For William Torres, it was a long road travelled on his way to co-leading a successful motorcoach operation, the Lorton, Va.-based DC Trails.
A product of Brooklyn, N.Y., Torres served in the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) before joining the Washington, D.C. Metro Police Department as a motor officer, where he was assigned to the special operation division, which is responsible for escorting the president, vice president and foreign dignitaries.
Torres explains that despite his path, he was always drawn to the road.
“My dad drove trucks his whole life, and I remember waking up at one in the morning and going with him on his routes,” he explains. “Being out on the road has always been a passion for me — the outdoors, seeing new places — it is definitely in my blood.”
Torres’ entry into the industry started as far back as his time in the USMC, where he was in charge of the heavy motor vehicles section, which included buses and tractor trailers. While a police officer, Torres also drove motorcoaches for several operations during the weekends.
Torres finally retired from the police force in 2005, four years after he launched DC Trails after purchasing a bus from ABC Companies.
“I knew the business. I knew the safety regulations. I knew my idea of how a business should be run, since I worked for some of the best and some of the worst operations,” he explains . “So, I took all that experience and knowledge and started my own business.”
In 2003, Torres joined forces with his wife Liliana, who founded Quality Tour Transport in 1989, to create the largest and most comprehensive transportation business in the region, boasting over 50 years of experience between them.
Because of their attention to detail and safety, as well as their work with military groups and Hispanic motorcoach operators throughout the industry, METRO Magazine recognized the Torres’ as its 2015 Innovative Motorcoach Operator of the Year at the American Bus Association’s (ABA) Marketplace in January.
DC Trails sets itself apart by paying attention to detail and putting the customer first. Both Torres’ are available to their customers day or night, and both the company’s maintenance and dispatch departments operate 24-hours a day.
“In transportation, when someone has a question or requires help, they need somebody to answer right away. They can’t just wait until the next day when the company opens up again,” Torres says.
Torres adds that he and his wife’s involvement in the day-to-day activities, as well as their training programs, go a long way in conveying their message to employees that the customer is always first.
“It starts with us,” Torres explains. “When the employees see the way we care about the business, our employees and customers, they know every single person is important to the company’s success.”
Perhaps the most critical aspect of DC Trails’ success, though, may be the company’s focus on safety. The company has the highest U.S. Department of Transportation safety rating and is certified by the Department of Defense (DOD) to transport military personnel.
DC Trails monitors all of its drivers while out on the road, enabling them to be immediately aware if a driver is using their cell phone, driving unsafely or otherwise putting its customers at risk.
“The drivers know they’re being monitored, so they’re not going to do anything to jeopardize their job,” Torres says. “I’ve caught one or two drivers breaking the rules, but for the most part, our drivers are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
All of DC Trails motorcoaches are also governed at 65 miles per hour, and following a rash of drivers being cited for various road violations about a year ago, the company instituted a strict no ticket policy.
Torres says he will also go out two or three times a month and follow his operation’s drivers while out on the road.
“I’ll just get behind a bus or two and follow them for about four or five miles,” he explains. “I want to see how they’re driving. I want to see if they’re being aggressive and whether or not they are using the turn signals. All my drivers are aware I do this and know that I can often pop up in mysterious places.”
Giving Back to the Community
DC Trails also gives back to the men and women who serve in the military, including organizations such as Wounded Warriors.
“Just about any organization that calls and is looking for help in reference to transporting Wounded Warriors, you could consider a done deal,” Torres says. “Whatever we can do for them is a small token of appreciation for what they’ve done for us, especially when you see these wounded warriors that are missing their legs or arms. We need to make it right for them, so any little bit helps.”
William is also chairman of the board for the Hispanic Motorcoach Council, which is part of the ABA. He says the most important aspect of this offshoot group is ensuring the dissemination of information and best practices to all operators, regardless of language barriers.
“Many times, Spanish-speaking operators may not go to conferences like Marketplace because they are embarrassed their English might not be proper, so they decide to just go it alone,” he says. “But, by reaching out and getting them to come out to conferences and other meetings, it helps expose them to more information and best practices, especially in regards to safety, which is a win-win for everybody.”