MARCH / APRIL | 2017
Windstar Lines â€“ Values, Quality, Consistency p12
Bus leasing essentials p16 DART streamlines its data p19 Royal Excursion buys with vision p 25
European leading technology Proven reliability
Irizar, among the leading coach and bus manufacturers in the world ----------------------------------------------------------------------INA Bus Sales 5410 Cameron Street, Suite 101 Las Vegas, Nevada 89118 office 702.431.0707 www.inabussales.com
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MARCH / APRIL 2017 CONTENTS
COVER STORY Family values, quality and consistency â€“ the secrets to success at Windstar Lines
The Greteman brothers of Windtar Lines of Caroll, IA, have a family secret!
FEATURES Cummins reveals next-generation X12TM motorcoach engine 15 Innovative 12-liter sets a new standard for power density and fuel efficiency at UMA EXPO
Official BUSRide Roundtable Discussion: Bus leasing essentials
Experts from ABC Companies, Complete Coach Works, Access Commercial Capital, Prevost, REV Group and Wells Fargo Equipment Finance share their insights on bus leasing
Official BUSRide Field Test: DART streamlines its data
Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority uses TransTrack Manager to collect and analyze its wealth of data By Richard Tackett
Official BUSRide Field Test: Royal Excursion buys with purpose and vision
CH Bus Sales responds with worldclass TEMSA coaches and attentive aftermarket care By David Hubbard
Roll the buses; lights, camera, action! The Motorcoach Marketing Council offers tips on photography to help operators capture more bookings
23 ELECTRIFYING TRANSIT By David Warren
29 PASSENGER INFORMATION SYSTEMS By Cliff Anderson
BUSRIDE | MARCH / APRIL . 2017
Exceeding expectations in style and value.
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The Setra ComfortClass S 407CC. Practical luxury, powered by Mercedes-Benz.
For comfort you can count on, and European flair that’s sure to impress, the Setra ComfortClass S 407 delivers superior value and a high “wow” factor, thanks to stylish new exterior options, upgraded seating choices and other improvements. Plus, Setra coaches are backed by the extensive MCI network, giving you unparalleled access to parts inventory, service outlets, training opportunities and more. To find out what a Setra S407 can do for your business, visit www.setra-coaches.com.
Motor Coach Industries · 200 East Oakton Street · Des Plaines, IL 60018 Phone 866.624.2622 · www.setra-coaches.com Distributor of EvoBus GmbH for Setra buses and Setra parts in the United States and Canada.
“Try us! You’ll like us!” says the New York City Cultural Collection The most talented will say the only way to get to Carnegie Hall is Practice, Practice, Practice. For all others, it is actually much easier — just hop on a motorcoach. To make that point, the New York City Cultural Collection was on hand at ABA Marketplace in Cleveland, OH, in January doing what it could to derarify the air too often surrounding Carly McCloskey and Haley Ward take a lighter the visual arts, symphonic music, approach to the fine arts. jazz, ballet and grand opera. The mission was to dispel a few myths and present a more inviting spin on New York City’s iconic cultural institutions, sadly often overlooked as specific travel destinations as entertaining and approachable as Broadway. From their modest booth, equipped with an arsenal of fun props for photo ops with a light-hearted connection to each venue, Carly McCloskey, assistant director of tourism sales for the Museum of Modern Art, and Haley Ward, head of tourism for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, posed and snapped pics of Marketplace attendees that quickly spread out over social media. Representing their colleagues in similar positions at Carnegie Hall, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York City Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera, McCloskey and Ward cheerfully illuminated further options for group travel in the Big Apple.
busride.com VOL. 53 • NO. 3 Richard Tackett
Editor in Chief email@example.com David Hubbard
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BUS industry SAFETY council
As Ward points out, while the Metropolitan Museum of Art may be the city’s most visited attraction, there is always room for more explorers arriving by coaches from everywhere. The New York City Cultural Collection is a consortium of likeminded travel professionals working in similar capacities at their respective organizations. McCloskey says, as friends in the business, the idea occurred to them that they might improve their numbers by sharing their contacts and working together to bring tourists to a collective venue as opposed to just their own. Hopefully their effort at ABA Marketplace helps broaden the horizon for tour and coach operators in search of new adventuresome itineraries. There is no reason not to consider the fine arts, symphony orchestras, opera companies and ballet troupes of every major city as destinations in themselves. We may not know much about the arts, but we know they are liked.
David Hubbard Associate Publisher BUSRide Magazine
BUSRIDE | MARCH / APRIL . 2017
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BUSRide Achievement Award recognizes Mark Richardson for a touch of luxury Each year during the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) Motorcoach EXPO, BUSRide has the privilege to present its BUSRide Motorcoach Industry Achievement Award, which recognizes a UMA member coach operator whose exemplary vision, good work and significant accomplishment stands out. It is never an easy choice to single out one over the many deserving. This year, the honor went to Mark Richardson, president of LimoLiner Inc., the luxury coach service operating between Boston and New York City, which began where commercial airlines fizzled — at least for most of the flying public. LimoLiner coaches inspire a new age of luxury transportation with all the creature comforts — food, drink, hospitality and exceptional service with unexpected accoutrements. Replete with attendants onboard to serve and assist on every trip between major cities in the Northeast, the fleet of seven MCIs is outfitted with two-and-one leather business-class seating for 28 passengers with ample legroom. Quiet cabins allow overthe-road meetings; and galleys to offer complete hot meals and complimentary beverages. What else? Wi-Fi, satellite TV, fresh flowers. blankets and pillows, hot towels and evening wine.
New U.S. Secretary of Transportation welcomed by ABA The American Bus Association recently welcomed the 18th United States Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. “Secretary Chao is an experienced and dedicated public servant and the American Bus Association looks forward to working closely with her to develop policies that will provide for a safe and efficient national transportation system that addresses interconnectivity to meet customer needs,” said ABA President & CEO Peter Pantuso.
CH Bus Sales welcomes Geiger as president/CEO CH Bus Sales, LLC, Fairbult, MN, announced the transition of Duane Geiger to the position of president and CEO, effective March 1, 2017. CH Bus Sales’ current president and CEO, Bob Foley, stepped down and assumed the role of president of Coach Finance Group. Foley will remain an active member on the Board of Directors and will also continue to consult with the management Geiger has served as the executive president of sales and service since Duane Geiger 2011. Prior to joining CH Bus Sales, Geiger owned and operated a real estate services company which began in 2002. He has extensive experience in the motorcoach industry having worked at a major coach distributor for 16 years in key roles involving the company’s sales and service support team when needed. Foley has served as the president and CEO since 2011. In his role he directed the organization to grow from a start-up to 70 employees, with four Bob Foley owned service locations, distributing three TEMSA product models, in addition to starting and managing Coach Finance Group. He also maintained communication between TEMSA Global, CH Bus Sales’ management team and customers throughout the U.S.
DDS Wireless International names Scott Hardy as new CEO DDS Wireless International Inc., Vancouver, BC, and Seattle, WA, a global provider of mobile solutions for fleet management applications, announced the appointment of Scott Hardy as its next chief executive officer. Hardy served as president of the company’s StrataGen division since joining DDS in April 2016 and succeeds the founder and original CEO, Vari Ghai. Prior to his arrival at DDS, Hardy spent 30 years with IBM, where he held senior executive positions within sales, services and consulting, marketing, and headquarters functions in Canada and the United States. Mark Richardson
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WAVE announces ﬁrst UL ﬁeld evaluation certiﬁcation of 50kW wireless charging system Wireless Advanced Vehicle Electrification (WAVE), Salt Lake City, UT, announced the first-ever Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Field Evaluation Certification for its Wireless Power Transfer (WPT) product. The 50kW wireless charging system was deployed at Lancaster City Park and Palmdale Transportation Center for the Antelope Valley Transit Agency (AVTA). UL is a Nationally Recognized Testing Lab (NRTL). Until this time, no official UL standard existed for wireless chargers. The Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) in both Lancaster and Palmdale require UL labeling to ensure the products meet their high quality and safety standards. The WAVE wireless charging system uses a charging pad that lays flush with the pavement, is sturdy enough to be driven on all day without damage, and wirelessly charges the bus during routine stops. In-route charging means less batteries, reduced vehicle weight, higher passenger capacity, and extended vehicle range.
McDonald Transit/RATP to operate Lake County, FL, transit service McDonald Transit, Fort Worth, TX, a division of RATP Dev, announced it has been awarded the contract to operate transit services for Lake County, FL. The County Commission for Lake County selected McDonald Transit through a national competitive process. Contract services began in March and cover an initial period of three years with four additional one-year renewal options. Under the terms of the contract, McDonald Transit will provide management of the operations and vehicle maintenance for Lake County’s LakeXpress, fixed route service and the ADA complementary service, Lake County Connection. McDonald Transit will also provide recruiting and training for bus and maintenance service staff, will assist with the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) National Transit Database (NTD) and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) reporting, and will oversee fare security functions and labor relations.
