“It’s time to focus on growing the business, expanding your services and driving penetration of existing services,” said United Motorcoach Association (UMA) President Victor Parra in his opening speech to the general session of the 2006 UMA Expo, held Jan. 18 to 22 in Tampa, Fla. Parra’s words set the tone for a conference distinguished by its attention to improving and diversifying business in the motorcoach industry.
Parra also recognized the association’s new partnership with the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), which is a natural fit as one-third of UMA members operate school buses on a contract basis. In concert with the partnership, several sessions on school bus transportation were offered during the expo and a variety of school bus equipment debuted on the exhibit floor.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator Annette Sandberg discussed the status of various regulations, including the establishment of a medical review board and a system tying medical certification to CDLs. “When an officer stops a driver, the database will show whether they have medical certification,” she said.
Other FMCSA goals include a 20% increase in motorcoach compliance reviews for 2006. “We have to challenge the states to conduct more inspections to help us identify which operators we need to do compliance reviews on,” added Sandberg. As thanks for the significant changes to the motorcoach industry during her administration, the UMA awarded Sandberg its Pete Cinzetti Good Government memorial award.
Additionally, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s Darrin McGreevy talked about the agency’s Corporate Security Review program, which allows operators to volunteer for a security assessment. “We hope to capture data from different areas,” he said. “We will be doing it for more than a year to find out what works and what doesn’t work.” McGreevy pointed out that there are no security regulations yet and nothing in the pipeline. “We want to create a template by listening to you and your needs,” he said, adding that the industry will benefit from assessing its vulnerabilities.
Another key conference session was a panel discussion focusing on new business opportunity analyses. A number of educational sessions stuck with the business improvement theme throughout the expo, discussing such topics as driver regulations, developing packaged travel options and meeting 2007 engine requirements.
Highlights on the trade show floor included the unveiling of Prevost Car Inc.’s new model X3-45 motorcoach (see pg. 13). Setra of North America showcased its S417 luxury motorcoach model featuring a fully appointed galley with refrigerator and microwave oven. ABC Companies, celebrating its 55th anniversary this year, showcased its Van Hool T2100 and C2000 model motorcoaches equipped with Radio Engineering Industries’ (REI) new Elite Entertainment System. These models are the first coaches to feature this system in the U.S. ABC also announced a partnership with Bitimec International Inc. to distribute the company’s bus wash systems.
In addition to the aforementioned Elite system, REI launched a series of new products, including a GPS mapping system product. (Read more about new expo products on pg. 64.) Rounding out the new vehicle offerings was Thomas Built Buses’ SAF-T-Liner C2 school bus, a first for the show.
During the 7th annual Vision Awards Ceremony, the UMA recognized Lisa Holland of the New Orleans Convention and Visitor Bureau with its Great American Destination Partner in Tourism award. The Safety Leader of the Year award was given to Autumn Dipert-Brown of Arlington, Texas-based Dan Dipert Tours. This year’s Vision Award, divided into small- and large-operator categories, was given to Daniel’s Charters in Atlanta and Royal Coach Tours in San Jose, Calif., respectively. Other winners of the evening included Tom Ready of Ready Bus Line in La Crescent, Minn., (METRO’s Operator of the Year) and Norman and Jeff Arensdorf of Wichita, Kan.-based Village Charters.