Innovative Operator Profile: Pride in Personal Customer Service

Posted on May 14, 2013 by Janna Starcic

VIP Tour and Charter Bus Co. in Portland, Maine, opened its doors for business in 1985 with one vehicle, a 1953 GMC 4104. The family-owned and -operated business has since grown and now boasts a fleet of 19 motorcoaches, as well as commuter buses and mini-coaches.

Despite its growth, the company prides itself in staying “small” as a way to nourish its personal relationship with its customers — many of them repeat customers. “We are happy to stay small enough, while remembering the personal connection with those that we do business with,” says VIP General Manager Ray Penfold. Running the operation is a family affair, with Penfold’s wife and two daughters playing integral roles. “We think it’s very important to make time to laugh together and have fun working,” he says.

While the company enjoys much repeat business, it tries to cultivate new customers through radio and TV advertising. Its commercials, which the operation puts together with the help of its cable provider, have been running for about eight years, showcasing its vehicles and providing some exposure for its employees. “We like to let people know who they are riding with,” says Penfold.

In addition to its radio and TV exposure, the company gets a lot of mileage out of its Website (www.vipchartercoaches. com). One of its newest features is the company jingle that catches your ear while you traverse the site. “We wanted to be noticed, and we want people to recognize it,” Penfold says of the theme song, which is also tied to its other advertising. The site also features online booking capabilities, as well as video highlighting the operation’s service and fleet options.

The company recently added a new 45-foot Prevost X3 coach to its fleet, which will help with additional business. “We’ve had to turn down work because we didn’t have enough vehicles,” Penfold says.

VIP’s fleet also includes a luxury executive coach, a Prevost as well, equipped with TVs, VCRs, surround sound stereo, restroom, shower, kitchen and a wet bar. The company will even supply an on-board hostess. Other features include external hook-ups for electric, phone and cable TV as well as on-board generators.

“We offer the luxury coach for special occasions,” says Penfold. “We used to have limousines, but we got rid of them because they were too much trouble to clean and weren’t as spacious.”

VIP takes pride in the several honors it has won over the years, including being one of only four bus companies selected in North America to receive the prestigious Robert J. McRell Safety Award. VIP is also an authorized member of the Highway Watch anti-terrorism program. “All of our drivers are trained to be more aware of what’s going on around them,” Penfold says.

A long-time UMA member, VIP offers its services to other members in the area that need help with a breakdown, or to transport passengers. “If someone is in trouble in Maine, they can call us and we do what we can to be helpful,” Penfold says.


Motorcoaches: 19

Fleet mix: Prevost

Employees: 30

Drivers: 21

Year started: 1985

Service area: U.S. (primarily northeastern states),Canada

Services offered: charters, tours, scheduled service

Average annual mileage: 500,000

General Manager: Ray Penfold (pictured)

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More News

Driver in fatal Calif. motorcoach crash was also owner/operator

It's still too early to definitely say what caused the accident, officials say. There were no signs of braking, such as skid marks, so far, and the tour bus was also determined not to have seatbelts.

Calif. tour bus crash kills 13, injures 31

All the victims were adults, according to the report, with the surviving passengers and the big rig driver only suffering minor injuries.

FMCSA awards grants to train military vets to drive buses, trucks

The current Commercial Motor Vehicle - Operator Safety Training Grant Program awards are projected to go toward training more than 250 people.

FMCSA proposes enhancements to Safety Measurement System's public website

While the Federal Register announcement responds to comments received following the June 29, 2015, notice, no changes will be implemented in the public SMS website display until after completion of the National Academies of Sciences Correlation Study as required by Section 5221 of the FAST Act.

ABA Foundation to double scholarship amounts in 2017

Also announced that all proceeds raised from ABA’s Annual Meeting & Marketplace Live and Silent Auctions will be allocated to the ABAF’s Fund a Future program to fund this scholarship initiative.

See More News

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment


Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close