Patrick Laffan joins MCI as vice president of regional sales, Northeast Motor Coach Industries (MCI), a subsidiary of New Flyer Industries Inc., announced that Patrick Laffan has joined the company as vice president of new coach sales for the Northeast region in the U.S. Laffan is succeeding Darril King, who will retire from MCI on May 1 after a 52-year career in the industry. Laffan will continue to build MCI’s presence in New York State and New England, representing the best-selling MCI J4500 Patrick Laffan and D-Series along with Daimler-built Setra models. He will also work in tandem with MCI’s Technical Solutions Manager, providing MCI training opportunities and service expertise to private sector operators in the region. Laffan reports to Pat Ziska, vice president of new coach sales for the private sector. 8
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Volpe assists FMCA with ﬁre safety analysis
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has contracted The John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to provide data on motorcoach fires that occurred from 2009 to 2013 in its effort to update its latest analysis. Additionally, Volpe included an evaluation of school bus fires, expanded on the evaluation of the effectiveness of automatic fire detection and suppression systems, and identified fires caused by replacement of a diesel engine or automatic purging of diesel particulate filters, all contingent on the availability of applicable data. The Volpe report (FMCSA-RRR-16-016) has now been published, which recommends ways to prevent or reduce the severity of these incidents, especially through improving the effectiveness of vehicle inspection practices. “Transit vehicle fires have safety implications for passengers and employees as well as liability implications for manufacturers, suppliers, and operators,” wrote Fredrik Rosen of the Research Institutes of Sweden, RISE Safety and Transport. “The majority of electrical/arcing fire events lead to a total burn out/loss of the vehicle or serious smoke incidents. Some preliminary work has been undertaken to determine methods to produce repeatable failure modes for testing of technologies, and efforts related to fire detection in heavy-duty vehicles are currently under way. While the referenced efforts do not specifically test for arcing conditions, the testing standards could be modified to support arcing conditions.” The Volpe report (FMCSA-RRR-16-016) can be downloaded from: http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/60000/60500/60502/16-016_School_ Bus_Fire_Safety_Analysis-FINAL-508C.pdf
NEBR relocates to new corporate facility in Long Island, NY Northeastern Bus Rebuilders (NEBR), Deer Park, NY, announced in January its move into its new 65,000 square-foot state-of-theart flagship corporate headquarters in Ronkonkoma, NY; its fourth facility in the Northeast. This location will also serve as a transit bus overhaul facility capable to perform major structural and overhaul work. The facility houses a heated, 100-foot long down-draft, drive-through spray booth large enough to accommodate a 60-foot articulated bus. The new facility also houses a training center for NEBR technicians, as well as an extensive parts department to supply major parts and system components for Cummins, BAE and other OEM parts. Brian Kaminsky, NEBR CEO, says the new headquarters will help the company provide the highest levels of innovative and flexible services and maintenance support. busride.com
UPDATE “From our new location, we can improve efficiencies and increase our output, which will enhance the quality of our work and minimize our customers’ downtime.” Kaminsky said. “This facility will further enable our certified technicians lend their experience and skills in a timely manner with quality results.” NEBR is recognized nationally as a leader in transit bus maintenance, specializing in mid-life overhauls and alternative fuel systems. The company performs all types of structural repairs and fabrication including full floor placement, major collision repair and frame work, and serves as an authorized factory representative for the major transit bus OEMs. NEBR operates transit service centers in New York City, NY and Boston, MA, with a national presence to cover warranty and campaigns. Services include transit bus overhaul, maintenance and warranty support for regional and municipal transit agencies; and meets all state and regulatory authority standards.
ABA Foundation report says motorcoach manufacturing continues to see sales growth The American Bus Association Foundation (ABAF) released the 2016 fourth quarter results of the quarterly Coach Builder Survey. Based on surveys of the major motorcoach manufacturers who sell vehicles in the United States and Canada, motorcoach sales from the participating manufacturers rose by 6.5 percent over the prior year to a total of 3,620 units (2,407 new coaches and 1,213 pre-owned coaches). The survey showed that the growth was dominated by sales to private firms in 2016. Overall, new coach sales to companies was up by more than 195 units (10.9 percent increase). This was offset somewhat by a reduction in sales to public sector agencies of 125 units. In fact, after a flat year in 2014, sales to private firms have risen steadily suggesting that investors are bullish on the sector, and that firms are working to both upgrade equipment and open up new opportunities. Looking deeper, there has been a marked increase in the private sector sales of new small coaches compared to years past. In 2015, 184 vehicles were sold. Small coach sales in 2016 increased 44.6 percent to 266 vehicles. At the same time, sales of the largest coaches (those over 45 feet in length) stayed about the same.
Stertil-Koni awarded NASPO ValuePoint contract Heavy duty vehicle lift leader Stertil-Koni, Stevensville, MD, announced that it has been awarded the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) ValuePoint Master Agreement for Vehicle Lifts and Garage Associated Equipment. The new agreement, which, for Stertil-Koni, represents a contract extension, enables customers nationwide— including municipalities, state agencies, local governments, public works departments, school districts and more – to purchase the company’s heavy duty vehicle lifting systems by means of NASPO’S streamlined, expedited process. Vendors who receive a contract award from NASPO ValuePoint – a nationally-focused cooperative purchasing program – have already participated in the organization’s competitive bidding process. Thus, awardees have been thoroughly screened and vetted to provide the highest quality products, at competitive pricing, to
NASPO’s extensive customer base. In terms of scale, NASPO is made up of the directors of the central procurement offices in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the territories of the United States. The new NASPO ValuePoint Master Agreement for Vehicle Lifts and Garage Associated Equipment, No. 05316, begins February 10, 2017 and is valid for two years, with an extension option for an additional three years.
ABA Foundation elects 2017 members for Board of Governors During the ABA Annual Meeting & Marketplace 2017, the following industry leaders joined the ABAF Board of Governors: Ron Bast, GO Riteway Transportation Group, Germantown, Wis.; Jeff Goldwasser, LaFrance Industries, LaFrance, S.C.; Colleen Laird, Blue Man Group Universal Orlando, Orlando, Fla.; John Percy, Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation, Niagara Falls, N.Y.; Francis Tedesco, Academy Bus, Hoboken, N.J. The current Board of Governors is made up of the following industry leaders: Doug Anderson, Anderson Coach & Travel; Eugene Berardi, Jr., Adirondack Trailways; Brenda Borwege, ABC Companies; Bryan Cole, Super Holiday Tours; Ronald Eyre, Eyre Bus Tour & Travel; Michaela Grundman, CH Bus Sales, LLC; Sara Fuller Hamlin, Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau; Frank Henry, The Martz Group; Tara Hippensteel, Hard Rock International; Tom JeBran, Trans-Bridge Lines; Patti Lloyd, Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce/CVB; Michael Power, Prevost; Kate Scopetti, MidAtlantic Receptive Services; Mike Trageser, Sands Bethlehem; Karl Webb, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC; and Patricia Ziska, Motor Coach Industries.
Prevost names new director for pre-owned coach sales Prevost announced the appointment of Jean Dupont to the position of director of Pre-Owned Coach Sales. Dupont has worked in the bus industry Jean Dupont for over 25 years, most notably as the thirdgeneration owner and general manager of one of the oldest service centers for motorcoaches and motorcoach operators in the province of Quebec (autobus Dupont founded 1936). In 1997, Dupont founded a company called Dupont Industries known also as Dupontrolley. This company built trolley replica buses that were primarily sold to American municipalities (63 trolleys in 13 different states) and also completed major refurbishment of transit buses for municipalities across Canada. Dupont will join the Prevost Business Line management team under the leadership of Vice President/General Manager, François Tremblay. Dupont assumed his new role, based in Sainte-Claire, Quebec, Canada, the first week of January 2017.
Coach USA selects Saucon Technologies ELD solution Coach USA, Paramus, NJ, has selected Saucon Technologies, Bethelehem, PA, to be its ELD Provider. Saucon Technologies is a provider of a broad range of solutions to reduce risk and improve operational efficiency in the transportation industry. busride.com | BUSRIDE
ABA Foundation raises $120,000 for scholarships During the American Bus Association’s Annual Meeting & Marketplace in Cleveland, the ABA Foundation (ABAF) raised $122,071 for its Fund a Future scholarship program through its live and silent auctions as well as the annual Hard Rock Café’s Afterglow party. This year’s proceeds were 35 percent more than in 2016. The money raised is in addition to the ABAF Board of Governors voting to raise the amount of 18 scholarships from $2,500 to $5,000 in September 2016. ABA Foundation’s scholarship season began on Dec. 7, 2016 and will run until April 6, 2017.
Vandalia receives new Van Hool CX45
Vandalia Bus Lines, St. Louis, MO, a family business active in IMG and NTA, and founding members of the Motorcoach Council, took delivery of a new Van Hool CX45. Vandalia operates 67 vehicles and every 3-axle bus in their fleet is a Van Hool. The new Van Hool CX45 is equipped with a 425 HP Cummins ISX 12.0 engine driving through an Allison B500 (Gen5) sixspeed automatic transmission. The 56-passenger luxury coach features Van Hool’s unique rear passenger window, wood grain floor, 110 volt electric plugs, Wi-Fi, and a 6 monitor REI luxury entertainment system. “Technology keeps improving, and we owe it to our passengers to provide the latest and greatest,” said President Dale Streif. “In addition to the terrific amenities now available, we’re investing in the latest safety
BUSRIDE | MARCH / APRIL . 2017
technology such as electronic stability control and lane departure warning systems. We transport everyone from Senior Citizens to professional college and high school athletic teams. Their safety and comfort is at the center of the way we operate our company.” The new coach also features Van Hool safety technology including three-point seatbelts, backup cameras, antilock brakes, Smartwave Tire Pressure Monitoring, Kidde Fire Suppression System, daytime running lights, curbside lighting, and adaptive static aiming lights.
