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MOTOREX Magazine 2012 97 EN

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REPORT Ernst Hess AG’s

REPORT Ernst Hess AG’s taxis in Lucerne run practically nonstop, covering up to 500,000 kilometers before they are replaced. MOTOREX lubricants play an important role in keeping them safe and roadworthy all the way. Sleepless in Lucerne Taxis: there are millions of them on the road, adding their distinctive note to the urban landscape at all times of day and night. Yellow, red, blue, black, or white, cabs play an important role in individual transportation. We learned what it takes to run a successful taxi company and keep the vehicles running smoothly on our visit to central Switzerland’s biggest taxi operator, Taxi Ernst Hess AG in Lucerne. “Taxi Ernst Hess, guten Tag!” – the greeting rings out practically nonstop during peak hours at the central switchboard. When customers call from a landline phone, their address and number pop up immediately on the operator’s screen. Using the fleet dispatching system installed in 2000, the operator can find the nearest available or occupied cab in real time by glancing at a second screen. She can then give the customer an estimated time of arrival for the taxi while minimizing the distance between fares for the driver. A clever solution, and one that company founder Ernst Hess could hardly have imagined in 1957. But the taxi business, like so many others, has been revolutionized by computers and vertical-market software. 10

Cabs wait for their next fare at several taxi ranks in Lucerne. Waiting times are extremely costly as well as tiring for drivers. First contact: intently focused, an operator takes an order and enters the passenger’s information in the vehicle dispatching system. Passengers not only want drivers to drive carefully, but also to give friendly and attentive service. Fredi Steffen is on the job. Nowadays the family business is run by André Hess with the support of sister Astrid and brother Bruno. In addition to traditional cabs, the company operates minibuses and three tour buses to serve additional segments of the passenger transportation business. For special occasions, the company also offers an exclusive limousine service using two Mercedes-Benz® S-class sedans. GOOD STAFF AND … Keeping 40 or so taxis running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year takes skill and savvy on more levels than one. An average of 10 operators work three shifts at the telephone switchboard. Ernst Hess Taxi AG employs over 100 full-time and part-time drivers. Additional back-up drivers pitch in for Hess at peak times such as weekends, New Year’s Eve and Carnival. Cab drivers need a professional taxi driver’s license, a courteous manner and good driving skills, and have to be reliable. Brothers André and Bruno Hess still take the wheel themselves from time to time, whether for training purposes, to show the flag in emergencies, or simply to gather direct feedback from the taxi ranks. … DEPENDABLE VEHICLES Each year the vehicle fleet covers some 2.5 million kilometers. For generations the Hess family has upheld a commitment to quality. Most of the cars that pick up customers are white Mercedes-Benzes® adorned with the company’s distinctive blue-green stripe. The fleet also includes other makes such as Volvos® and Toyotas®. To keep its image burnished, the successful taxi company runs only late-model vehicles which it keeps impeccably Taxi passengers’ emotions are always along for the ride maintained. “With steadily improving fuel efficiency and safety, it pays to keep up with the newer models,” explains André Hess in the company repair shop. With diesel and gas prices rising steadily, fuel consumption is a major cost factor. The old hands among the drivers make a point of showing off their fuel-efficient driving skills, but construction sites, queues and stop-and-go traffic can send costs spiraling even in Lucerne. MOTOREX MAGAZINE I DECEMBER 2012 11



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