Falcon Buses has rolled-out a fully digital system to transform its fleet maintenance with software from Freeway Fleet Systems. The system is being introduced in two workshops to eliminate paper and provide live digital information on Falcon’s fleet.

Based in Byfleet, Surrey, the new system sees Falcon’s workshop staff equipped with rugged tablet devices replacing paper service sheets. Live data is sent to a central Freeway system to provide complete visibility of the fleet and the system also manages other assets such as workshop equipment. A dashboard screen displayed on a large wall-mounted monitor screen in the workshop provides an instant snapshot of all the status of work on the day.

A family-owned business first acquired in 2012, Falcon has grown from just 4 coaches to 65 buses and coaches today. Running tendered local bus services for Surrey County Council, coupled with commercial bus and coach services, Falcon had become overwhelmed with paper. With the paperwork burden becoming unsustainable and affecting productivity, the company started looking for a digital solution back in 2019.

“We went to the Coach and Bus UK show in 2019 to look for systems and discovered Freeway. Their system looked a perfect fit for us as a complete end-to-end solution and well proven in the industry. Crucially, it was the only system that integrated with Ticketer and that was vital for us as we wanted to move to digital driver checks but we didn’t want to issue drivers with mobile devices,” says Richard Telling, Managing Director of Falcon Buses.

The Freeway and Ticketer integration allows drivers to record their walk-around checks on Ticketer machines and provides the workshop with instant information on any defects. “With paper driver checks we didn’t know about defects until the evening. Now thanks to the Ticketer and Freeway integration, we know about any defects straight away. This means we can immediately schedule any rectification work, minimise vehicle downtime and better allocate workshop resources,” Telling adds.

As well as managing workshop activity and compliance, Freeway is also being introduced to manage stores. With a digital asset register of thousands of parts, the system will help Falcon improve stock control, tracking part usage and ultimately measure the performance of individual parts and the real costs of keeping individual vehicles on the road.

According to Falcon, one of the most useful features of Freeway is a re-torquing app which provides an automatic alert when re-torquing is due. “Re-torquing has traditionally been really difficult to manage as the vehicles tend to be back in service and out of ‘the system’ engineering-wise. This neat little re-torquing feature in Freeway is really useful,” Telling says.

Due to the Covid Pandemic, Falcon delayed the implementation of Freeway until 2022 and to help get their system up and running, Falcon employed the services FleetPerks, a consultancy providing advice and implementation services that had direct experience working with Freeway’s customers.

“We knew introducing a digital system would involve a lot of work and knowledge we lacked. So, we were fortunate to find Steve Perks who had previous management experience implementing Freeway at a major London bus operator. As we’ve expanded so much in recent years, we are always so busy and I’m sure we’d have struggled to get up and running without his help,” Telling says.

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