Schmidt named new chair of Museum Of Bus Transportation Board Of Directors David W. Schmidt, Prevost regional sales manager, has been elected board chairperson and museum president for the Museum of Bus Transportation. Located in Hershey, PA, the Museum of Bus Transportation is the bus industry’s most complete museum of bus history education and information. It represents school buses, transit buses and motorcoaches, and features more than 30 historical vehicles and various David Schmidt industry memorabilia. A graduate of Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, Schmidt has spent 44 years in the motorcoach industry, including 30 years with Prevost. He has been a member of the museum since 1995 and a member of the board of directors since 2016.
Annual Youth Art Contest focuses on exploration Metropolitan Transit, San Antonio, TX, announced its annual Youth Art Contest officially open for entries on March 7, and encouraged students throughout the VIA service area to participate. Last year’s contest drew 4,000 entries from student artists in grades pre-K through 12. VIA’s popular art contest marks its 22nd year in 2017 with the theme “EXPLORE … Plan your next adventure on VIA.” Contestants are asked to take inspiration from the region’s rich culture and heritage, highlight area landmarks and points of interest, and feature public transportation scenes in their entries. VIA’s Youth Art Contest is open to students in grades pre-K through 12, and submissions will be accepted through Friday, April 14, 2017. All students in area schools and youth-based organizations are invited to participate. Each grade level will have a first- and second-place winner announced. One entry, regardless of grade level, will be named Best of Show. All winners will receive a cash prize and other recognition at an awards luncheon in their honor scheduled for Thursday, May 18, 2017. The winning artwork will be displayed at various locations, and the Best of Show artwork will be featured on the exterior of two VIA buses, courtesy of Clear Channel Outdoor. Students can illustrate the theme using any medium on an official poster board. The poster boards are free and can be picked up from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, beginning Tuesday, March 7, at VIA’s Administration Building, 800 W. Myrtle St., or the VIA Metro Center, 1021 San Pedro Ave. Entries can be mailed to or dropped off at VIA’s Administration Building, 800 W. Myrtle St., San Antonio, TX 78212 Attn: Jerri Ann Jones. Deadline to submit an entry is 5 p.m. Friday, April 14, 2017.
The design from last year’s Best of Show winner, Roosevelt High School student Thanh (Tammy) Nguyen, was installed on a four-panel roof of a NextGen shelter located near Thousand Oaks and Perrin Beitel Road. This is the first Best of Show artwork to be featured on a bus shelter. For more information on the Youth Art Contest, visit www.VIAinfo.net, or call Jerri Ann Jones at (210) 362-2381.
CIT Signature Transportation takes VIP delivery at UMA Motorcoach EXPO 2017 CIT Signature Transportation, Ames, IA, took delivery of a Van Hool CX45 and a Van Hool CX35 during UMA Expo 2017. As the only transportation provider in the state to have not one, but two 61 passenger coaches, seven transit buses, seven school buses, one limousine, and 4 cars in addition to 13 modern motorcoaches, the all red-colored CIT Signature fleet is clearly recognized in their market – offering a multitude of choices for virtually any size group’s needs. The new vehicles feature Detroit/ Allison (CX45), and Cummins/Allison (CX35) powertrains with their “signature” metallic red base paint exterior. Inside appointments are offered for passenger comfort and convenience and include fabric with leather inserts seating, 110V outlets, Continental 360 camera, and rear window for open views. As with all Van Hool OEM purchases, the new coaches are backed by ABC after-sales support and warranty services.
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Family values, quality and consistency – the secrets to success at Windstar Lines. The Greteman brothers of Windstar Lines of Carroll, IA, have a family secret! In brief: Seek character and nurture talent. Jeff Greteman, Windstar president, says the company has thrived as a family-run business for over 20 years because his parents, the company’s founders, were extremely good at surrounding themselves with people of character and talent. He says that it is extremely important to find quality people who look beyond policies and procedures in order to do what’s right for the company – and most importantly, for the customer.
Pat, Scott and Jeff Greteman
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Pat, Scott, Jeff, Cathy and Mike Greteman
Jeff Greteman believes that an important part of the Windstar legacy has been in how it defines family. Jeff and his brothers, Scott and Pat, run the organization, and mom, Cathy, and dad, Mike, continue to support day-to-day operations. However, beyond blood relatives, they consider their employees, their suppliers and their customers to be family, too. Jeff says that re-defining “family” has been a fundamental ideal that has helped Windstar elevate its company standards, expectations and performance for everyone affiliated with the organization. “If your sibling needed time off to care for a sick child, or to celebrate a special occasion, you’d support that,” he says. “We strive to demonstrate to our staff that they are important to us and we appreciate their need for life-balance beyond the workplace.” This attitude is espoused throughout the organization and the payoff in terms of staff loyalty, commitment and dedication directly benefits Windstar and its customers. Windstar’s “family-minded” culture, combined with a commitment to growth through infrastructure investment, selective staff and driver recruitment, and a targeted diversification strategy are essential building blocks that support the firm’s long-standing, customerfocused foundation. Developing a pipeline to the future Windstar has recently instituted a management training program as a means to find and train future management staff. “Implementing this training program has many benefits for Windstar and prospective employees,” says Scott Greteman, vice president/director of maintenance and IT. “Candidates can get direct hands-on training, real experience, and mentoring.” Training is conducted at the main location in Carroll, IA. Customer service, troubleshooting, and safety underscore all aspects of a 12step training program that moves interns through every functional department within the firm. After successful completion of the program, the trainee may be deployed as a branch manager to other Windstar locations throughout the Midwest region. According to Scott, the program is designed to enhance productivity, offering an effective way to “try out” candidates, while reducing errors in the field, and making a “good fit” between Windstar and potential
full-time employees. He is excited about the long-term potential of utilizing the program as a built-in pipeline to developing a well-trained labor force. Like most operators today, driver recruitment and retention is always a challenge and Windstar is diligent in its recruitment efforts. “As the face of our business, drivers make the first and last impression on our customers,” says Pat Greteman, vice president. “It’s likely the single most important impression we can make with customers every day. We cannot over-emphasize the importance of customer service to our driver staff.” In fact, Pat steers the entire driver recruitment process. He personally reviews all applications and resumes, interviews potential candidates, and works with individual branch managers to transition a driver from candidate to employee. He says his proactive involvement is focused on helping Windstar branch managers maintain a full quota of highquality, highly-trained drivers. “At Windstar, we will not do anything, unless we do it safely,” he says. “And that is the core principle of our safety program.” Windstar employs two full-time safety directors to support operations throughout the region. Weekly management and maintenance meetings are inclusive and encourage input and feedback from all staff members including maintenance staff, dispatchers and management. “We like to keep the lines of communications open, and strive to give our teams an active role in operations,” he adds. “We want their input and their opinions.” Recognizing a milestone with Van Hool and ABC Companies Expanding and maintaining its high-line fleet is an ongoing priority, and Windstar has been purchasing Van Hool coaches from ABC Companies since 1995. While ABC and Van Hool are approaching the 10,000th Van Hool delivery to the North American market, Windstar was identified as the recipient of a another milestone. During the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) Motorcoach EXPO 2017 ABC Companies and Van Hool honored Windstar for taking delivery of Van Hool’s 1000th CX45 model since its introduction in November of 2013. Pete Bachrach, ABC senior account manager, has been doing business with the Greteman family since 2002. busride.com | BUSRIDE
Maintaining full FMSCA compliance is a company priority and XRS operates on mobile devices to efficiently put applications like electronic logging and vehicle inspections in Windstar drivers’ hands. The system delivers a host of cloud-based web tools and applications that give operators real time fleet visibility, alerts, enhanced fleet analysis and more. Jeff maintains that the ability to remotely monitor fleet and driver performance and enhance fleet maintenance workflows, while reducing manual entry, paperwork and record storage are all major advantages. In turn, these advantages contribute to lowering costs and optimizing efficiencies across the board. Windstar first tested the system for six months on the fleet based in the Sioux Falls location prior to rolling it out companywide in October 2016.
