-related absenteeism and tardiness, as it serves as a consistent, reliable form of commuter transportation. In fact, it has been estimated that the cost of absenteeism on company productivity is $1,700 per employee and 4 to 5 hours per week.
- Vanpooling is flexible, and routes can change based on need. Routes can change as employee need dictates. Additionally, schedules are flexible based on the needs/shifts of employees.
Prior to recommending that a vanpool be established, Commute with Enterprise will conduct what is known as a cluster analysis to determine whether there is a minimum number of employees or potential employees residing within close proximity of each other who have a similar schedule, and who utilize the same transportation corridor. For example, if more than a dozen employees who work at a Roanoke-area employer all live in the Rocky Mount area, and a number of them share the same schedule, a vanpool may make perfect sense.
The discussion then shifted to how an employer would begin the process of setting up a vanpool. This process is as follows:
- The first step would be the identification of participants and groups which could utilize the vanpool; the cluster analysis would be part of this process.
- Next, the company or organization would develop a customized worksite program. For example, a vanpool schedule would be developed which meets the needs of both the employer and employees.
- A communication/marketing timeline would be developed to market the vanpool program to additional employees and create lines of communication between the employer and the employees to establish the optimal number of vanpools and ensure they are allocated where they are most needed.
- Lastly, the vanpool operation would launch, and Commute with Enterprise would offer ongoing support, which is elaborated on below in greater detail.
Ms. Young-Brown noted the following benefits available to companies and organizations that establish vanpools with Commute with Enterprise, and these are as follows:
- Commute with Enterprise provides the latest model vans and SUVs, which are furnished with the latest features.
- 24/7 roadside assistance is offered with each vanpool.
- The convenience of month-to-month scheduling and payment plans is available.
- Commute with Enterprise offers a comprehensive insurance program, covering its vans and third-party liability.
- A full maintenance program is offered with each van. Commute with Enterprise would be responsible for oil changes and general upkeep, for example.
- Significant cost savings to employees can be realized from vanpools. There is a fixed cost associated with each vanpool on a monthly basis, and the cost is spread amongst each of the riders; the more riders in each vanpool, the less each would pay monthly. Furthermore, it is anticipated that the Commonwealth of Virginia will soon subsidize vanpooling, which would mean that each vanpool participant would pay even less. On a monthly basis, the costs associated with vanpooling are generally less than the cost of fuel; vehicle wear-and-tear is also avoided.
- Vehicle demonstrations are provided prior to employers and employees committing to vanpools.
- Commute with Enterprise provides quarterly emissions calculations to articulate to employers and employees their reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and emissions, in general, by using a vanpool as opposed to driving alone.
- Commute with Enterprise will provide on-site vanpool formation presentations so that employees and employers can learn more about the program and ask any questions they may have.
After the vanpool is established
Once a vanpool is established and a minimum number of employees have chosen to participate, drivers can then be designated through Commute with Enterprise’s online driver approval site. Typically, riders will meet at a designated area, such as a park and ride lot or a shopping center in the morning to join the vanpool. One individual who is an approved driver will take the van or SUV home the night before and meet at the designated pick-up location. All employees in the vanpool would travel to work, and return home together, and again, the approved driver would bring the vehicle home at night. It is recommended that more than one member of the vanpool be approved to drive in the event that the main driver becomes sick and does not go to work on any particular day or is on vacation.
Another great benefit of joining a vanpool is that employees can earn incentives as RIDE Solutions members. Using the RIDE Solutions app, available for free at www.ridesolutions.org, vanpool participants would earn points toward rewards (incentives for choosing alternative transportation). The rewards are in the form of discounts on shopping, activities (including entertainment and recreational endeavors), services, and dining, as well as opportunities to enter raffles for chances to win gift cards.
To learn more about the vanpool program through Commute with Enterprise, you may contact Ms. Kay Young-Brown, Account Executive, at Kay.YoungBrown@ehi.com. To learn more about the RIDE Solutions program, you may contact Joe Bonanno, RIDE Solutions Regional Coordinator, at Jbonanno@wppdc.org.