Optimism Shared At UMA Expo For Bus & Coach Industry

 By Harrell Kerkhoff, Busline Magazine Editor

UMA Ribbon Cutting

UMA President & CEO Scott Michael, left, and Board Chairman David Moody officially open the exhibition hall in Orlando.

As attendees and organizers looked ahead with confidence, while at the same time recognizing past industry challenges and accomplishments, the 2023 United Motorcoach Association’s (UMA) Motorcoach Expo took place in January, in Orlando, FL. The four-day event included an exhibition floor, educational tracks, guest speakers, an awards ceremony and several after-hours celebrations.

“Our industry has returned to a new normal, and you might say, the industry is back,” UMA Board Chairman David Moody, of Holiday Companies, Inc., Randleman, NC, said, during the UMA Opening Session, Active Member Meeting & Legislative and Regulatory Update. “For many operators today, business still looks and feels a little different than before (the pandemic), but we continue to do what we love.

“I have had the pleasure of leading our organization over the past year, and like always, when developing Expo’s content and scheduling, we have kept in mind this event is a place where new friendships are made, old friendships are renewed, maintenance problems are discussed, leaders are taught, drivers compete and are honored, products are viewed and deals and decisions are made. This year’s UMA Expo has been built for its members.”

It was announced by UMA after the Expo that attendance was up by over 300 attendees from the previous year. Participants came from  44 states, six Canadian provinces and nine countries.

UMA President & CEO Scott Michael also addressed membership during the Opening Session. He highlighted four areas that the association is working on to better meet member needs. They are:

Providing added information about the industry, such as through the UMA weekly online town hall meetings, as well as various educational sessions and seminars provided at Expo, and throughout the year. Another key part of information gathering for business owners in the industry is participation in the Spader 20 Group program. Operators can learn about best business practices, key data and how they compare to similar companies — all in an effort to make better business decisions.

“We (UMA) have designed, working in partnership with Spader Business Management, a new 20 Group concept that will provide access to more companies. It’s a great opportunity for more business owners to test the 20 Group program, and to see if it’s something that makes sense for their companies,” Michael said.

Helping to grow business for UMA member companies. Michael said that includes working with the Kelly Anderson Group, in an effort to improve employee recruitment practices within the industry. He also spoke of the advantages of busrates.com and cyberuma.com.

Helping membership connect with others to build future relationships. That includes participation in the annual Expo, as well as the UMA weekly town hall “overdrive” segments, where operators can interact online with fellow operators, located across the country.

Michael added the Expo also features the annual Maintenance Interchange, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in Orlando. It’s an event where maintenance professionals share best practices and work together to build relationships.

Another way UMA members can connect is through participation in various committees that the association has in place.

Protecting the industry, through lobbying efforts; participation in the Bus & Motorcoach Industry Legislative Fly-In, scheduled for April 18-19, 2023, in Washington, D.C.; and with donations to the UMA Motorcoach Travel PAC (Political Action Committee). Michael said the Travel PAC plays a key role in supporting members of Congress who support the bus/motorcoach industry.

2023 Legislative &  Regulatory Update

Following the Opening Session and Active Member Meeting each year, UMA Expo attendees receive a Legislative & Regulatory Update. It focuses on recent, and possible, changes taking place on Capitol Hill that will, or could, impact the U.S. bus and motorcoach industry.

The update is annually presented by UMA lobbyist Becky Weber, managing director of the Prime Policy Group; and UMA Vice President of Legislative & Regulatory Affairs & Industry Relations/COO Ken Presley. Weber and Presley addressed several legislative and regulatory questions, asked by UMA Legislative & Regulatory Committee Chairman Alan Thrasher, of Thrasher Brothers Trailways, Birmingham, AL, who served as moderator.

Weber provided a recap of legislative “wins and losses” in Congress since the emergence of COVID in 2020. She noted the U.S. bus and motorcoach industry received $2 billion through the federal government’s Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act. Recent efforts, however, to receive additional relief for operators through a CERTS “refill” have fallen short.

Work does continue to gain eventual approval in Congress for a CERTS tax exemption. Weber said bus/motorcoach industry lobbying efforts have been active, since the passage of CERTS, in hopes that those funds are not counted as a company’s gross revenues.

“We have spoken with all of our sponsors (in Congress) after Christmas, and they continue to indicate their support (of the industry),” Weber said.

She added it’s been a tempestuous time in Congress, as the U.S. House of Representatives had historic difficulty electing a House speaker. Much discussion has also been made regarding proposed rule changes in the House.

“Winston Churchill once said, ‘Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried.’ Sometimes (democracy) is really messy,” Weber said. “What is happening is a reflection of major divisions in the country. A minor change in the electorate can produce major changes in policy.”

She added a greater bipartisan effort will be needed in Congress to get major legislation passed in the near future.

According to Presley, representatives of UMA and the bus and motorcoach industry as a whole, will continue to work with Congress to help operators succeed in 2023 and beyond.

“There is a well-worn path to Capitol Hill made by people representing our industry. The objective is to guard against regulatory overreach and those regulations that would adversely impact our industry. It’s important to always be prepared, while developing key relationships,” Presley said.