“The Greteman family personifies integrity in this business,” Bachrach says. “Their family values, honesty and inclusiveness really raise the bar for everyone in our industry.” Since its market debut last year, The Van Hool CX 45 has quickly become an important staple in the Windstar fleet. With more on order for 2017, Windstar is excited about the flexibility and versatility this model offers. “We have been able to dramatically diversify our service offering using the CX45”, Jeff Greteman says. “It is perfect for everything from high-end tours and general charter service, to fixed route and shuttle service.” Plans are in the works to start a scheduled service that will operate from Lincoln, NE to Chicago, IL, taking over a former route that Megabus operated. Windstar plans to supplement the new route utilizing the Van Hool CX45 and C2045 motorcoaches, and sees this as a prime opportunity to diversify their business and continue to explore other new revenue opportunities. A premium fleet, committed to technology investment Windstar Lines operates and maintains a fleet of approximately 110 luxury vehicles, with the majority being Van Hool models. Their philosophy of offering the very latest upgrades and technology features is essential to supporting the Windstar premium brand status and reputation for offering an upscale passenger experience. Interior amenities like AV upgrades, premium seating, upgraded flooring and decorative interior touches are all employed to maximize passenger comfort and in some cases are a direct reflection of Windstarsolicited passenger suggestions. The company also strives to be first-tomarket in its region with technology advances and fleet improvements that drive more efficiency, safety and reliability. These technologies include: GPS tracking and navigation, accident event-recorders, onboard DVD, Satellite TV, 110 volt power outlets, and Wi-Fi. All are standards within the fleet. “Technology investment has helped us grow exponentially year in and out,” says Pat Greteman. “We are constantly on the look-out for new ways to enhance operations.” Jeff Greteman reports that Windstar has recently implemented a new XRS fleet management system and already sees the benefits the solution offers. “This platform is very much aligned with many of our business, environmental and safety goals,” he says. 14
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Uniformity makes location ramp-up turnkey Windstar’s business philosophy is to keep things simple and consistent. The brothers have developed a template that overlays all aspects of operations so that each of Windstar’s eight locations are literally a mirror-image of all the others, when possible. This harmonized approach to uniformity has been a driving factor for fast startup of new locations, according to the Greteman brothers. They feel confident that the standardized practices, driver protocols, policies, and even identical equipment specifications all contribute to maximized efficiency and profitability across all operations. Centralized sales, marketing and accounting functions have helped streamline operations. Interconnected communication and information systems optimize response time and enhance fleet visibility and utilization. “Whether it’s new electronic solutions to enforce changing regulations and compliance, or a better way to communicate with staff and drivers, when we make changes, we make them across the board,” Jeff Greteman says. “Over the years, we’ve learned that consistency brings great results faster and more easily.” Expansion plans on the horizon With its main office based in Carroll, IA, Windstar’s service area currently encompasses surrounding regions including the entire state of Iowa, Eastern Nebraska (Lincoln/Omaha and surrounding), and Eastern South Dakota from their Sioux Falls location. Windstar covers the Kansas City Metro area, as well as North Central Illinois from its Rockford facility. Additional expansion plans are on the horizon for 2017 to better serve existing customers and grow market share. A full remodel of the Sioux Falls facility was recently completed. The rehab project included the installation of a new service pit for easier maintenance performance, as well as a host of energy-efficient features throughout the 10,000 square foot facility including LED lighting and radiant-heated floors. Windstar’s most recent expansion was in August of 2016 into Rockford, IL with the purchase of Rockford Charter Coach. Windstar already operated from a facility in nearby Rochelle, IL, so it was natural to merge the two into one site, which is the next project of company founder, Mike Greteman. Mike serves as project manager for all company construction projects. Plans for the facility have included upgraded offices, a service pit, energy efficient lighting, as well as additional paved parking for employees and company vehicles. The construction is slated to be complete in the spring of 2017, while they are currently running operations out of the facility. When asked how is it that three brothers can mesh so well into one unified business partnership, Jeff Greteman says, “We share a very unique chemistry between the three of us. We recognize and respect one another’s individual talents and business acumen. And, we trust each other to take the lead in our respective roles and responsibilities.” With that said, Greteman is quick to add that the talent and resources of its dedicated staff is the major ingredient in sustaining Windstar’s success! busride.com
Cummins reveals next-generation X12™ motorcoach engine Innovative 12-liter sets a new standard for power density and fuel efficiency at UMA EXPO Cummins Inc. in February unveiled the next-generation X12 Series engine that is ready to set a new standard for power density and fuel efficiency in motorcoach applications. The X12 provides up to 455 HP (339 kW) and up to 1,700 pound-per-foot of torque available as low as 1,000 rpm to improve drivability. The innovative 12-liter was displayed to the motorcoach industry for the first time at the UMA Motorcoach EXPO from Feb. 26 to March 2. Building on over 40 years of 10- to 12-liter engine experience, the innovative architecture of the Cummins X12 results in a remarkably low engine weight of 2,150 pounds for motorcoach applications, enabled by a sculpted block design that eliminates unnecessary mass while maintaining maximum rigidity. Providing up to 455 HP (339 kW), the X12 power-to-weight ratio of 0.21 HP per pound (0.35 kW per kg) surpasses similar-sized products in the motorcoach market. The use of a rear gear train contributes to overall engine refinement by reducing vibration and lowering noise by at least 1 dBA, for enhanced passenger comfort. The X12 utilizes the new Single Module™ aftertreatment system, which takes up to 60 percent less space and weighs up to 40 percent less than prior aftertreatment configurations. Combined engine and aftertreatment weight for the X12 is around 2,340 pounds – significantly lower than that of any other heavyduty engine. Rigorous testing in the most challenging operating environments around the world has proven the reliability and durability of the X12’s fully integrated components. And with a focus on a low-friction design, helping reduce parasitic losses, the X12 brings further fuel-economy improvements from idle to the interstate for motorcoach operators. A key component to enabling the class-leading fuel efficiency is the Cummins XPI fuel system, which utilizes multiple injection events driven by smart electronic controls. Derived from the X15 engine, the XPI system is scaled down in size for the 12-liter platform, but retains all the same robust characteristics. Along with the XPI fuel system, the Variable Geometry Turbocharger (VGT) is central to the X12 engine architecture, providing versatility to meet the challenges of light-urban, sub-urban or inter-city drive cycles while delivering best-in-class uptime. “We are excited about the value Cummins will bring to the motorcoach industry with the next-generation X12,” says Laura Chasse, general manager – Cummins North America Bus Engine Business. “Built
around improved uptime, fuel economy and providing a class-leading power-to-weight ratio, this really is an engine that is worth its weight.” Building on the Cummins SmartEfficiency™ initiative, the X12 will provide further improvements focused around uptime. With cylinder architecture that minimizes oil consumption, and fully integrated oil return paths that pass through the oil filter, the reduced oil degradation allows for longer oil drain intervals. Additionally, the compact design of the X12 leads to easier access for servicing events, and shares common components with the Cummins X15, including the Single Module aftertreatment system, oil filters and fuel filters. The X12 will be Connected Diagnostics™-capable for motorcoaches equipped with a telematics service. Connected Diagnostics uses the telematics service to wirelessly connect Cummins-powered motorcoaches to product experts at Cummins, for instant analysis and recommended action the moment a fault code is generated. Operators can safely proceed knowing the probable cause and whether service can wait or must be performed immediately.
The Cummins X12 features up to 445 HP.
