How commuter programs can save money and reduce stress

Tim Dilsaver, Community affairs representative Lake County, Ill., Pace Suburban Bus

An employee’s commute to and from work can be costly in terms of money spent on gas, insurance, and wear and tear on a vehicle, and the increased stress it brings. However, there are programs available that companies can support that will help alleviate employee stress, reduce absenteeism, save employees money and improve productivity.

“One of the benefits of a commuter program is that it provides a less-stressful commute to and from work,” says Tim Dilsaver, Pace Suburban Bus’ community affairs representative for Lake County, Ill. “It leads to a better parking situation, with companies often providing preferential parking to commuters; fewer cars in your office parking lot; and commuters getting a break on their personal car insurance because they’re not using their primary vehicle to get to and from work.”

Smart Business spoke with Dilsaver about commuter programs and the benefits they bring to both employees and companies.

How does a commuter program get organized at a company?

There are several types of commuter programs that people use. A couple of examples include public transportation and an informal employee carpool. But there are also commercial programs that can benefit both passengers and companies alike. One program, operated by Pace, uses vans that pick up passengers at existing bus and train stations and also can pick up people from their homes or at other predetermined locations.

Similar to an employee-organized carpool, this ride-sharing program utilizes vans that pick up groups of up to 13 people along a route and transport them to and from work. The vehicle is provided, as is the maintenance, gas, insurance, van washes and tolls.

Participants can choose their routes and select their pickup times. Furthermore, this program offers a Guaranteed Ride Home program in the event that a participant has to leave work early for, say, a family emergency. The cost of a taxi is reimbursed up to a certain amount when situations prevent a rider from being able to use the vanpool.

How do employees benefit from a commuter program?

Employees benefit by saving thousands on commuting expenses during the course of a year. They also benefit from having less stressful commutes. They don’t have to deal with the drudgery of a morning drive. Instead, while someone else is driving, they can sleep, prepare for the workday, talk with the other commuters or just watch the world go by. Employees also save because they’re putting less wear and tear on their personal vehicles and refueling less often.

How do companies benefit from commuter programs?

Companies benefit from commuter programs by having employees who arrive at work less stressed. It’s also a great way for those who don’t have reliable transportation to have an affordable and reliable way to get to work, which ultimately improves attendance and employee retention. Companies can provide premium spaces for vanpools and carpools and free up spaces in the company lot because the vans can hold as many as 13 passengers, which opens up additional parking.

They often appoint a transportation coordinator who oversees the program, enrolls employees in the pretax payroll deduction program, and chooses pickup and drop-off locations at the place of business.

A commuter program also can provide businesses with matching grants that can be used to set up a program. For example, with one program in Chicago and the collar counties of northern Illinois, the company puts up $2,000 that’s matched by the provider.

It can be used for a range of things, including signage that designates commuter program parking and to support raffles for items such as bikes to promote green transportation. It’s a great way for a company to support environmentally friendly alternatives to driving.

What are the common responses from companies and employees using such commuter programs?

Companies that participate in commuter programs are excited by the results. These programs start with one vehicle, and then word of mouth spreads quickly and companies soon have as many as 10 commuter vehicles bringing employees to and from work for all shifts, day and night.

Human resources personnel who promote the program say their employees really enjoy it. The HR representatives put sign-up sheets on the Internet to allow people to sign up and fill open spaces, which are quickly taken.

Employees say they save money compared to what they would spend driving their own car because the fees associated with the commuter program don’t come close to what they spend driving alone to and from work. They also skip the drudgery of daily drives and the traffic jams, and many employees say they would never go back to the daily drive.

Are there any environmental benefits companies can promote that are related to providing commuter programs to employees?

Commuter programs allow companies and employees a chance to reduce their carbon footprint by having fewer cars drive to and from the workplace. Less gas is consumed, traffic is reduced and many issues with crowded parking are resolved. Some companies have multiple vehicles running in the program, which means significantly fewer cars are traveling to the facility.

Tim Dilsaver is the community affairs representative for Lake County, Ill., at Pace Suburban Bus. Reach him at (847) 228-4282 or [email protected]

More information on Pace’s RideShare program is available at www.PaceRideShare.com.

Insights Transportation is brought to you by Pace Suburban Bus

All aboard

On its website, J. Rayl Transport Inc. posts an FAQ for prospective employees. One of the questions included is “Are you really a great place to work?” The answer below confirms, “Yes, we’re really a great place to work.”

As other transportation businesses have shrunken in the troubled economy, family-owned J. Rayl Transport has continued to grow by providing customers reliable transportation services so they can maintain quality reputations with their own customers. President and CEO Jeremy Rayl recognizes that this success, apparent from the company’s eight years of consecutive growth, begins with his employees. That’s why J. Rayl makes sure that even in today’s tougher economy, it makes a strong effort to reward and inspire its people from the minute they come on board.
In years past, the company has worked hard to maintain a culture where employees want to work. Founded in 1987, the company has spent decades building up its reputation for quality customer service, but also its reputation as a reliable and fair employer. In fact, J. Rayl’s corporate motto is “Count on us.”

Offering one of the most competitive pay packages in the trucking industry, J. Rayl aims to attract top talent to deliver its transportation services of a dynamic customer base in 48 states as well as Canada. In an uncertain economy, the company provides job security in the fact it has never made a layoff from lack of work in its entire history. It has also never decreased any driver’s pay, continues to honor pay raises for tenured employees and gives its drivers safety and performance bonuses and 401(k) matching contributions.

From 2009 to 2010, the company had 35 new hires. By continually adding to its team of quality people, J. Rayl is able to further grow its logistics solutions and transportation services for an ever-expanding customer base, putting the company on track to grow another 25 percent this year.

How to reach: J. Rayl Transport Inc., (800) 753-5050 or www.jrayl.com

Transportation boosts July durable goods orders

WASHINGTON ― New orders for long-lasting manufactured goods rose more than expected in July on strong demand for aircraft and motor vehicles, government data showed on Wednesday, but a gauge of business spending fell.

The Commerce Department said durable goods orders surged 4 percent after a revised 1.3 percent drop in June, which was previously reported as a 1.9 percent fall.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected orders to rise 2 percent last month. Orders were buoyed by a 14.6 percent jump in bookings for transportation equipment, which was the largest increase since January.Excluding transportation, orders unexpectedly rose 0.7 percent after gaining 0.6 percent in June. Economists had expected this category to fall 0.5 percent.

But non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending, fell 1.5 percent last month after a revised 0.6 percent rise in June.

Economists had expected a 1 percent fall from a previously reported 0.4 percent gain.

The decline in business spending plans, coming on the heels of weak readings on regional factory activity so far this month, could add to fears that the manufacturing sector is running out of steam.

However, this business spending plans category normally weakens in the first month of each quarter in part because of an incomplete seasonal adjustment of the power equipment subcomponent.

Manufacturing has supported the economy’s recovery. However, a plunge in share prices has hit both business and consumer confidence. Regional Federal Reserve factory surveys so far for August have been sharply weaker.

Last month, durable goods orders were buoyed by a 43.4 percent surge in aircraft orders, which erased June’s 24 percent slump. Boeing received 115 aircraft orders, up from 48 in June, according to information posted on the plane maker’s website.Motor vehicle orders jumped 11.5 percent, the largest increase since January 2003, after edging up 0.1 percent the previous month, indicating a fading of the supply chain disruptions from Japan.

Outside of transportation, details of the report were mixed, with orders for machinery and computers and electronic products falling. However, orders for primary metals, and capital goods rose.

Shipments of non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, which go into the calculation of gross domestic product, edged up 0.2 percent after rising 1.9 percent in June.