The MLS is Back Tournament isn’t just good for the world of soccer. The pro soccer tournament that began this week in Orlando, Florida, is bringing some much-needed work to motorcoach operators.
Empire Coach Line is one of several operators contracted to provide transportation for the teams during the tournament, scheduled to go through Aug. 11. The work involves getting players to their hotels, practices and games.
The league contracted with Transportation Management Services (TMS), which is organizing ground transportation. TMS decided to spread the work between a couple of operators.
This week, Empire’s sleek red Van Hool coaches began ferrying the L.A. Galaxy team.
“It’s a bit of a relief,” said Eddie Serrano, Vice President and General Manager at Empire, of the high-profile work. “It’s a breath of fresh air to finally see some coaches back on the road. The drivers were excited to be able to get back to work, get out there and do what they love to do.”
With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Florida, Empire is taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of its employees and passengers. All players and others traveling on the buses are wearing masks.
“We’re making sure we’re following the cleaning and sanitizing procedures that we have in place. Buses are being sanitized daily as they complete service. Drivers are sanitizing the high-touch areas throughout the day as they’re out there, as well,” Serrano said.
The company installed a plexiglass protection barrier between the driver and the first two empty rows. Hand-sanitizer stations have been installed at the entrance and in the lavatory at the back of the bus.
“We’ve done some training with our drivers to make sure they are the first one off the vehicle and then they stand a good 6 feet away from the entrance of the vehicle as passengers are loading and unloading unless assistance is required,” Serrano said.
As an extra layer of biosecurity, random testing is being conducted on the coaches throughout the day to check for microbes.
Longtime TMS supplier
For nearly 15 years, Empire has worked as a supplier for TMS.
“So, we have a very strong relationship with them. They know the level of service and equipment that we always provide them,” Serrano said.
He started the family-owned business with his mother, Patty, right out of high school in 2005.
“We each bought a used bus and now operate a fleet of about 46 vehicles,” Serrano said.
Like other operators, the past four months have been excruciatingly slow, but business is starting to come back gradually.
“It will be quite a bit of time before we get back to the numbers that we previously saw, but work like this helps,” said Serrano. “It’s a piece of business that’s not just for the day or two, but will be 30 to 40 days of business every day, and we’re appreciative of it. We’re getting back to doing what we love.”