busride.com | BUSRIDE
Bus leasing essentials BUSRide spoke with a select group of financial thought leaders in the bus and motorcoach industry for a roundtable discussion bus leasing essentials – when to lease, when to buy, and how to make sense of an increasingly complex topic. Craig Lentzsch, executive chairman of All Aboard America! Holdings and former president and CEO of Greyhound Lines, Inc., moderated this high-level discussion with the following panelists: Amanda Carter, national sales manager - Shuttle, School Bus & Coach, REV Group Gregg Goedde, vice president, ABC Financial Services (a division of ABC Companies) Matthew Hotchkiss, vice president – Commercial Vehicle Group, Wells Fargo Equipment Finance Ed Kaye, partner, Access Commercial Capital LLC David Scoular, director of ﬁnancial services, Prevost
Craig Lentzsch: Please identify whether or not you currently have a lease product, either operating or capital, available in the marketplace for motorcoaches or smaller vehicles. Gregg Goedde: We do offer all sorts of leases. TRAC leases, operating leases, FMVs, municipal leases and capital leases – ABC can do them all. I have 25 years of financing experience in the motorcoach industry. The last 22 years have been at ABC where I lead the Leasing Company. Matt Hotchkiss: Within our commercial vehicle group at Wells Fargo Equipment Finance, we have a bus vertical, so we have six people that go directly to the bus industry – motorcoach, shuttle bus, school bus, and some other passenger transportation vehicles. We’ve been in the bus market at Wells Fargo for 15 years now. We offer TRAC leases, split TRAC leases, capital leases and, on a selective basis, we will do fair market value leases. David Scoular: At Prevost, I make sure the customers have financing and leasing taken care of. I’ve been in the finance business for 25 years, and directly in the coach business for approximately 20 of those years. We can offer operating leases, capital leases, and loans on all coaches. 16
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Amanda Carter: REV Financial Services is part of REV Group, a manufacturer of 27 different brands of transportation equipment. I am specifically siloed in the bus vertical. We do offer a wide range of leases. We are very much interested in fair market value leases, specifically for our brands, but we look at others as well. I have 20 years of experience in equipment financing with an emphasis in specialty vehicles. Ed Kaye: We are a re-startup specialty finance company. I and my two partners each have about just less than 30 years of experience in specialty vehicle finance with a concentration in motorcoaches. My One of my partners, Eric Coolbaugh, focuses primarily on motorcoaches, but we also will finance any sort of transportation or livery vehicle for commercial purposes. We offer TRAC leases, operating leases and finance leases. We do not fund FMV leases. We also have a loan product, and we target the small market all the way up to the large coach operators in the United States only. Lentzsch: Let’s start out with a little bit of an overview of the benefits of leasing versus buying. Kaye: In the coach industry, in my opinion, there are certain benefits to leasing versus benefits to financing. It really depends on the size of the operator and the coach that they are trying to acquire. One of the benefits is that you can get 100 percent financing. That’s a common benefit that’s often discussed or thrown out there, but the reality is that you can also get 100 percent financing for a loan. An additional benefit arises if you have a predictable payment stream throughout the life of the lease – for that I recommend that readers consult with their accountants. There could be some tax benefits. Certainly, if there’s a predictable payment stream, and typically on a lease with a reputable lessor, you’re going to know what your options are at the end of the lease. You can either buy it at a fixed price or fair market value price, or you may be able to walk away from it if it doesn’t fit your needs. Basically, the benefits in my opinion are really determined by the coach itself and the customer’s financial priorities. Carter: It really comes down to what is going to benefit the operator. Do they have a specific contract that is driving the purchase? If so, we can suggest a structure (term) that matches the contract so that their expenses are aligned with the contract’s revenue stream. At REV, the fair market value lease is really where our customers realize a significant cost savings benefit because we’re able to tailor that payment to match their budget. Our dealer network is interested in getting the equipment back at the end of the term, which allows us to provide them the most aggressive FMV structure and manageable payments. Lentzsch: That makes that product particularly good for contract situations - three year, four-year, and five-year operating contracts where you match your liability to the revenue stream from the contract – then you can walk away at the end, so you really know what you’re going to make in a contract. Carter: Exactly, so they’re able to tailor that expense with that income. Scoular: FMVs are great for contracted business. When you need to get out of the coach or replace it, or replace the shuttle bus in their position, those are great times for the FMVs. After being in the finance busride.com
business for 20 plus years, we’ve seen a lot of change. When we first started, loans and leases were really different. I think now it’s blurred a little bit because you can do 100 percent financing on a loan basis nowadays. Some of the benefits between lease and loan are kind of blurred. The big benefit, obviously, is if you’ve already used up all your depreciation benefit on a loan basis in purchasing, you can still get a coach before the end of the year at a lower monthly payment. You still have the opportunity to do that. You just passed a depreciation benefit back to the banks and the leasing companies, but you can benefit with the lower payment. The FMV operating leases are definitely good for contracted type business. It matches up well. Lentzsch: On a motorcoach lease, let’s just pull a number, say seven years in with normal residual value, what kind of difference in cost is there due to the tax benefits? Scoular: Obviously, as you get later into the year, that number increases from 65 basis points to, by the end of the year, probably 150 – depending on the leasing company’s tax rate. Lentzsch: Right, and it’s not necessarily a good idea for an operator to let that tell him or her when to take the equipment. But if an operator can take the equipment in the fourth quarter, they should be shopping around for somebody who’s got the tax benefits. Hotchkiss: When we’re talking about leases, there are two very different kinds of leases an FMV and a TRAC lease. The motivation for each lease is different. Interest rate, is very important on a TRAC lease while payment – which is driven by the residual - is the driving factor on an FMV lease, Occasionally I’ll see vendors go to market with an FMV product so they can get an operator to try out their product, so they’ll put it out on a one-, two- or a three- year operating lease. A TRAC lease is really a lease with the ultimate goal of owning the equipment where the finance company is taking the depreciation benefits. That depreciation benefit translates into significant cashflow savings on that financing. If you’re doing a TRAC lease versus doing a loan, you’re probably going to save around $20,000 over the term just in cashflow. Then, of course, you have to compare that to the additional tax you might be paying by passing the depreciation to the lender. Scoular: In an operating lease, sometimes, for larger companies, you have capital expenditure issues. It’s a chance to use operating leases to get some new equipment versus doing it in TRAC leases, which is really a glorified loan. That’s where they use the operating leases to skirt the capital expenditure issue-sometimes in corporate accounts. Goedde: I think there’s a little bit of a different approach that our company can and does take with leasing than the others. Being the only privately held distributor and seller of motorcoaches, we work under a different veil and are able to put a little bit more creativity in to what we do. At ABC, we have our own leasing portfolio that we’re extremely flexible with. We bridge the gap for customers on short-term needs, helping them in particular situations. You could call it an FMV lease, but it’s a “hybrid lease” where we help our customers in their time of need. When we look at financing a customer or when a customer comes to ABC, we have a very inclusive approach with them. We work with them very closely to help them determine what is best for their company. Is it better to have a TRAC lease that helps monthly cashflow or does a loan and depreciation meet their company needs? We always work with the owners and their CPAs to find the best solutions. Kaye: We do both new and used vehicles. The majority of the market is not the large, publicly held companies that are buying coaches. The majority of the market is small and middle market entities, and “mom and pop” operators that have one and two units across the country, and those customers have unique needs. ABC is excellent at helping those customers get into product. We try to assist them when we can,
as well. Typically, those customers are looking for the most affordable rate that fits into their budget to operate one or two units. Lentzsch: What is the best way to produce a lease versus buy analysis? Goedde: At ABC, one of the first things we do is look at the customer’s current fleet, where they’re at in their depreciation currently, and what they have left to depreciate on their existing fleet. We look at what is leased, and what is loaned. I really like to see where they’re at today and where they’re going to be tomorrow, and then couple that with, “Where’s their business going? Where’s their current and future profitability?” Is it a cashflow or depreciation factor and which of those will fit best for them in the future? I’d like to say that I have a magical formula to figure that out. But as we all know, we work with a variety of customers with varied sophistication in their financial statements, so it can be tricky to really put a hard number on that. Scoular: We’ve all been in the credit side. You just have to put your credit hat on, and you don’t play accountant, but you kind of play accountant, in your own sort of way. You just have to look and see where they are and what you think they might need. At the end, you go back to them, and let the accountants help dictate a little bit of that too. Those are the guys that are going to have to answer the questions at the end of the year when the tax orders show up. You do some basic analysis of where they are and their frames of depreciation. Hotchkiss: My simple answer to that is always this: if you don’t need accelerated depreciation, let the finance company take it and get the benefit of that accelerated tax deduction through a lower interest rate. You really have to have your CPA or tax advisor do forward projections on where you’re going to save the most money. Is it going to be on a TRAC lease or is it going to be on taking that accelerated depreciation? Scoular: I’m guessing we’re going to assume that we’re matching term for loa , like 84 20 leases, because the flip side of it is what are you going to do with the coach at the end of the term? What’s your plan with being a coach? Because if you’re going to buy, there may be sales tax issues coming at the end on a lease versus a loan. You also need to know what you’re doing at the end. Assuming we’re all talking about the same kind of structures on a lower lease basis. Lentzsch: Allow me make a quick summary here. First of all, being the finance guy in the room, basically you want to do the analysis based upon future after-tax cashflows each way. Secondly, what is the residual value or the realizable value of the coach at the end after tax? This may include recapture if it’s a loan. Then finally, I would discount those cashflows at the marginal costs or incremental costs of borrowing, not at the costs of capital because it’s a financing decision. What’s the optimal structure for a motorcoach operator’s equipment lease? That’s kind of a loaded question. Carter: The most requested term I’ve seen since joining REV is the 84/20 structure, be it a loan or a TRAC (again dependent upon what tax structure best benefits the customer). Some customers provide longer runs with significantly higher annual mileage requirements, so we sometimes scale to a shorter 72- or even 60- month term. Hotchkiss: I take the conservative approach when I advise my clients on this question regardless if it’s a lease or a loan. That is the shortest term possible that you’re comfortable with from a cashflow perspective. Just like your mortgage, the longer you finance a product, the more interest you’re going to pay over the term of that contract. 84 months to a 20 percent residual or balloon is a typical structure for a motorcoach, but if an operator can get away with 72 months instead and they’re still comfortable from a cashflow perspective, then I think that’s the best way to go. They are saving money and they are going to own assets free and clear sooner. That will ultimately contribute significantly to cashflow and will help them build a stronger balance sheet. It’s going to give them the ability to liquidate if they ever busride.com | BUSRIDE
