When larger school districts in South Dakota began preferring motorcoaches to the traditional yellow school buses in the early 1990s, a door opened for Miller, S.D.-based Foreman Charters. In business as a school bus company since 1969, the operation purchased its first motorcoach around that time, which they used for school activities — soon locals came calling.
“South Dakota is a very sparse state, so there’s not a lot of charter buses out here; they usually had to come from the east or west,” explains Doyle Foreman, company president. “Once people saw our names on the buses when we were hauling school children, they started contacting us to take them to places like Branson, Mo.”
Since they began offering charters, the operation’s business has grown to 12 motorcoaches and offers a range of services, including casino runs, Minnesota Vikings football game trips and employee shuttle services.
“It’s grown, we think, quite a bit for South Dakota,” says Foreman. “It’s been successful and we’re happy.”
Foreman Charters hasn’t rested on that success, however. The operation has made several innovative moves to grow business, including hiring two full-time sales people that travel the area trying to drum up business and a full-time tour director in charge of creating new and unique tours.
“Every year she looks to add at least one longer trip that is different than what people have done in the past,” says Foreman of his tour director. He adds that this year’s unique addition is a trip to Portland, Ore., for the Portland Rose Festival.
Foreman also uses several different mediums of advertising, including newspaper, some television and a local radio station that they often work with on cross promotions. Also, following the absorption of a local operation that went bankrupt, Foreman began a yearly travel show where travel planners and the general public are able to meet with representatives from various destinations.
“We invite all the travel planners, basically everybody who’s in competition with us, the first day. The second day is open to the general public,” explains Foreman. “We have an awful lot of people who come into book tours during the shows. It works out very, very well.”
To maintain high driver performance, the operation has family cookouts and get-togethers, as well as monthly driver meetings where problems, concerns and ideas for improvement are discussed. There is also a “Driver of the Month” award, which recognizes drivers for many aspects of their jobs, including being accident-free, on time, having no complaints and maintaining good paperwork.
Drivers that are chosen for the award each month are rewarded with a plaque and gift certificate and also have their picture and a small article about themselves posted on the operation’s Website. Foreman says that his drivers strive hard to attain the award and the accolades that come with it, which he hopes will help keep them loyal.
“What we are trying to do is to keep drivers happy and keep the good ones with the company, because the first person the people see is the driver,” he says. “If our driver is out there and they’re smiling, happy and excited to go on a trip, then they make it a very worthwhile trip for everybody.”
At a Glance
Fleet mix: Setra, MCI, Prevost
Service area: Upper Midwest, 48 states and Canada
Services offered: Charter, tour, college/high school sports, casino, employee shuttle
Year started: 1990
Average annual mileage: 1 million
Annual ridership: 200,000
President: Doyle Foreman