A little over a month after her passing, Judy Streif’s spirit was felt by two of her children who run the family business, Vandalia Bus Lines, as they were on stage to receive the UMA Vision Award for a large fleet company.
Melissa Kaemmerer, company treasurer of Vandalia Bus Lines (VBL), dedicated the award to her mom, who died Dec. 30 at age 84.
“This award was Mom and Dad’s vision,” Kaemmerer said, her voice breaking with emotion. “They built this company. When Dad died (in 1996), we were all thrown into positions we weren’t familiar with, and with the guidance and assistance of Mom we grew the company. And now, our long-term goal is to grow the company with the second and third generation, making it more successful in the future.”
In accepting the award, which was presented at the UMA Awards Gala on Feb. 6, Vice President Dennis Streif described the honor as “more exciting” than winning the NCAA championship, a Masters, the Stanley Cup and the Super Bowl.
“This award represents the best practices and culture that our VBL team carries out every day,” he said of the company purchased by the Streif family in 1975. It celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2022.
Working harder and smarter
Named after the south-central Illinois town where it was founded, Vandalia Bus Lines now is based in Caseyville, Illinois, outside of St. Louis.
“This Vision plaque is just a material display of what all of us can earn,” Streif said. “VBL earns this through long, hard and late hours, as you do. … There’s an old cliche that you work smarter, not harder. With our team, we do both. A coach will never go out on the field and tell his team just to work smart. He wants them to also work hard.”
He added that he credits his success to three pillars: God, family and our country.
“There’s an old catchphrase, ‘God is my co-pilot.’ I’ll tell you what, God is my pilot, and I’m just along for the ride,” Streif said to a round of hearty applause.
He said the company’s success is built on hard work and innovation that extends beyond the Streif family.
“This is larger than the 10 family members that Leon and Judy raised,” said Streif. “It’s our staff, our drivers, our bus washers. It’s (also) our suppliers.”
Active in industry
Streif, an outgoing UMA board member who was honored at this year’s EXPO for his longtime service, emphasized the importance of giving back to the industry.
“It’s been the networking associations and folks like you over the past 20 years that have helped us grow this business,” said Streif, who is also a founding member of the Midwest Bus & Motorcoach Association. The company is also a member of IMG and the Spader Group.
Vandalia Bus Lines is “a true family business in every sense of the word, and it takes pride in the fact that multiple generations are still actively involved in the company,” said Mike Canine, Chief Executive Officer of Lorenz Bus Service, who presented the award..
Canine’s family-owned Minneapolis company was last year’s award recipient.
The award recognizes UMA members at the forefront of the bus and motorcoach industry who engage in sound business practices and innovative approaches to customer service and safety, and raise the standards and profile of the entire motorcoach industry.
Under the Streif family, Canine said, VBL has become a company that embodies the future of the motorcoach industry, fostering an environment where drivers and employees have become family.
“They believe that if you take care of your employees who are on the front lines and the face of the company, that they will, in turn, take care of the company and its customers. In other words, a happy and relaxed driver generally translates into a profitable company,” Canine said.
“Dedication, great customer service, leadership and safety are traits that are instilled deep within the fabric of their organization, with veteran drivers mentoring newer drivers, and the leadership of the business ensuring that the sense of family and customer service stays central to what they do.”