need to do that, so from my conservative thinking, that’s how they should think about how they finance their equipment. Scoular: If their cashflow can handle a shorter term, that’s the best way to go. I mean, it really comes down to cashflow comfort from a customer standpoint. Kaye: We’ll do 84 to a 20 percent residual, but we’ll also do that on nearly new coaches and on some used coaches as well. The older the coach, obviously the shorter the term, and also the lower the residual at the end for the loan or lease. We try to make a decision on what works best for the customer’s cashflow so that they’ll be able to afford the monthly payment. Goedde: From our side at ABC, we, again, given that we have our own portfolio try to be conservative and flexible in our approach. Lenders need to be accurate in their approach. Structures and terms should be based on credit, geographic region, specifications on the coach, mileage, etc. Each of these items affects the future value of the coach and need to be taken into consideration when determining terms and structure. We even get to the point where we understand our customer’s maintenance profile. What condition of coach are we going to get at the end? At some point in the term operators want to be able to get into upgraded equipment. If we don’t structure it right up front, they’re not going to be able to do that. Lentzsch: Mileage and maintenance. Do you have mileage limits in your leases and do you have detailed maintenance standards or do you just go with ordinary wear and tear? Kaye: On most leases we don’t have a mileage restriction just because it’s not market. Unless, that is, it’s for a specific contract where the lessee will tell us up front that they’re only going to operate the coach for X amount of miles per year, and we negotiate a price accordingly. Generally, there’s no mileage restriction on any coach leases that we fund, similar to the loan product. With respect to maintenance, we have a general maintenance clause in our documentation. We found after 2008, maintenance was a real issue, particularly for small, medium-size operators. It severely impacted the value of the coaches, so we’ve tightened up some of the language in our contract regarding maintenance and it gives us the right to inspect the collateral. This is if we have an inkling that something’s going on with the company, and we decide we need to go in there and make sure that the vehicles are being maintained. Maintenance is critical to us, and when we can, we like to go visit our customers and kick the tires and make sure the coaches are operating the way they’re intended to. Scoular: If I’m doing true operating leases, then yes, mileage is important. There are mileage clauses as well as maintenance standards that we will adjust for a true operating lease. On a typical track lease, tax lease, we aren’t as concerned. Maybe if it’s a line run operator, we might still try to put something in it, but typically, no. It’s really strictly for the true operating lease. Hotchkiss: If we’re doing a fair market value lease, we will use mileage restrictions and we’ll have a pretty detailed return provision in the lease. However, we typically only do fair market value leases in conjunction with a vendor, so we share in the backside risk with the vendor, and we let the vendor dictate what those terms would look like. Carter: Annual mileage allowances and maintenance addendums apply to FMV Leases but not TRACs, lease purchases or loans. However, we work with each individual customer to tailor the product to best fit their needs, so the stated allowance varies. Lentzsch: By the way, the fleet and the character of the fleet is very significant. Are there any particular types of vehicles that you would recommend leasing as opposed to buying? Scoular: This probably goes more to the shuttle bus stuff because it doesn’t hold its value as well as the coach side. It’s always the U-Haul 18
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with the seats versus the coaches. If I’m going to lease something, it’s going to be more of a shuttle bus type thing that I’m going to get in and out of and need to upgrade it a little sooner, because the longevity is not the same as a coach. Carter: A FMV on a high mileage/heavy usage vehicle is not particularly advantageous for the customer. Kaye: Let’s understand what we’re talking about here. Leasing is just a financing tool, basically a target. There are very few leases you can just walk away from in commercial transportation. Goedde: I agree. I think from time to time, a little bit too much emphasis is put on leasing versus buying. For cars you can either get a Ford Taurus for a 36-month walk away lease or pay for it on a five year loan. It’s not quite that simple on the motorcoach side. Banks and manufacturers don’t just take buses back in three years and run them through an auction like cars. It’s a different market. It’s a different mentality. I think the lease versus loan determination becomes more about the use of the equipment and the operator’s effect on taxes. Again, it depends what the operator is trying to accomplish; cashflow or tax savings? On the commercial side you don’t walk away in three years, like on a Ford Taurus. Actually, the obligations throughout the term don’t change a whole lot between a TRAC lease and loan from a commitment side. Lentzsch: Fundamentally then, it’s not a type of vehicle; it is what the use of the vehicle is going to be, although there may be a slight bias toward the small vehicles for leasing versus financing. Still, fundamentally it depends on the use of the vehicle. Are there any considerations for an operator that hasn’t leased before to start to do some leasing? Anything in particular they need to be concerned about? Are there any transitional issues? Goedde: I do a lot of leases just due to geographic location of the customer. In a sales tax state, it’s important to consider a lease to mitigate the upfront sales tax. Sales tax is typically in the 6% range upfront, which is a large expense. By leasing, operators can usually reduce this upfront cost by paying it as monthly rental tax over the time they lease the motorcoach. The state tax basis is a huge driver of whether it’s a lease or a loan. Hotchkiss: Well, I think part of your question is when it makes sense for a customer to transition from doing traditional loans to TRAC lease or other type of lease. The main consideration is if they’re replacing a vehicle that was on a loan which has been depreciated down below the trade value. If they have, then they have a potential capital gain tax that they have to deal with. If they switch to a TRAC lease, they’re going to have to pay that capital gain tax. If they do a like exchange on another loan, they don’t have to pay it, so if you’re replacing vehicles on a loan, it probably doesn’t make sense to replace them with a TRAC lease. If you’re adding vehicles, that’s probably the time to do it. That’s a better transition point. Lentzsch: Do you do any leasing to transit agencies? In essence, public-owned, publically operated entities? Hotchkiss: We do municipal leases, but not necessarily to transit agencies. They rarely have a need because they use federal funds to pay cash for their vehicles. We do a lot of municipal leases to school districts on school buses, however. We also finance motorcoaches on a municipal lease to colleges and universities on occasion. Obviously, that’s a tax-exempt interest deal, so the interest rates are considerably lower. Carter: REV provides both FMV (walk away) and TELP (tax exempt lease purchase) solutions for transit agencies.
O F F I C I A L
BUSRide Field Test:
DART streamlines its data
O F F I C I A L
BUSRide Field Test:
DART streamlines its data Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority uses TransTrack Manager to collect and analyze its wealth of data
By Richard Tackett
espite a wealth of information coming in from various “smart” transit solutions, Elizabeth Presutti, chief executive officer of the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART), says her agency was having a difficult time managing the resulting disparate data points in 2014. “We implemented computer-aided dispatch and automatic vehicle location (CAD/AVL), enterprise asset management (EAM) and a new fare collection system – all from different vendors,” she says. “The CAD/AVL provides on-time performance and automatic passenger counter (APC) data and the fare collection system provides detailed reports about revenue. We had a lot of information but weren’t able to, given our staffing levels, effectively utilize the data from a decisionmaking standpoint. We couldn’t fully manage the system the way it needed to be managed.”
Managing that data was becoming increasingly important. Since its creation in 2006, DART has been the largest public transit agency in Iowa. In addition to the city of Des Moines proper, DART serves 17 other cities in and around Polk County: Alleman, Altoona, Ankeny, Bondurant, Carlisle, Clive, Elkhart, Granger, Grimes, Johnston, Mitchellville, Pleasant Hill, Polk City, Runnells, Urbandale, West Des Moines and Windsor Heights. Furthermore, DART was a member agency of the American Bus Benchmarking Group (ABBG), a consortium of agencies that shares performance data and best practices in a confidential environment. With data collection and analysis being such a crucial part of agency performance and National Transit Database (NTD) reporting, Presutti and her team knew that Excel spreadsheets and manual data entry were too work intensive and time consuming – and no longer viable options.
George Anderson of Anderson Benson Insurance
DART Chief Operating Officer Tim Sanderson presents data to Operations Supervisors (L to R) Mike VanderLinden, Tess Davidson and Neil Hampton.
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Timothy Ruggles, DART staff accountant, is able to quickly streamline multitudes of data points using TransTrack Manager.
Laying the groundwork DART put out an RFP for a new data management system later in 2014, and received proposals from a number of potential suitor vendors. They ultimately settled on the best fit for their needs – TransTrack Systems. TransTrack Systems, Long Beach, CA, provides a business intelligence solution called TransTrack Manager, which turns volumes of transit data into meaningful operational and management information for optimal transit performance. TransTrack says its solution uncovers opportunities for operational improvements and greater efficiencies normally hidden within rich data sources, providing the missing link between operational systems information and management reporting. “Their experience with transit data was important, because we saw that they knew how to illuminate the relationships between disparate data points,” Presutti says. “Their system is also incredibly user- friendly, even providing ease-of-use for staffers who aren’t very computer-savvy.” TransTrack made initial visits to DART in November 2014 to meet with the executive team and list the agency’s expectations and issues. These continued into “baseline” interviews, where TransTrack’s team began gathering information about all of the agency’s data sources – where is the data coming from, who’s using it, and where does it need to go? From there, TransTrack’s team proposed a plan for the system’s deployment and the two teams set to work on implementation. Initially, TransTrack provided a week of onsite training. It involved the basics of using the program – system administration, user security, data updating and route change implementation. From there, different departments, such as maintenance, finance and planning, received specialized training. TransTrack didn’t need to visit Des Moines more than once, as DART elected for continued online training sessions through WebEx. These sessions allowed DART to ask questions and troubleshoot after having used the system.
DART Chief Operating Officer Tim Sanderson and Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Presutti.