Efforts continue to preserve the industry’s fuel tax exemption, along with a new provision that enforces better toll equity for bus/motorcoach companies, Presley said. He added work is also taking place to preserve the industry’s overtime exemption. That includes addressing recent issues involving bus drivers operating smaller vehicles.

Other important issues that need a constant watch, according to Presley, include any future proposed changes involving sleep apnea as well as minimum insurance limits.

Industry News Surrounds UMA Expo

TEMSA Financial Services Announced: TEMSA Financial Services is the result of a collaboration between TEMSA and Auxilior Capital Partners, a sales catalyst finance company. TEMSA Financial Services offers customers acquisition methods for its full line of motorcoaches.

According to TEMSA Managing Director Fatih Kozan, “A branded finance offering is now part of the total solution TEMSA North America offers its clients, and aligns with our goal to be among the world’s most customer-centered businesses. We chose the Auxilior team because of their long and successful history in rolling out finance programs and enabling sales and market share growth for their partners. In addition, our value of innovation is aligned, so we knew that providing our clients with a seamless finance experience, enabled by world-class technologies and a focus on service, was guaranteed.”

TEMSA Financial Services allows clients to be approved for up to $350,000 with application only.

“Lower total cost of ownership takes on new meaning with customized finance structures to meet clients’ business and balance sheet needs,” according to TEMSA.

TEMSA Financial Services’ finance executives are aligned geographically with TEMSA’s regional sales managers. Visit www.temsa.com.

MCI Announces Peoria Charter Coach As Winner Of UMA Environmental Leadership Award: Motor Coach Industries (MCI), a subsidiary of NFI Group Inc. (NFI), has announced that Peoria Charter Coach received the United Motorcoach Association’s (UMA) Environmental Leadership Award.

Sponsored by MCI, the award was introduced in 2008 to honor operators that demonstrate the greatest commitment to environmental sustainability in their business practices.

“Peoria Charter is a leading industry example of green stewardship,” MCI Vice President, Private Sector Sales and Marketing, Brent Maitland said. “The Peoria Charter team is forward thinkers in their fuel conservation policies, and we applaud their efforts in promoting the environmental benefits of travel by motorcoaches, powered by clean diesel technology.”

Peoria Charter Coach, a Midwestern charter coach and scheduled service provider, operates across three locations in Illinois, including its newest site in Chicago. The company runs a fleet of newer model coaches, using biodiesel.

Peoria Charter President Bill Winkler, a third-generation family member to run the company, advocates that taking a motorcoach, powered by clean diesel, is the best environmental transportation choice a traveler can make.

“We are as close to zero-emissions as we can be,” Winkler said. “The exhaust on today’s motorcoaches is cleaner than the air coming in. Protecting the environment is a value we uphold, and consistently promote, to our ridership. We are delighted to receive this award.”

Each of the company’s 40 coaches displays a “Powered By Clean-Diesel Technology” badge. Visit mcicoach.com.

ABC Companies Takes Customization In New Directions: ABC Companies, a provider of motorcoach, transit and specialty passenger transport equipment and electric mobility solutions in the USA and Canada, showcased its flagship Van Hool CX45 and CX35 models during the 2023 UMA Expo.

The fully-loaded models integrate an expansive array of available features and upgrades that reflect the latest trends in graphic applications, high-end interior finishes and enhanced driver functionality, according to ABC Companies.

“Passengers expect, and demand, a luxury transportation experience today,” ABC Companies President and CCO Roman Cornell said. “These enhanced models demonstrate a fully-immersive passenger experience with features that can be specified on new equipment, or in some cases, retro-fitted to late model coaches, to achieve a major impact on riders and create a truly premium experience.”

Feedback from customers, drivers and the traveling public all contribute to ABC’s continuous updates and evolution of the CX product lines. That includes a fully restyled cabin interior, with relocated lavatory and upgraded passenger entry, as well as an enlarged driver’s area with integrated digital dash. New features that top off the list for 2023 are driven by customer requests and include: Smart Wheel, Predictive Cruise Control, engine mounted A/C compressor, a relocated holding tank and electric radiator fans.

The new 2023 Van Hool CX45 also integrates numerous improvements both interior (climate control, seat fabrics) and exterior (body, tires, wheels), as well as electrical and lighting upgrades, along with electronic leveling control.

Visitors to the ABC booth, during the Expo, also could view the “blacked out” theme graphics featured on a Van Hool CX35. This fully-loaded demo was designed for major impact from outside in. Featuring a black matte tone-on-tone wrap — designed, printed and installed by ABC Graphics — the vehicle provided a fresh new look that showcased an operator’s brand.

Onboard the CX35, passenger amenities and high-end finishes are designed to impress with immersive ambient lighting, modified contoured parcel racks with (2) 15” & (2) 23” monitors, sleek seating featuring leather inserts and piping, card tables, and USB outlets. Owners and drivers appreciated the 360 exterior view camera system, ViriCiti Telematics System, mirrorless rearview cameras, LED sequencing turn signals, docking and fog lights. A show floor unit also included generous driver, passenger and safety features — all standard on this model. Visit www.abc-companies.com.

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