One of the perks about being a motorcoach driver is visiting interesting and beautiful places. Fortunately, many drivers like to share those amazing views with friends on social media.
Five years ago, Vandalia Bus Lines decided to capitalize on that and created an annual photo contest for its drivers with cash prizes.
Not only has the contest been a fun morale booster, but the photos have been so good that they are being used in company marketing, said Sara McGee, Sales Representative for Vandalia, which is based in Caseyville, Illinois, just east of St. Louis.
Drivers can submit as many photos as they want. The photos are judged by all the employees based on quality and uniqueness.
Photos with passenger groups encouraged
“We do recommend taking pictures with the group. However, they have to get consent from the group to use it,” said McGee, adding that photos have to be nonpolitical.
“We put them on display on our big main TV in the lounge so customers see them when they come in,” she said. “We also utilize them in our advertising, both on and off social media, and in recruitment, as well.”
The first place prize was $250, second was $150, and third was $100. This year’s winners are Delbert Kelley, Joe Schobert and John Ritter, respectively.
All three photos will be used by the company. The top two were taken with phones.
The contest went on hiatus during 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic.
With 35 entries, judging this year’s contest wasn’t easy. Employees are the judges.
The stories behind the photos
The winning photo was taken at the Crazy Horse monument in South Dakota by Kelley, who was on a Diamond tour in summer 2019 when he took the photo.
“I was really surprised to find out that I’d won the contest,” he said. “There were so many amazing pictures to choose from. I honestly can’t imagine what made them pick mine.”
Kelley has had his class B license for almost 20 years, but drove delivery trucks until 2016. He decided to switch to motorcoaches when he and his wife decided to relocate from Kansas City to St. Louis to be closer to family.
“I knew of Vandalia Bus Lines because my father and sisters drove for the company back in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, so I thought they’d be a company I’d enjoy working for and luckily was right,” Kelley said in an email. “I can’t think of any other job I’d enjoy more. Customers always ask me if I like driving buses. I tell them I really do. I get to experience so much more with this job than I ever would have with the others I’ve had.”
Joe Schobert said he was excited to win second place. His photo, taken Feb. 10, is of a Vandalia bus in front of a mural painted on the back of the Hampton Inn hotel in downtown Houston.
“My interpretation of the painting is to bring communities together and help stop hunger,” Schobert said in an email. “Putting the company bus in the picture only seemed fitting as it reminded me of tougher times during the pandemic, when I wasn’t working much but my employer (Vandalia) still found the resources to pay its employees and then found us work in our community, volunteering at food pantries, churches, and nursing homes, to name a few places.
“It was definitely a rewarding experience, and one I will never forget. I have been with the company a little over seven years now, and enjoy every minute of it.”