Fleet on Fleet – Ian Luckett of Lucketts Travel interviewed
Fleet size 109 coaches and minibuses
Lucketts is a family-owned, multi-award winning coach and travel company. How did it all start?
The company was started in 1926 by Harry Luckett, the current chairman’s father. The business was predominantly haulage and storage but other activities were entered into, including keeping chickens and other farmyard animals.
By the mid-80’s the coach fleet had outnumbered the haulage fleet and it was clear which way the company was proceeding.
The third generation of Lucketts joined the company; Steve in 1983 and Ian in 1985. Since then the company has grown to a turnover of over £6.5million per year and employs over 90 people in three operating centres on the South Coast of England.
We have a sizeable number of vehicles and three different brands – Lucketts Travel in Fareham, Worthing Coaches in Worthing and Coliseum Coaches in Southampton.
There’s a lot of regulation involved, in employing drivers and on the vehicles themselves. Is that a particular challenge?
This is inevitably a challenge for any business, but it is also becoming an advantage for some businesses like ours, who can spend the time and effort setting up systems to ensure compliance, to identify issues and deal with them quickly and effectively when they arise.
What’s the main fleet issue for you?
We find these home grown drivers tend to come in with fewer preconceptions and we are always looking for people with the right attitude and aptitude to take on the role of a coach driver as the technical skills are fairly easy to impart.
You invest in the latest technology on your fleet. A typical car fleet would run its vehicles for three-four years, but how long can you reasonably keep a coach for?
Much longer these days. Typical truck fleets lease their vehicles and keep them for three to five years, depending on the role. They then go back to a manufacturer and into the second-hand market or to be exported. Unfortunately, the coach sales market doesn’t work like that. Vehicles are too general and the primary market is only about 600 units per annum. So we cascade vehicles through our fleet, and across our brands. The highest usage vehicles are the National Express ones, which cover a staggering number of miles in their lifetime. We refurbish them inside and out at around five years old, then use them in our local fleets. This is great for our customers as they have the added benefit of having full disability access, so we are moving in the right direction in terms of inclusive customer care.
Even using the latest engines, your fuel bill must be enormous. Do you buy via a bunkering scheme?
The majority of our fuel is purchased on a contract from a local supplier, WP Group, but we have never hedged nor bunkered. There is an element of seasonality in our work so we have arrangements with some customers whereby the price we charge is dependent on the cost of fuel, but realistically the majority of our work is booked and quoted relatively near to the date of departure, so we have a reasonable idea of forward fuel rates and include any fluctuation in the price.
Scheduling maintenance on a busy fleet this size must be a real headache.
We have always maintained vehicles in-house and have a well-staffed and equipped workshop in Fareham which can cope with almost all eventualities. We do post some work out to third parties, mostly tacho and specialist engine or gearbox work and usually to main dealers.
We have had some vehicles on R&M contracts as part of the sales package from the manufacturer, but that can have its own problems. Coaches don’t generally work the same patterns each day or week and the hours can be varied, plus there is seasonality. Outsourcing the maintenance limits flexibility and restricts our ability to react at the last minute. But I think there will be a time when we either outsource some or change the way we operate the vehicles just to get the quantity of work through our workshop.
Currently we outsource bodyshop work but may look at doing that in-house one day.
Time for a hobby outside of work?
In recent years I’ve taken up road cycling with some local friends. In 2012 they persuaded me to enter a ride called the Vatternrundan, which is a 300km ride around a lake in Sweden – in one day! I did it in 12h 59m; that minute meant the world to me at the time! I planned to do it again this year but managed to bust my knee skiing, but I’ve already started training for June 2014!