Sorting out social distancing and safety protocols will of course be part of the “new normal” when travel managers begin re-starting the nation’s business engine. Although some corporations overlook the ground transportation sector as a key component of travel, that may well soon change for For-hire Vehicles (FHVs), Taxis, Limousines and even Minibuses, as companies search for the safest mode of transport in the early phases of recovery.
Some companies are already seeing an increase in demand, although the issue of “distancing” is a high priority, which is why bus, train and air travel are seen as a higher risk, since people are forced together in a crowded environment.
App-hailing businesses are also under pressure, despite their surge in popularity in recent years. Price and convenience have been big selling points, but drivers are randomly chosen from a massive pool and their standards often don’t meet those of traditional companies.
Ride-sharing with strangers is unlikely to come back for a long time. Uber has shut down its “shared journey” feature, and launched a “Wait and Save” scheme, which allows users to choose a longer wait time in return for a lower fare.
Particularly for shorter-distance trips – under 200 miles – businesses are seeing ground transportation as a safer option.
The ground transportation sector has its work cut out. That means passengers must sit in the rear of the vehicle, and surfaces must be thoroughly cleaned between clients. Drivers will also likely need to be regularly tested for the virus as kits become more readily available.
Plexiglass barriers are also being installed in vehicles. The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission is moving in that direction for many of its licensees, beyond what was previously required of only Yellow Taxicabs.
The National Limousine Association’s safety and prevention steps include cleaning vehicle interior surfaces with disinfectant wipes after each ride, and it encourages staff to see a doctor immediately if they feel unwell. It also states that sick employees should not report for work. Handshakes will also likely be a thing of the past for many years to come, and mandatory masks for drivers and passengers are becoming the norm.
“We expect this will give riders peace of mind that other modes of travel may not provide, making chauffeured transportation the clear choice over other options like public transit or ride-sharing,” NLA President Robert Alexander said.