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- Efforts of Principle Auto Mobile
Efforts of Principle Auto Mobile 1-29-17 Tadao, Machida, Tokyo
A company that thinks about sightseeing-bus universalization
We have various types of buses, including buses equipped with lifts and restrooms, and we provide easy-to-understand information to customers
Most sightseeing bus companies only own one or two lift-equipped buses, but Principle Auto Mobile owns eight large lift-equipped buses and six restroom-equipped buses. The company's diverse line-up of buses also includes lift-equipped microbuses and luxury microbuses, and the company handles a diverse range of customers. Takamichi Ninomiya of the company's Sales Department talked to us about the company's efforts.
Bus companies must follow the trends of a universal society too
Our company started doing business in 2007. In 2008, we started introducing lift-equipped buses. We have added more lift-equipped buses every year since then. Currently, we have eight lift-equipped buses, and we added two elevator-equipped buses in February 2019. In addition, we own lift-equipped microbuses, which we use on weekdays to transport students to special schools.
Our efforts to make our buses barrier-free started with the many requests we received for restroom-equipped buses, and we decided that this would also require that our buses have lifts. As both public transportation and other downtown facilities become increasingly barrier-free, it is essential for bus companies to keep up with the trends of the times as well. Lift-equipped buses have various limitations-including the need for additional space to enable customers to get on and off as well as the disadvantage of the inability to deal with rain-but the elevator-equipped buses we recently introduced seem to eliminate these disadvantages.
Ensuring that lift-equipped buses can be used comfortably
All of our lift-equipped bus drivers have Care Fitter certification. The purpose of this is to ensure that our drivers understand wheelchair operations and are used to providing guidance to disabled customers, which gives our customers peace of mind when it comes to using our buses.
There are actually various types of lift-equipped buses, and they differ depending on the bus company. The lift-equipped buses introduced by our company can accommodate up to six people riding wheelchairs. Upon customer request, we can free up enough space for anywhere from one to six wheelchairs. In other words, although we have lift-equipped buses, we actually just remove the requested number of seats to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs, and these buses can be used as regular sightseeing buses the rest of the time. Because the lifts protrude out from the bus body when lowered, it is necessary to have plenty of parking space. The lifts also have a safety system that prevents getting on or off unless the floor surface of the lift is touching the ground.
I would like travel agencies in particular to understand the characteristics of lift-equipped buses. Once before, we asked how many people in wheelchairs our bus would accommodate, and then we were asked to "free up space for six wheelchairs for the time being." However, freeing up space for six wheelchairs means removing an equivalent number of regular seats. Once we actually dispatch such a bus, we often end up encountering wheelchair users who prefer to be transferred to a regular seat when riding a bus, and then we don't have enough seats for them. At that point, we are told to "provide a regular seat," but the seats that have been removed are back in the garage, and-even if seats were on hand-adding or removing them is not easy. Because the number of required seats differs depending on whether passengers plan to ride the bus in their wheelchairs or transfer to a regular seat and store their wheelchairs in the trunk, it is important to accurately communicate with customers. In addition, because using a lift to get on or off requires an additional 20 seconds in each direction and fastening wheelchairs in place also takes a certain amount of time, we would like people to schedule itineraries that offer a bit more leeway than usual. As I mentioned earlier, it is also necessary to have enough parking space.
To eliminate the possibility of miscommunication when dispatching buses, our company exchanges the following with travel agencies: bus information, points to note, and check sheets that include customer information we would like travel agencies to report to our company.
Information dissemination and future goals
We upload the different types of buses we provide to our website as well as seating charts. In 2018, we renewed our website and started posting more detailed information, including equipment details. Travel agencies can also download seating charts, bus information, etc. from our website, which should make it easier for them to provide explanations to customers. The website also includes frequently asked questions as well as a staff blog that is updated as necessary, and we hope to continue providing information on various cases. Our company's basic philosophy for all our customers includes a promise to provide peace of mind and safety as well as a desire for our customers to feel comfortable in the spaces we provide when they ride with us. Regarding the Charter Bus Operators Safety Assessment System, which was introduced in 2012, we initially received one-star certification, and we obtained three stars in 2016. Our primary goal is to make sure that our customers can use our buses safely and without worry, so we will continue taking steps to provide education enabling employees to drive more skillfully and to more effectively deal with customers, and we will continue thinking about uses and applications related to various types of customers. One related effort is to introduce a diverse line-up of buses. Our intention is to immediately do whatever we can for our customers by assuming various cases that go beyond guests in wheelchairs.
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