ST. LOUIS — Village Tours & Travel of Wichita, Kan., and CIT Signature Transportation of Ames, Iowa, were recognized as representing the best in the motorcoach industry at the UMA Leadership Awards Celebration.
Village Tours won the prestigious Vision Award for large fleet operators with 15 or more coaches and CIT Signature Transportation won the Vision Award for small fleet operators with fewer than 15 coaches.
They were among several award winners named during the annual event, held Feb. 28 during UMA Motorcoach Expo 2017.
“The Vision award recognizes those companies that establish new standards of performance, companies that raise the bar in all areas — marketing, maintenance, operations and safety,” UMA Chairman Dale Krapf said before introducing the winners. “In short, these companies give us a target to aim for, a higher standard to measure ourselves against.”
Jeff Arensdorf, president of Village Tours LLC, and John Grzywacz, owner of CIT Signature Transportation, acknowledged staff and family, among others, in receiving their awards.
Grzywacz also took the uncommon step of thanking his competitors.
“I want to thank my competition — Arrow, Windstar, Hawkeye — you guys set a standard in the market, a standard that I have to uphold,” said Grzywacz, whose wife, Kim, accompanied him on stage. “Any athlete will tell you that if you want to become the best, compete against the best. I do that daily, so thank you.”
Arensdorf, of Village Tours, said he and his father, Norman, bought the company in 2000 and have enjoyed the ride.
“My dad is the one that I want to thank the most right now,” Arensdorf said. “He has allowed me a lot of freedom to expand and grow, professionally and in the industry, but he’s also there as my anchor to kind of rein me in a little bit and say, ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’ Everybody needs somebody like that and I appreciate that.”
Other honors at the dinner included the UMA Green Highway Award (sponsored by MCI), given to Karst Stage of Bozeman, Mont., which operates motorcoach tours and charters, and school bus and transit services.
Karst co-owner Dan Martin noted that he lobbied his local transit system to cut a route — even though it cost him a lot of money — because the bus wasn’t filling up and it wasn’t environmentally responsible.
“We’re green because we want to preserve the mountains, the streams and the beauty that surrounds us every day,” Martin said.
In other awards, the 2017 UMA Maintenance Competition grand champion was Tim Brown of Huskey Trailways of Festus, Mo., who won the award on his birthday and was expected to become a grandfather for the first time on March 1.
First runner-up was Eric Hale, Holland America Princess, Alaska Yukon. Second runner-up was Pete Haunold, also of Holland America Princess, Alaska Yukon.
“When the boys from Alaska show up in the lower 48 it gets serious,” Kevin Whitworth of Whitworth Bus Sales Inc., who helped to create UMA’s Maintenance Interchange, said in announcing the winners.
Other awards were handed out Feb. 27 at the UMA Expo Luncheon.
The Safety Leader of the Year Award went to Young Transportation of Asheville, N.C.
“We’ve made this a part of our daily culture, not our monthly culture, our yearly culture; it’s a daily culture,” said Thomas Crouch, president of Young Transportation, said of safety.
The BUSRide Industry Achievement Award from BUSRide Magazine went to Mark Richardson, president of LimoLiner Inc. of Stoughton, Mass, which offers luxury bus service between Boston
and New York City.
“Although we cater to a high-end market, we’re like everyone else here, it’s all about customer service and safety,” Richardson said.
Metro Magazine’s Motorcoach Operator of the Year Award went to the father-son team of Tom and Michael Giddens of Pacific Coachways Charter Services Inc. of Garden Grove, Calif.
“Like all of us, we all strive very hard to provide the best service, and without a great staff we can’t do it,” Tom Giddens said.