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October 15, 2013

Hispanic Motorcoach Council holds first meeting

Nearly 50 bus operators came together in Houston earlier this month for a meeting of the newly created Hispanic Motorcoach Council (HMC). The group offers support through networking, knowledge and information related to security issues, safety compliance, legislative/regulatory oversight and operational best practices.

Led by HMC President Bill Torres of Lorton, Va.-based DC Trails, the Hispanic Motorcoach Council is looking to offer tools to help operators continue to build their business. During the meeting, the group heard from safety compliance experts, local law enforcement and inspection officers, ADA training specialists, the motorcoach manufacturers and other bus operators. Houston Sheriff Adrian Garcia provided a rousing bilingual welcome following a flag display by a color guard detail. ABA gave a presentation on industry updates.

Throughout the meeting there was discussion of a variety of topics, including Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance inspection procedures and out-of-service criteria, ADA definitions as well as examples on how to handle service animals and occupational accommodations for individuals returning to work, as well as operational best practices such as utilizing on-vehicle video technology, the scheduling of drivers, customer service recommendations on lost baggage and how to get involved with grant programs.

As a member of the HMC and American Bus Association (ABA), interested bus operators are entitled to a variety of association benefits that can serve their unique needs, including a legislative voice, regulatory watchdog activities, money-saving services, connections to other operators and industry suppliers, regular communications, an annual meeting and specialized safety training. It is the goal of the HMC to ensure that operators are made aware of the information and tools available to them to help guarantee that motorcoaches remain the safest surface mode of transportation available to the traveling public and to help them grow their businesses in the language that they are most comfortable.

The Houston meeting was organized by a leadership group within the HMC consisting of Bill Torres; Liliana Aguilar of Houston’s Omnibus Express; Fernando Rodriguez of El Expreso/Tornado Bus Co., also based in Houston; Mike Castro of Corporate Coaches, based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; and Rodrigo Vazquez of DC Trails in Lorton, Va., and is representative of a large cross-section of the industry with varied fleet sizes, operational service offerings and geography.

“I think we are assembling an incredibly talented, enthusiastic, and experienced group with the ability and resources available to help operators handle many of the challenges that can be encountered while providing safe and efficient top of the line motorcoach service, but it is also important to let the [HMC] operators know that they don’t have to try to take on all of these challenges alone and that is what the Hispanic Motorcoach Council is all about,” said HMC President Bill Torres.

As priority items, the group will be focusing on reducing U.S./Mexican border crossing wait times, providing increased access to intermodal facilities such as ports and airports, enhancing safe bus operations, and promoting business-to-business networking so as to establish a maintenance and breakdown network among Spanish speaking motorcoach operators throughout North America.

“ABA is a big tent and we have much of the best and brightest that this industry has to offer and the HMC helps take that to yet another level. We would like to welcome the new members of the Hispanic Motorcoach Council and will do whatever we can to ensure that they have all of the tools and support that they need to be successful,” said ABA President/CEO Peter Pantuso, who also attended the session.

The next one-day HMC regional meeting will be held in South Florida in mid-November. The HMC will co-locate its first annual meeting at ABA’s Marketplace in Nashville, Tenn. on Jan. 12, 2014. There will be additional one-day meetings held in other regional locations periodically throughout 2014 and virtual meetings via webinar will also be convened. All resources and information for HMC members are available in both English and Spanish.

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