2016 Innovative Operators: Coach Tours Ltd.
Coach Tours Ltd. was started in November 1984 by Ira Steinberg and Kelli Simmons, with Mike Neustadt joining in 1987 to handle increasing sales and regulatory concerns. In the beginning, the company had two buses: one that ran and one that didn’t. Originally taking over the tour operation of another company that was going out of business, the company eventually grew into a successful transportation operation.
As the company flourished, President/CEO Steinberg hired more management and safety employees, in addition to his team of drivers. Being a smaller company has its advantages for Steinberg, since he gets to know many of his employees personally.
“I know what’s happening in their family life to a certain extent,” he says. “It’s helpful if someone who’s been an excellent employee for years suddenly seems to have a problem.”
Steinberg also offers to help by giving them more time off, if needed. “We’re big on time-off for family functions,” he says. “If someone has a graduation and they let us know a few weeks in advance, we schedule a driver to take their runs.”
This is what sets Coach Tours apart from other motorcoach companies: the fact that they really care. Their satisfaction guarantee promises that if the customer is unhappy with the service they receive, they will be credited for the entire trip. “It works really well, and we get very few claims against it,” says Steinberg.
The company’s safety record is a definite point of pride as well. “In the early years we had a lot of problems with drivers getting into fixed-object accidents,” Steinberg says. “We worked on it for a while, and eventually, came up with a program where we offer them a dollar credit — not actual money — that they can accrue over a number of years. If they do have a problem, we take the cost of the damage out of the credits they’ve built up.” If a driver exhausts this credit, however, the money starts to come out of their paycheck. This incentive has reduced accidents by 90%, according to Steinberg.
Networking is undoubtedly a large part of the company’s success as well. They are a part of both the United Motorcoach Association and the American Bus Association. Additionally, they have a network they’ve developed with other charter companies up and down the east coast. This allows them to get very quick service in the case of an emergency. The company is also fully-licensed and insured for both motorcoach travel and tour operator liability, and has received the highest safety rating from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
To keep up with environmental regulations, Coach Tours keeps their buses as up-to-date as possible, meeting and sometimes exceeding the current requirements set by the EPA. Older equipment is rebuilt to the highest standard possible, depending on the engine. Now mandated by the federal government, the company switched to ultra-low sulfur diesel as soon as it was available several years ago, and has also started a program where drivers don’t idle more than five minutes.
As far as challenges go, Steinberg says the hardest part is dealing with the lack of people who want to do the jobs that used to be easy to fill. This is in part because of the odd hours — a typical work day normally runs 16 hours to 17 hours. The company’s biggest success, however, is that the customers they’ve had 34 years ago are still mostly with them today. Their average driver has been around 14 years or 15 years. Steinberg himself used to be one and says, “I still love the buses, so it makes it easy. I’m basically just a very lucky driver.”
Reference: 2016 Innovative Operators: Coach Tours Ltd.