Saturday, May 25, 2019

Terry O'Toole TLPA President Terry O'Toole New Orleans — The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association will now be named The Transportation Alliance.

The name change is part of a strategic positioning and rebranding effort that has been underway for more than a year within the 101-year-old trade association. The name was unveiled and officially adopted at a meeting of the group’s membership during its Spring Conference & Expo, which ran from April 24-26 in New Orleans, La.

“The Transportation Alliance is a modern, inclusive name we can all embrace as we look to the future of how our professional for-hire fleets connect with passengers,” said association president Terry O’Toole. “Transportation is one of the most rapidly changing industries on the planet right now, and that will continue. We needed a name that welcomes old and new partners alike into our broadening tent, and The Transportation Alliance imparts that strategic direction.”

The association has changed its name several times over the past century to best reflect its membership, which now spans 250 cities on four continents. Its last name change was nearly 30 years ago.

The new name was the product of several strategic planning sessions in 2018 aimed at positioning the association for the changing landscape of transportation. The name change and associated rebranding are expected to be fully in place within the next 90 days.

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Tracy Raimer ILLBA President Tracy Raimer Rosemont, Ill. — The Illinois Limousine & Bus Association (ILLBA) will be holding its annual in-person meeting May 15. Befitting the association’s first year under a new name, the event will be held at a new location, Edward Hotel/Victoria Banquets, just minutes from O'Hare International Airport.

The annual gathering typically brings together industry members from not only local metro areas but also all across the country—and features speakers, panelists, and facilitators representing various facets of chauffeured ground transportation.

And this year’s event is no exception.

The full day of networking, updates, speakers, education, and even a few neat prizes will include opportunities for vendors to showcase their products and services while all in attendance will be able to learn more about the likes of DOT compliance, digital marketing, updates about operating in the city of Chicago, and what ILLBA is doing for its members and the industry in general.

Industry representatives like Florida Limousine Association President and NLA board member Rick Versace and Chauffeur Driven Publisher Chris Weiss will talk about matters immediately impacting the industry; an update from the City of Chicago Business Affairs and Consumer Protection will provide further insight into local concerns. And both the ILLBA Meeting Committee and the association’s president Tracy Raimer of Windy City Limousine & Bus will discuss what the association has done and will continue to do for the industry both at the regional level and beyond.

Those who register for the meeting—which welcomes current ILLBA members and non-members alike—by May 3 receive the discounted early bird rate. Included with meeting registration is a ticket to attend the pre-meeting networking cocktail reception, which will be held the evening May 14 at the Edward Hotel.

Anyone interested in staying at the meeting’s host hotel should book by May 10 and mention the meeting for ILLBA’s block rate of $109/night.

To register for the event, click here; for more information, contact ILLBA Executive Director Paula DeBiasi at either or 630.665.9133.

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A1 MCI J4500 MCI J4500 motorcoach branded for A-1 Limousine Des Plaines — Motor Coach Industries (MCI), a U.S. subsidiary of NFI Group, has announced that A-1 Limousine will round out its 20-coach fleet with two 2019 MCI J4500 coaches and two all-new 2019 MCI J3500 coaches. These coaches mark the return to the luxury 35-foot coach market for the Princeton, N.J.-based company. One of A-1’s newest J4500s was the featured MCI coach in American Bus Association (ABA) Foundation Live Auction at ABA Marketplace Jan. 25-29 in Louisville, Ky. Proceeds from the auction event benefit the ABA Foundation’s scholarships and motor coach travel and tourism research.

A-1 President Jeffrey Starr, president of A-1, planned to bid on the newest J4500 at ABA “before I walked in the door,” noting that “I already knew the model’s features and value and won.” The son of founders Michael and Marilyn Starr, Starr helped the family business expand from traditional limousines and vans into motor coaches in the 1990s as corporate clients began asking for ways to move larger groups.

That strategy would begin with MCI pre-owned coaches and a longtime working relationship built with MCI Regional Vice President of Pre-Owned Coach Sales Walter Sturdivant, a 45-year career veteran at the company, and Regional Vice President of New Coach Sales Greg Lukas. Starr explains that MCI quality, person-to-person service, and parts support have kept A-1 loyal.

“Every transportation company owner-operator can agree that an out-of-service vehicle is not only detrimental to the business financially, but we are also unable to meet the needs of our customers,” said Starr. “I’ve always counted on MCI for parts and now under NFI Parts, service is even better.” A-1’s newest coaches, scheduled for delivery later this year, also have Starr looking forward to MCI’s new 35-foot era.

MCI Vice President of New Coach Sales Pat Ziska, says: “We’ve been very proud to help A-1 build this business. Successful limousine operators like A-1 helped us realize that it was time to re-enter the 35-foot coach market with the creation of our new J-Series.”

“MCI builds great buses,” added Starr. “The 2019 J4500 and J3500 designs are fantastic. From the turning radius features on both models to the redesigned spacious interiors for maximum seating capacity, MCI coaches are intelligently engineered.”

A-1 is taking its new J4500 coaches in a roomy 60-seat configuration and its two J3500 with a 44-seat layout. All four coaches will also carry optional programmable multicolor interior lighting and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that help drivers prevent incidents in highway and local traffic.

These four new J3500s will replace the company’s longtime “F coaches” built by MCI in Mexico more than 20 years ago, and will support a fast-expanding coach business, explains Starr. With nearly 130 mini-buses, vans, and sedans, the company is electing to grow their coach fleet “with a goal of refreshing our motor coaches with two new coaches every few years because that side of our business is really growing,” he explained.

A-1’s culture of personal service and schedule, time-keeping management has made it particularly adept at managing large group travel.

Starr recalls the time his business was responsible for transporting 700 students to an event in Philadelphia that required 175 motor coaches (sourced with nearby operators) with pinpoint drop-off and pick-up schedules of less than a half-hour. A-1 managed it all by placing 30 people on the ground at the right locations and having bus mechanics available to service coaches if required. “We have the know-how, technology, and communication systems in place that helped us complete that move and many others to perfection,” said Starr.

“It’s also about A-1’s staff,” says Starr. With a staff of nearly 250 including drivers, A-1’s longest employee, who ran dispatch over a 55-year career with the company, has just become a consultant on future projects. Additionally, the company’s roots in sedan-based transportation have transferred its chauffeur philosophy to A-1’s coach business. Starr explains that many of A-1’s coach drivers were once sedan and limousine chauffeurs who understand deep, longtime customer relationships and the nuances of personalized on-time service. Each A-1 coach driver receives ongoing safe driver and first aid training throughout the year.

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