App-based ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are shaking up the cab industry, but taxi companies are not the only ones being forced to adapt.

Inspired by Uber’s real-time tracking feature, Prime Time Shuttle International Inc., an L.A. company operating ride-sharing vans to and from airports, launched tracking service Prime Trak last week.

The company launched the service by including a link to its website in confirmation emails that leads to a page that will enable customers to track their vans in real time.

Rattan Joea, owner and chief executive of the company, said the technology had been employed by company dispatchers for years, but he didn’t think of passenger use until he saw Uber gaining popularity.

“It used to be that on our end, our dispatch can actually see where all the vehicles are at any given time on the GPS,” he said. “What we have done is that we flip that over so that our customers can see what we used to see on our dispatch.”

Prime Time started to develop the feature more than a year ago, Joea said, when he had felt some impact on his business because of Uber’s popularity. He contends that the threat from the ride-sharing startups is not as serious to his business as it is to the taxi industry.

Prime Time’s biggest competitor at Los Angeles International Airport, SuperShuttle International Inc., has had a smartphone app for a few years that allows customers to locate vans on a map.

Prime Time mainly operates in Southern California, but serves 75 airports nationally. Established in 1984 to cater to an anticipated travel boom from the Summer Olympics, it grew from a single-van operation to employing 400 people, including 150 independent drivers. Joea didn’t disclose the company’s annual revenue, but said it serves more than 1 million customers a year.

Air Drop

As anyone who drives in Los Angeles knows, it often seems there’s a relationship between the urgency of the trip and the volume of traffic you have to contend with. DHL Express, a division of the world’s largest logistic company, Deutsche Post DHL, is no exception. To overcome those challenges, the company introduced a helicopter delivery service in Los Angeles last week.

The company will make early morning deliveries by helicopter Tuesday through Friday to its legal and financial clients in downtown Los Angeles. It picks up letters and packages from LAX and delivers them to a heliport in downtown, where ground transportation personnel will pick up letters and packages and finish the last mile of a delivery.

Gerritt Gehan, DHL’s local operations manager, said the helicopter will help improve early morning delivery regardless of ground traffic conditions.

“We had had some inquiries from our banking clients about how to get an earlier delivery time,” he said. “It was explored, and we began experimenting in January. The helicopter has been fully branded and put into operation recently.”

He estimated that delivery times had been improved by as much as two hours.

So far, 15 DHL clients are using this service in Los Angeles. There is no extra fee for now, but Gehan said it’s possible that a premium fee will be charged for clients choosing helicopter service in the future.

The helicopter, which can carry up to 800 pounds of letters and packages, is owned and operated by Helinet Aviation of Van Nuys.

DHL has been operating helicopter service in New York for a decade, providing lifts from John F. Kennedy International Airport to banking clients, making stops in Manhattan and at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport. This is the first time this service has been introduced in another area.

Technical Strategist

Aecom Technology Corp., a downtown L.A. engineering and technical services firm, announced last week that it named Kevin Lynch executive vice president and chief strategy officer.

Lynch, who specializes in mergers and acquisitions, joined Aecom from Deloitte Consulting, where he served as senior partner, shaping and evaluating growth options through acquisitions for companies of all sizes and industries. Prior to Deloitte, he was a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Michael S. Burke, Aecom’s chief executive, said in a statement that Lynch’s track record and specialties align well with Aecom’s growth goals and vision.

Lynch will be based in Los Angeles.

Staff reporter Kay Chinn can be reached at kchinn@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 237.

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