“It’s crucial for our reporting system to align with the agency’s strategic initiatives,” says Mary Sue O’Melia, president of TransTrack Systems. “The data that we gather and analyze is useless if it’s not working to help DART meet its long-term goals.” DART’s Operations Supervisory Program The most prominent DART initiative that immediately benefitted from the TransTrack Manager implementation was the agency’s Operations Supervisory Program. The Operations Supervisory Program was devised as a way of connecting DART’s operations supervisors with the agency’s goals of improving safety, customer service and reliability. “We were looking for a way to tie the day-to-day tasks of our supervisors to those goals,” says Tim Sanderson, chief operating officer at DART. The system is a bit like fantasy football draft, where all the supervisors pick their team of bus operators in a draft order. It’s confidential, so the operator who’s picked last isn’t singled out. After every quarterbusride.com | BUSRIDE
year, the bus operators’ “points” are tallied. Operators lose points from preventable accidents, lost-time injuries, customer complaints and other negative events. Conversely, they can gain points by adhering to their schedule and performing safely. “At the end of every quarter, each operations supervisory team has a score – and then the operations supervisor gets a modest budget in order to provide an incentive to their team,” Sanderson says. “It instills a level of healthy competition, and gets our operators and supervisors thinking about our three goals of safety, service and reliability.” Sanderson says that DART would have no reasonable way of enacting the Operations Supervisory Program without TransTrack. The quarterly tallying of points is all thanks to a system that can easily organize and present data like preventable accidents and on-time performance in a meaningful way. “Without TransTrack, we’d have spreadsheets and reports from all over the system,” he says. “It would probably be at least half of someone’s job just to compile and track all the data for the program. Now, it’s as easy as the flick of a switch – everything is compiled in the TransTrack Manager.” Improved service planning DART’s schedule adherence has greatly benefitted from TransTrack implementation - not only for supervisors who can easily use the system to check in on their assigned team of operators, but also for DART’s schedule adherence committee. Every few months, the committee runs a massive TransTrack report and is able to see anomalies from a macro level. “Agencies don’t notice schedule anomalies, whether they’re caused by a driver or the system, unless they’re routinely analyzing reports in a conscientious manner,” Sanderson says. “The passengers, however, see them immediately.” “One of the best values of TransTrack is that it easily allows us to slice and dice data in different ways,” Presutti adds. “Rather than just looking at it based on true, on-time performance, we can also drill down to the operator level to get a better understanding of what the data is telling us. It’s a full-picture view, as opposed to surface level.” Ridership analysis has become incredibly streamlined, as well. Previously, multiple spreadsheets were required to track ridership by route. With TransTrack, DART is automatically importing data from multiple sources. Managers still see daily ridership, but it no longer requires someone to type in numbers for every route, every day. DART also conducts manual passenger boarding and lighting 22
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checks, utilizing “ride checkers” in the field. TransTrack provided a handheld app for DART’s ride checkers, to further automate their business processes. “The app makes it so that ride checkers no longer have to re-key all of their information,” O’Melia says. “Previously, they’d record information on paper and then re-key it into the master system when they returned to an office. This is important, because those manual surveys are needed to validate with the federal government.” NTD reporting DART’s required NTD reporting has transformed from a painstaking process of manual calculation, to the press of a button with TransTrack Manager. The system has also helped ensure that the data found in these reports is valid, and is validated consistently throughout the year. “We had a tendency in past history to leave NTD reporting for the end of the year, which always took much more time,” says Tim Ruggles, staff accountant at DART. “If there was a discrepancy in the data, we’d have to return to months-old data records to solve it. Now we make sure the data is accurate at various times throughout the year so we do not have to validate it all at one time.” A bright future “DART, to their credit, has taken total ownership of the system,” O’Melia says. “They’ve made it their job to understand how it works, and it’s doing wonders to improve safety, service and reliability at the agency.” Presutti and Sanderson say that DART’s future outlook is very optimistic, thanks to the critical data reporting and analysis capabilities they’ve gained through TransTrack. “We have data that comes from a variety of different sources, and being able to use it effectively to make decisions is only going to become more and more critical as we look to the future,” Presutti notes. “Greater Des Moines is a growing area, and we will continue to focus on mobility throughout the region. Having the data to back up our initiatives, and demonstrate the full story of the organization, is so important.” “You can’t improve what you don’t measure,” Sanderson adds. “TransTrack Manager allows us to tell that story of what we’re doing to improve. It’s become a big part of our dialogue when talking to our community and stakeholders.” busride.com
Electrifying Transit Buying an electric bus? Early planning is critical By David Warren
Passenger load carrying capability Passenger carrying capability is determined by the number of seats on the bus plus standees. The number of allowable standees is based on the available floor space while not exceeding the gross axle legal load ratings. The latter becomes a major challenge on an electric bus, even with the most advanced next generation automotive batteries on the market. It’s important to have the bus manufacturer conduct detailed passenger load weight studies to determine if the electric bus will carry the same number of passengers as the CNG or diesel bus it’s replacing. Energy cost Electricity use is metered and electric price charged is dependent on several factors which must be considered. Demand charges may be imposed based on highest capacity required during the given billing period, typically a 15-minute interval during that billing cycle. The electricity price may also depend on Time-of-Use (TOU) energy to power the electric bus, including winter and summer rate schedules. Consult the utility company to fully understand the rate structures and strategies to manage both Demand and TOU electricity rates.
ith a battery-electric bus, reducing emissions and greenhouse gases in our communities is the ultimate goal. Pilot programs for electric buses are being planned at small to large transit fleets across North America. Each opportunity for electric buses has unique considerations when it comes to the operating duty cycle and transit service characteristics. Battery electric buses have inherent challenges compared to diesel or CNG buses. They are typically heavier, more expensive, and require unique infrastructure to cover the same range with the same passenger load carrying capability as a non-electric bus. With adequate planning and analysis, the added capital costs for electric buses and infrastructure can be offset by operational savings and funding strategies to ease the impact of the incremental upfront costs. The following are some considerations and tips for the early planning of an electric bus deployment: Range Battery electric buses ranges are tested by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) test protocol which includes three types of duty cycles – central business district, arterial and commuter routes. A limitation of the FTA range test is the exclusion of heating and air conditioning (HVAC) energy loads; a very significant factor in hot and cold regions. Additionally, range should be calculated using “useable battery capacity;” typically 80-90 percent of the manufacturers rated battery capacity. And finally, gradeability and the number of stops on the route will adversely affect range. Consult the bus manufacturer on the energy consumption for the specific application and routes under consideration. All of these variables can be simulated in computer models to more accurately determine the real-world range capability of the electric bus.
Charging infrastructure There are two types of electric bus charging stations and equipment infrastructure – 1) Depot Plug-in Charging, and 2) On-Route Charging (either overhead or in-ground wireless). The type considered directly depends on range, passenger loads and energy costs. If carrying the highest number of passengers is the top priority and the route chosen is conducive for on an onroute charger, this strategy would allow the bus to operate around the clock and carry as little as 25 percent of the batteries of an extended range bus. If energy cost is the primary consideration, an extended range bus, potentially carrying fewer passengers and charged overnight with plug-in charging, may be the most economical alternative. There are many options to configuring the electric bus specifications to the ideal charging strategy. The key to a successful electric bus deployment is to start the technical and infrastructure planning discussions early to identify the best solution before establishing the budget and project scope. Funding electric buses and infrastructure Once the best electric bus and charging strategy is identified, there are several paths available to assist transit agencies offset the incremental capital costs. Industry programs, such as the Federal Transit Administrations’ Low or No Emissions Program (Low-No Program), state rebate programs, and partnerships with utility and infrastructure partners can help offset the costs to deploy zero emission technology. Battery leasing, an option endorsed by the FTA, can offset initial costs with ongoing payments. Seek the assistance of non-profit clean transportation organizations such as CALSTART or the Center of Transportation and the Environment to identify funding strategies to acquire zero emission electric buses. David Warren is the director of sustainable transportation for New Flyer and oversees activities related to the company’s commercial and technical support for low and zero emission bus programs. New Flyer is the only manufacturer in North America that offers three types of zero emission electric buses – battery electric, trolley electric, and fuel cell electric. Visit www.newflyer.com.
busride.com | BUSRIDE
Working Together to Solve Your Puzzle The cohesion of these four companies is for the benefit of solving all of your transportation needs. From full rehabs, to repowers, sales, and leasing, we can solve your problem whether big or small. completecoach.com transitsales.com sblbus.com zepsdrive.com 800.300.3751 | 800.BUS.SALE
BUSRIDE | MARCH / APRIL . 2017
O F F I C I A L
BUSRide Field Test:
Royal Excursion buys with CH Bus Sales
busride.com | BUSRIDE
Shannon Kaser, president of Royal Excursion
Royal Excursion vision O F F I C I A L
BUSRide Field Test:
buys with purpose and
CH Bus Sales responds with world-class TEMSA coaches and attentive aftermarket care By David Hubbard
BUSRIDE | MARCH / APRIL . 2017
resh out of college in 1998, Shannon Kaser had no experience with motorcoaches, but he knew that he wanted to run his own business. Kaser could see a likely niche for a few vans in his hometown of Mishawaka, IN. He trusted his solid work ethic engrained since childhood when he worked weekend auctions with his father. Relying on his sense of creativity and imagination, he took a calculated risk and founded Royal Excursion with one 12-passenger van. One year later he added a minibus to meet growing demand for his service. In 2000, Shannon purchased his first motorcoach. By 2002, Kaser and his team were operating as a full-fledged charter tour company. “Never have I tried to estimate how big our operation should be,” Kaser says. “Royal Excursion has always been about being absolutely certain we are doing the best we can for the customers we already have.” That said, customers were coming back and Royal Excursion continued to grow. Today, Kaser’s transportation company operates a mixed fleet of 60 assorted automobiles, limos, vans and motorcoaches, and employs 130 team members in three divisions — charter and tour, shuttle and fixed route, as well as a transit management component. Shortly after CH Bus Sales, Faribault, MN, launched in 2011 to represent the Turkish bus builder TEMSA in North America, it connected with Royal Excursion. “My relationship with CH Bus Sales goes back even further than 2011,” Kaser says. “When I first entertained purchasing TEMSA coaches, I knew the people who founded the company from their previous positions, and trusted their opinions and commitment. I also knew several operators running TEMSA vehicles, and valued their comments and reviews. Together, they gave me faith to try TEMSA coaches myself.” Randy Angell, account executive – Midwest Region at CH Bus Sales, says he enjoys a friendship with Kaser that has lasted for years – and he has been selling Kaser coaches since 2007.
