By Rick Stoff
GILLESPIE, Ill.—Cavallo Bus Lines has closed its doors after 76 years. Former employees began posting job searches on the internet on about Aug. 12, and a tour operator nearby in central Illinois gave its customers the news.
“Timi’s Tours was recently made aware by the management team of Cavallo Bus Lines that effective immediately all operations at Cavallo Bus Lines have ceased,” the company’s owner, Timi Kaufman, wrote on her website.
Cavallo’s 220 employees were given the news the day the company closed its doors, said Timi’s Tours Vice President Jack Kaufman. “The employees were conference-called on Monday and told the company has been put into assignment with a bankruptcy firm and they will be out of employment as of 2:30 p.m. Two of the office staff are still there to help finalize everything.”
Cavallo operated from Gillespie and terminals in Indianapolis and Springfield, Mo. In 2016 the company was sold by the Cavallo family to Bennett Capital Partners of Alexandria, Va.
About 75 drivers, mechanics and office staff in Gillespie were told they would be paid through the following day but would not receive pay for unused vacation time or severance, employee John Schmidt told WRSP-TV in Springfield.
The sudden closing left some customers struggling to find replacement transportation for the coming weekend. Greater Saint Mark Missionary Baptist Church in Indianapolis had paid Cavallo $1,200 for a day trip, Christian Education Director Lena Williams told WXIN-TV in Indianapolis. A day after Cavallo closed, Williams received an e-mail informing her the company would not transport her group. Williams paid another charter company $1,000 to handle the trip. She said the Cavallo e-mail told her the company plans to liquidate its assets and she could file paperwork to try to recover the church’s money.
Other customers in the region were not able to secure alternative carriers, Timi Kaufman said. “A lot of companies are struggling to find buses. I’ve actually had other companies reach out to me today and ask if I knew of anywhere to find a bus. I of course send them to some local partners that they’ve already called, and they’re out. There are no buses left.”
Cavallo’s snapshot on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website lists 112 power units and 193 drivers that traveled more than five million miles in 2017. In the past 24 months it had recorded no recordable crashes while seven vehicles and one driver had been placed out of service.
Cavallo coaches were seen in the St. Louis suburbs the weekend before the closing, assisting in the shuttling of thousands of people between a remote parking area and the PGA Championships.
“This news was disheartening to all of us at Timi’s Tours,” wrote Timi, who used Cavallo exclusively for her national tours and called them invaluable to the company’s success. “We regret that some of the professional motorcoach operators that you have come to know and love will no longer be part of our team.
“However,” she told her customers, “we do anticipate some familiar faces behind the wheel and within our company. We have secured partnerships with some of the most respected names in transportation to provide you with the level of service you have come to expect from Timi’s Tours and our partners.”
Cavallo staff members were securing new positions within the week of the layoffs, Jack Kaufman said. “I know that our two lead drivers have accepted employment in the industry. We have hired three drivers for positions within our company as well. I know charter companies are all trying to get drivers into jobs quickly, and several went to entertainer coach driving.”
The website of new owner, The Bennett Partners, says it specializes in “the acquisition and recapitalizations of middle market companies, family-run and founder-led businesses, industry consolidation, management buyouts and corporate divestitures.”