How to do it... Transportation

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Transportation for anyone in a rural or sub-rural setting — especially long-term care providers — can be challenging. More planning and top-notch strategic investments are needed, many observers believe. Industry experts reflect here how to gain efficiencies and obtain suitable vehicles for rural resident transport programs.

1The issue of greater distances between destinations always comes up, and that means better planning to get the right people ina the right places at the right times. And without stretching staff, and volunteer, resources too thin.

“You need to figure out a way to consolidate your activity, especially if you have four to five things that happen on a long [circuit] trip,” says Bob Anderson, director of commercial-retail sales for Nationwide Bus Sales/Midwest Transit Equipment. “Find out how to schedule to get things done in a more efficient way.”

2 Be focused, Anderson adds. This means thinking ahead and preparing various contingencies.

“A lot of people don't necessarily take into consideration the type of needs that they might have for even little things,” Anderson says. “If you take a trip that ends up being three to four hours, things as simple as significant weather changes can take place.”

3 That means making doubly sure tire pressure, oil and even windshield wiper fluid levels are continuously maintained. Without a gas station on every corner or a mechanic for many miles, it's important operators and their transportation teams take more responsibility for heading off problems before they arise.

4 Preparation also entails what goes in the vehicle, Anderson reminds.

“It might be sunny and nice when you leave, but it's raining and dropped 15 degrees when you come back. Do you have umbrellas that are always in the vehicle?” he asks. “Do you have blankets?”

5 Another shortcoming transportation experts notice with many providers is a lack of proper maintenance. This can wind up costing a lot of money, and wasted time.

“Quite often, people do not do maintenance on their lifts,” Anderson remarks. “I'll have people say, ‘This lift is only three years old and Mrs. Jones is halfway up and the lift quit.'

“We'll ask when the last time was they had the unit serviced and they'll say, ‘What do you mean?' Oil and everything else still have to be checked every 3,500 miles. This equipment might need more.”
 
6 Going smaller could be a good option, Anderson notes.

“One of the things we're seeing is because they're out in a distant place, and they might have Mrs. Jones who needs to go into town for dialysis two to three times per week, they're pulling out a relatively large bus and putting one person in it and making the jaunt all the way into town,” Anderson explains.

“So they have to drive up there, wait virtually a half day for her to get treatment and head back home. Two to three times per week. Some people are going to a small, rear-entry vehicle. You can easily drop the back gate, not even use a hydraulic lift.”

That helps with gas mileage and more. “The fuel economy now on a 60-mile trip is significantly less,”

Anderson notes. “Plus, the [main] vehicle is not away all day, so if others want to go shopping or sight-seeing, the bus is available.”

7 Think how having an extra vehicle might actually pay for itself.

“We've got people in the city saying they're spending $600 per trip if they do a non-emergency-type ambulance service,” Anderson says. “You could rent [a van] for $500 per month, so it pays for itself in a week. You could even have a volunteer drive it.”

8 However, providers in the country don't always need to think smaller, notes Bill Flynn of Atlantic Turtle Top. On the contrary.

“If you're in the city, we offer a narrow-body bus. That wouldn't be necessary,” Flynn says. “The narrow-body bus has two people the driver's side and one on the other. The standard design is two and two.”