“What I know of Shannon, he’s the kind of person who likes to think about things before making a move. He has always taken a long hard look before purchasing one more coach,” Angell says. “He didn’t just jump into his first TEMSA. First, he had to see a specific use.” Kaser says he wasn’t necessarily considering a shorter coach when he elected to give the 30-foot TEMSA TS 30 a try, conceding that he could see the positive benefits it could offer some customers. “We made the buy only after this coach had passed muster not only with our customers, but our drivers and mechanics as well,” he says. “I was pleased that all three groups gave the TS 30 their approval.” Shortly after, Kaser found a better fit with the 38 passenger TS 35, which allowed for more guest seating and ample luggage space for longer trips. Angell says Royal Excursion is one of many TEMSA operators to have experienced the entire Northern American offering of the 30-foot TS 30, 35-foot TS 35 and 45-foot TS 45 models. Presently, the TEMSA wing of Royal Excursion’s fleet stands at three TS 35s and two TS 45s, with possibly a few additional 35-footers to be added this year. “Our shorter coaches have turned out to be a big hit,” Angell says. “The message we hear from customers is that, for just a little more money, they feel the TS 35s are a better value. They offer far more comfort and a better experience than other minibuses – and they accommodate more passengers.” In comparison, Kaser finds the practical differences between 30 and 35 feet less significant than those of the TS 35 compared with the TS 45. Kaser says, with the TS 35 model also available, he’d need a very specific use for a 30-foot vehicle before re-purchasing one. He says, in most cases, smaller groups that are moving short distances and don’t need much luggage space, are satisfied with one of Royal Excursion’s cutaways. “We can’t book a group of 35 when we’re able to only seat 30,” he says. “But, we can certainly put a group of 25 in a 38-passenger coach and still have them not feel the bus is half empty.” busride.com | BUSRIDE
The 38-passenger TEMSA coaches are among the most utilized vehicles in Royal Excursion’s fleet.
“Have we ruled out purchasing another TS 30?” he adds. “Absolutely not. It’s the perfect motorcoach for small groups going long distance that need more comfort, amenities, and luggage space than the cutaway user. We just need the market for it.” He attributes the recent gains in TEMSA market share to the TS 35 model. Kaser notes that while they were a unique offering during their first year, Royal Excursion business clients are now requesting the 35foot coaches as part of their contract renewals for the coming year. “It hasn’t taken them long to catch on,” he says. “Our customers were quick to realize that the TS 35 offers the same benefits as a 45-foot coach — it’s just 10 feet shorter.” “The TS 35s are the most utilized vehicle in the entire Royal Excursion fleet,” Kaser says. “They are far and away the most chartered and the most profitable.” With the new TEMSA buses in the fold, Royal Excursion drivers weighed in. As they are the employees who spend the most time with the rolling stock, the company wants them to feel comfortable and secure with their coach, and pays close attention to their observations and feedback. Kaser says drivers often voice their approval of the vehicles’ easy handling in cities and high traffic, along with the simplicity of the controls. He says they are “absolutely bonkers” over the extremely tight turning radius. Timing is everything Looking back, Kaser says Royal Excursion was in the market for new coaches when CH Bus Sales formed to distribute TEMSA coaches in North America. 28
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“At the time, I was hesitant to mix my fleet any more than I had already,” Kaser says. “That, of course, all changed when I found out who the people were running the company. Combined with the opinions I was hearing from my colleagues, I jumped right in.” The road forward “I am comfortable in knowing most of the CH Bus Sales staff from before as diligent and courteous professionals who stand behind their products,” Kaser says. “They most recently helped us with an emissions issue when our TEMSA coaches started re-generating a little too often. Our CH Bus Sales tech responded immediately when we called. He gave us a to-do list to try; he overnighted a part; and we had the problem resolved the next day. Those are the kinds of people we want to buy from. CH Bus Sales has assembled a solid team that’s been in the industry for a long time. They get it – and that goes a long way.” According to Angell, the number one commodity CH Bus Sales brings to the table, after its line of TEMSA coaches, is, of course, superior aftermarket service, led by Marvin Borntrager. “I absolutely believe our company defines itself by how we answer the phone anytime, 24/7, when our operators have issues,” Angell says. “We always take the calls when there is any sort of a problem or breakdown with a coach, regardless of the OEM.” “What I enjoy most about working with Shannon and Royal Excursion is that they always come to us with a strategy,” he adds. “That’s why they work well together. He never buys a bus just to buy a bus. He has a reason, and that reason is his vision for a successful, competitive operation. He is always focused on providing the best service and coach experiences possible for his customers.” busride.com
PASSENGER INFORMATION SYSTEMS
Five key advantages of a passenger infotainment system
General policies / Safety messaging Passenger safety and policy messaging can be periodically scrolled across the TFT screens, to the benefit of infrequent or new customers. Now transit agencies can efficiently advise all riders of behavior policies and recommendations on safety (“Hold onto rail”, “Stand behind the line”) eating/drinking, fighting, vulgar language, or other conduct, regardless of where they may be seated/standing.
By Cliff Anderson Mass transit passengers are busier and more technologically aware than ever. Their expectations for public transportation agencies to reliably and consistently get them where they need to be, when they need to be there, without hassle, continue to increase. To enable a smooth trip, a passenger infotainment system is a critical communication link for a transit agency and their riders. Passenger awareness in their journey A passenger infotainment system empowers the transit agency to provide passengers with real-time, accurate bus location, schedule updates, and key announcements. Bus route and destination data, arrival/departure time schedules, and service changes are just a few of the real-time information updates passengers need. With cloudbased programming content and wireless communication devices, the transit agency can keep riders abreast of almost anything impacting a rider’s trip.
Personal security of the passengers, driver, and property Public transport security for passengers and drivers, as well as on-board equipment, are ongoing priorities for transit agencies. This has led to increased human and video surveillance by transit police. By integrating onboard CCTV cameras with passenger infotainment system TFT displays, riders will know that any crime committed can be recorded. While this may not always prevent a crime from happening, it certainly notifies the violator that documented video evidence may lead to quick apprehension by law enforcement officials.
Paid advertising for the transit agency Passenger Information Systems are also a platform for creating new revenue streams for direct advertising. Vibrant high-definition TFT screens enable the advertising content (pictures, videos, graphics, text) to impressively promote local businesses, upcoming sports & entertainment events, current news, time/date, weather, and more! The content can be triggered on date, time, stop, or location to ensure that the content is displayed precisely at the targeted moment.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires transportation vehicles to be accessible by individuals with disabilities such as blindness, hearing/ speech impairments, and other conditions. By utilizing a passenger infotainment system with “stop requested” visual and audio announcements, transit agencies can comply with these requirements and create a better experience for all riders. All riders get clear and accurate announcements to help them comfortably get to where they are going.
So, as you can see, a passenger infotainment system is a robust, multi-faceted information communication tool. Keeping all passengers informed, safe, and entertained, while creating a return on equipment investment, is easily within the grasp of transit agencies. Cliff Anderson is marketing manager for Luminator Technology Group, a provider of mass transit destination signs, on board infotainment and passenger information systems. Visit www.luminatortechnologygroup.com/
busride.com | BUSRIDE
Roll the buses; lights, camera,
The Motorcoach Marketing Council offers tips on photography to help operators capture more bookings
hen it comes to running a motorcoach company, photography hardly registers in the minds of operators. Nonetheless, for charter and tour consumers, a striking photograph can prove to be the deciding factor when choosing one company over another. Taking a decent picture seems easy enough – just point and shoot. Unfortunately, without giving thought to how take the photo, the coach sometimes doesn’t come across as luxurious. Instead, the image may then require a thousand words. A good photograph begins with good equipment. This is not to say that the company needs to run out and spend thousands of dollars on a professional digital camera. However, if striking images of the fleet are part of the marketing plan, it would be best to keep a smartphone in pocket. These days, a quality digital camera is as inexpensive as it is easy to use. With these pointers, taking a decent photo is almost point and shoot. A good photo is all about lighting; a tough subject for novice photographers to get their heads around. The best advice is simple: wait for bright sunny days to photograph the fleet. The fl ash in the camera is typically good for only up to 15 feet. It certainly won’t light up the inside of the coach, front to back. 30
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Framing and composition is next. The best shot often requires the assistance of the driver to help position the coach. The biggest surprise to novice photographers on a coach assignment is finding what they may have accidentally caught on film. In framing the shot, be aware of what is outside and around the vehicle, such as street poles and electrical wires. Position the bus in an enticing setting with an interesting background, a local landmark or a favorite destination. A rule of thumb is to take the photo from anywhere but in the yard or a parking lot. Curbside or on the street is best. When shooting inside the cabin, be aware of the scene outside the window and be sure it belongs in the photo. Don’t be surprised or disappointed afterward if it makes the photo unusable. In any setting, make the coach the focus. One more point: whether the coach is parked or appears to be moving, make sure there is a driver behind the wheel showing through the windshield. This is subtle, but for marketing purposes, the driver offers more impact than an image of an empty coach.
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