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The requirements for tenders are strict and often knockout, parties that do not meet the strict requirements are dropped.

The world of transport tenders is complex and often loaded with ambitions that arise from the pen of copywriters on behalf of tendering parties. These ambitions are presented to convince the client of the qualities of the tenderer. The tender system, intended to stimulate competition and create an equal opportunity for all parties, often encounters problems in practice. 

In recent years, transport companies have put themselves on the map with social commitment and a green passion, but many of these promises remain difficult to test in practice. The award criteria, on the other hand, can be regarded more as wishes, and the better an action plan meets these wishes, the more points a tenderer receives.

derailed

There are countless examples of derailed transport projects. The main reason is the lack of focus on the core of the work: transporting target groups that are difficult to combine, travel to a large number of destinations and often want to use the services offered during rush hour. More professional quality is put into registering for the tender than in carrying out the requested services. How difficult can it be to get a traveler from A to B at the requested time?

A look at the media makes a lot clear. Court decisions about the Regiotaxi, blundering municipalities in tenders in the province of Utrecht, failing WMO tenders in Utrecht and suboptimal healthcare transport in Haarlem are just a few examples. Civil servants who have to provide advice on a tender often face the same problems. Councilors are held accountable for mistakes made by carriers, but carriers themselves often escape the punishment.

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Illustration: © Pitane Blue - copywriter

Now that electrification and social engagement are no longer making an impression because everyone has mastered this trick, artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be the next key to success. AI is making its way into everything from advertising campaigns to software support and analyzing transportation outcomes. Carriers often don't know what AI can do for their company, but it looks good in their offer. And don't forget: copywriters get all the support they want by using AI.

Many promises and misleading information have been made public in the past 30 years. Clients hardly monitor the results and only take action when the quality becomes unacceptable. Children keep waiting for school, buses don't show up, travelers arrive late for funerals or doctor visits and councilors have to take action due to questions from the opposition. In recent years there has been an explanation for this: “lack of personnel”.

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A lack of staff is often used as an excuse for poor performance, but this can never be the root cause of the problems. Transport companies are obliged to ensure sufficient and properly trained staff as part of their registration. This is a core condition for delivering the promised services. Failure to meet this obligation shows a lack of planning and responsibility, not an unforeseen problem.

to the base

Perhaps we should go back to basics: transporting a client or student by a local carrier with a driver who knows his customers. This personal contact cannot be replaced by technology. A driver who also acts as a listening ear brings an invaluable social aspect to transport. Perhaps an additional volunteer can travel along as a supervisor, without this being at the expense of paid jobs.

Back to basics means focusing on what really matters: transporting clients personally and locally by drivers who know their passengers. Instead of relying on large-scale companies that often fall short of their promises, we can look to small-scale solutions that ensure greater engagement and reliability. 

For example, in the Brabant region, a small-scale carrier with a team of permanent drivers has shown how important personal contact is. The drivers know their passengers by name, are aware of their specific needs and can respond flexibly to unexpected situations. A mother of a disabled child told me: “Since we started traveling with this local carrier, I feel much calmer. The driver knows exactly what my son needs and always ensures that he arrives safely and on time.”

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Another example can be found in the village of Olst, where volunteers work together with professional drivers to transport the elderly and people with disabilities. The use of volunteers as supervisors provides an extra layer of care and attention, making passengers feel safe and heard. An older lady from Olst says: “The driver and volunteer who take me to the market every week have become like family to me. They help me with my shopping and ensure that I can have a chat along the way. This makes my week so much better.”

Within target group transport, we often deal with vulnerable people. Transporting these people to an activity or a day out should not be disrupted by interests that have nothing to do with their well-being or that of the drivers. Small scale can offer a solution here. How this should be resolved within the tender is a challenge for the copywriters of transport companies. 

cross off

Finally, an appeal to clients such as municipalities and healthcare institutions. Practice has shown that transport combinations, consisting of companies that previously failed, often do not offer the desired solution. Re-admitting such companies, often under a different name or in a new partnership, usually leads to a recurrence of the same problems. It is essential that clients strictly monitor the quality and reliability of tendering parties and ensure that companies that failed in the past are not given the same opportunities again. This approach not only protects passengers, but also ensures a more sustainable and reliable transport service.

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