The annual regional meeting of the Motorcoach Association of South Carolina, North Carolina Motorcoach Association, and Virginia Motorcoach Association was held in Blue Ridge Mountains of Roanoke, Va., this September 16-20. The Hotel Roanoke & Convention Center was the perfect host property for the several hundred motorcoach operators, vendors, and staff who joined the five-day event. It included individual association meetings; education sessions with representatives from insurance, the leading national bus associations American Bus Association (ABA) and United Motorcoach Association (UMA), and government agencies like the TSA; a Market Place of affiliate bus companies operating in the region; and up-close look at the latest motorcoaches on the market; tons of networking; and lots of opportunities to enjoy some downtime with fellow operators. Managing Editor Susan Rose was on hand for the weekend events.
Like our industry, motorcoach operators are highly collaborative and often work in many different states, and thanks to proximity and shared issues, the meeting of the three associations was the ideal chance for many affiliates to enjoy the company of old friends or meet new ones. The trio also share an administrator—Linda Morris—who did an amazing job leading the charge in uniting members for the event.
Because motorcoaches are regulated through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), all operators are facing the implementation of electronic logging devices (ELDs) by December 2017, and it was one of the hottest topics across all sessions of the event. According to Suzanne Rohde with ABA, all efforts to repeal or again postpone ELDs have failed. It was clear, however, that there were still a lot of lagging questions from those companies that haven’t yet installed the devices—and even more frustration from those who have.
Danielle Smith of the FMCSA also attended the conference and tried to clear any confusion regarding ELDs—with some success. ELDs were born out of the trucking industry and were applied to motorcoaches, which have very different methods of operation. She admits that some of the more nuanced issues will be resolved over time as they are brought to the attention of the agency and tried to allay any fears that operators may have. ELDs log to the second, so operators and drivers alike will have to be mindful of Hours of Service and break periods because even logging on several seconds too early restarts the eight-hour break clock.
ABA and UMA will continue to monitor the situation and will report on any changes or rule modifications.
Security was also a hot discussion topic as the use of larger vehicles have been linked to recent terrorist activities in Europe. According to Joe Lopez and Darryell Williams, both TSA inspectors for the Department of Homeland Security who spoke at the conference, because of the lockdown of airline safety, terrorists are looking for other ways to target multiple groups of people via trains, buses, and subways. Both Lopez and Williams offered suggestions for driver training, especially in how to handle the situation should an item be spotted, and encouraged all motorcoach operators to take these threats seriously. They stressed that it’s better to be safe than sorry when dealing with suspicious items, because the device is often triggered when it’s innocently opened by a well-meaning driver. Lopez and Williams also noted that operators are welcome to have assessments of their facility done by the TSA, which includes recommendations for training, tightening security, and best practices.
Despite the seriousness of the trending topics, the event overall was filled with warm Southern hospitality and sparked a lot of great conversation. As motorcoach companies are often family-owned operations passed down through the generations, the industry has benefited from that closeness.
It wasn’t all work and no play: Attendees had a chance to enjoy some fun-filled tours that were related to the area, including a Shop ‘Til You Drop and Downtown Food and Culture. There was also a golf outing and nightly dinners.
The 2018 MCASC-NCMA-VMA Regional Meeting is scheduled for August 8-12 in Greenville, S.C. Visit ncmotorcoach.org, scmotorcoach.org, or vamotorcoach.com for more information. [CD1117]