Tornado Bus Company launched nearly 30 years ago as a forward-thinking Hispanic-owned enterprise based in Houston. Owner and founder Juan Vasquez eventually relocated to Dallas, where he has steadily and successfully grown his company to incorporate a modern fleet of 120 motorcoaches doing business throughout eight U.S. states and 15 states in Mexico from 50 offices and bus terminals.
While this would seem to say it all for his astute business practices, it does not reveal entirely Vasquez’ deeper motivations driving his personal journey and humanitarian endeavors in the motorcoach industry.
Vazquez immigrated to the U.S. as an ambitious and determined businessman with a grander vision for the existing coach service he was seeing between Mexico and the U.S. Humbled by his opportunity to live and work in the U.S., he was determined to provide coach service of the highest quality, and one day, stand among the leading transportation companies.
Core values, business
■ Stemming from core values that characterize the warmth and respect Tornado Bus shows toward its many customers traveling across international borders, the stated mission is to unite families in both countries, which becomes especially relevant given current social-political circumstances.
Thinking more of convenience and the public good, Vazquez says he founded Tornado on his vision of a person being able to travel from Guadalajara to Chicago on one bus. He has since gone on to connect states, cities, and communities through affordable and pleasurable motorcoach transportation for passengers on both sides of the border.
Vazquez says he also operates Tornado Bus as a business entity that regards each employee as a family member in every respect.
“We are in business to support everyone who invests their expertise, skills, energy, and time to ensure quality service and our continued growth and success,” says Vasquez. “No one is overlooked or forgotten.”
With premium-level international coach service as its priority, Tornado validates both country’s efforts to work together in ways that do not demean citizens coming and going across their borders and lend a more diverse view of immigration and tourism between Mexico and the U.S.
Tornado says it conducts its border crossings “by the book” according to federal and state statutes, making coach travel for all passengers easy and orderly.
“We require all passengers boarding in Mexico to show their visa,” says Vasquez. “They must make sure all their paperwork is in order prior to crossing the border.”
Tornado further states its passengers must follow company rules regarding luggage, possessions, appearance, and their behavior onboard to ensure the safety and comfort for everyone.
One big family
■ Motorcoach operations, in general, are unique among other industries in their family-style approach to business. Vazquez is not alone in his regard for his fellow man, which translates into his concern for his employees.
Case in point: When one long-time Tornado terminal manager developed breast cancer, Vazquez took on her illness with a vengeance without hesitating to continue her salary.
“Everyone in the company joined in visiting and caregiving as needed — just as anyone in any family would do,” says Vazquez.
The battle against breast cancer became Tornado’s cause. In the fleet of trademark canary yellow coaches, one coach stands out as “The Warrior” reprinted in breast cancer awareness pink in a gesture that speaks volumes. Through October, designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Tornado Bus donates a portion of every sold seat on The Warrior to support breast cancer research.
Safe, reliable operations
■ Keeping the fleet operating and on the highways with each coach covering up to 270,000 miles per year requires an experienced and competent team of drivers and maintenance technicians. In a program that goes that extra mile, Tornado Bus provides English language classes to help them communicate with customers.
Vazquez has elevated the quality and locations of the Tornado Bus terminals by taking over and remodeling former prime commercial properties such as banks and office buildings. Within the facilities, drivers spend their downtime on long over-the-road runs resting and recouping in their own quarters that include living and sleeping space, kitchenettes, and workout areas.
Vazquez says he visits with his drivers at the terminals every day of the week to show his appreciation for all they bring to the company.
“I was a driver, so I know the tremendous responsibility they share,” he says. “We take pretty good care of ours, and I believe they treat our customers the same way.”
Vazquez adds Tornado is doing all it can to bring more drivers to the motorcoach industry.
“Driver issues are much different in Mexico,” he says. “The competition is greater because the coach industry is so much larger.”
For its own part in a remedy, Tornado applied with the U.S. Department of Labor to hire and train 20 coach drivers in Mexico to drive in the U.S. with a green card.
“Tornado is the first bus company to apply for this type of program,” says Vazquez. “Because of the driver shortage, this is one way can continue to fill seats.”
With a single trip taking as much as 34 hours, Tornado has removed some of those seats on select coaches to afford more legroom and personal space. Amenities on every coach include Wi-Fi, Amaya seating, USB connections and power outlets, and a complete entertainment system.
To ensure consistent premium service, Tornado has signed a contract with Prevost to begin replacing its entire fleet with new model Prevost H3-45 and Volvo 9700 coaches, which Vazquez says will eliminate headaches for his drivers and technicians. The fleet currently includes 60 H3-45s and 25 Volvo 9700s.
“Maintenance costs are our biggest issue,” he says. “Our challenge is even greater with a mixed fleet; stocking parts inventories for so many brands.”
The upshot being Tornado digs deep to understand what its employees must have to ensure their best performance and to show its appreciation for all they do — and then provide all the support and resources to serve its international customer base.
David Hubbard is a Phoenix-based contributor.
Additional reporting on this story by Alex Roman, Managing Editor for METRO Magazine.