CBA addresses industry challenges during 48th annual convention

West Coast operators who attended this year’s California Bus Association (CBA) annual Convention & Trade Show on Oct. 23-26 in Rancho Mirage, California, took part in valuable business sessions, networked with colleagues and enjoyed the amenities at Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa.

The 48th annual event addressed driver recruitment challenges, California Air Resources Board rules and the feasibility of battery-electric fleets, along with other topics aimed at increasing members’ operational success in 2023 and beyond.

MCI VP Tom Wagner presents CBA 2022 Maintenance Technician of the Year Award to Marcelo Pacheco of Santa Barbara Airbus, who is pictured with with colleague and Santa Barbara Airbus CEO Samantha Onnen. (Photo by Terrapin Blue)

Manufacturers and suppliers to the motorcoach industry showcased their latest innovations and sponsored many of the sessions, dining experiences and awards ceremonies. The convention, which had a “Westward Expansion” theme, once again attracted operators from Nevada, Colorado, Washington, Arizona and Utah, as well as California.

“We want operators from out of state to share in our expertise and have the chance to get involved,” said Vickie Cole, CBA President and co-owner of American Stage Tours in Concord, California.

“There is great potential for CBA to help operators in all neighboring states, especially those without an association of their own,” added Mike Waters, Service Delivery Director with Coach USA/Megabus and Chair of the CBA Convention Planning Committee. “CBA has the capacity to do more with Vicki Bowman as our Executive Director and a resource channel to legislators in those states on matters of interest to the industry.”

Robust membership, vibrant marketplace

Waters’ lifelong career in the motorcoach industry began in 1967, when he was hired as a teen to help maintain his uncle’s San Francisco bus fleet. Later, he established his own charter company, the former Pacific Coast Bus Service, in the same city, and now Waters applies his experience to the greater good of the industry.

CBA 2021 Operator of the Year winner, Jasmine Sayah, Best Tours & Travel, presents CBA 2022 Operator of the Year Award to Robert Saucedo, Carreras Tours. (Photo by Terrapin Blue)

“CBA’s organizational power and expanded membership will provide a rich environment for suppliers,” he said. “We aim to benefit OEMs with a robust membership and vibrant West Coast marketplace, because CBA depends on and appreciates their support to keep us going strong.”

Prevost, the manufacturer of the H3-45 and X3-45 touring coaches, partnered with CBA as this year’s corporate convention sponsor.

“We applaud the important work CBA is doing to represent and advocate for motorcoach operators, strengthening their presence westward and keeping members up to date on legislation affecting the industry,” said Tom Crowl, Prevost National Parts Director, who spoke at the Prevost-sponsored Oct. 25 luncheon. “We look forward to working together with CBA in the coming year and being part of this outstanding organization.”

Coaches on display

Prevost displayed a 2022 H3-45 equipped with a Volvo D13 engine and its exclusive Cloud One Seats. Two executive sponsor partners took part in the event, as well: MCI exhibited CBA member Ebmeyer Charters’ clean-diesel MCI J4500, and ABC Companies showcased its CX 45 model. 

Dan Tomlinson and Steven O’Shea of Lancer Insurance present CBA’s 2022 Driver of the Year, Large Operator, to Cinnamon Langs of VIA Adventures Trailways. (Photo by Terrapin Blue)

CBA recognized all contributing and supporting partners and event sponsors with on-site recognition and promotion across all social media platforms.

American Bus Association (ABA) President and CEO Peter Pantuso and United Motorcoach Association (UMA) President and CEO Scott Michael presented national industry updates. 

“I was delighted to attend my first CBA Conference and share an update on all of the exciting things UMA is doing for our members.  It was great to see a strong turnout as the industry came back together in Rancho Mirage,” Scott said.

Discussion on battery-electric coaches

CBA’s general session brought together MCI’s Brent Maitland, Vice President of Private Sector Sales, and ABC’s Bryan O’Connell, Senior Vice President of the Western Region, for a panel discussion on electrification infrastructure. Both MCI and ABC offer battery-electric coaches with models already in operation, providing commuter shuttle service in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dan Tomlinson and Steven O’Shea of Lancer Insurance present the CBA 2022 Driver of the Year, Small Operator, award to Josephine P. Lal of Starks Enterprises Transportation. She’s pictured with her granddaughter, Sanaiya Anderson. (Photo by Terrapin Blue)

“The purpose of CBA’s convention is to help members find solutions,” said Cole, who is working with Waters and other CBA members to get an exception to California Air Resources Board’s proposed rules on battery-electric vehicle regulation. “We are working on getting our message to CARB and having a voice on behalf of our industry about the feasibility of electric vehicles fulfilling charging and luggage requirements on long-distance tours and charter trips.”

Other educational sessions covered driver recruitment and retention, insurance issues, California regulatory compliance and bus safety laws.

Keynote speaker Eric McElvenny, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, became an Ironman Paralympian after losing one of his legs in Iraq. McElvenny used his story as an example of how to triumph in difficult circumstances. The Pittsburgh resident’s inspiring presentation, “From the Military to the Finish Line and the Habits We Can Use to Embrace Life’s Challenges,” touched on how grit and resilience can help you reverse a feeling of defeat.

Member excellence

Recognizing excellence among its members, CBA honored Carreras Tours, of Ontario, California, as Operator of the Year and Marcelo Pacheco, of Santa Barbara Airbus, with the MCI-sponsored Maintenance Technician of the Year Award. Lancer Insurance-sponsored Driver of the Year Awards were presented to Cinnamon Langs, of VIA Trailways, in the large operator category; and Josephine P. Lal, of Starks Enterprises Transportation, in the small operator category.

Next year’s CBA annual convention will be held Nov. 4-7, 2023, at Silver Legacy Resort in Reno, Nevada. Members and prospective members are also invited to join the association for its annual maintenance seminar, which will include a vendor showcase, from Feb. 28 through March 1, 2023, in Hayward, California. 

“We’re always looking at what’s around the corner and finding ways to benefit from membership in CBA,” Cole said.

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