After last year’s pandemic shutdown, West Coast operators finally gathered in person at a busy California Bus Association (CBA) Annual Convention & Trade Show Oct. 24-26 at the Westin Lake Resort Las Vegas. Recruiting drivers and building back business were topics that also attracted operators from Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and beyond to the 47th annual event.
However, even the latest innovations and up-to-the-minute education sessions couldn’t trump CBA’s main event —the first face-to-face contact between members, suppliers and industry colleagues after a nearly two-year absence.
“I was thrilled to see a lot of old friends,” said Curtis Riggs, President of VIA Trailways with offices in Merced and Fresno, California and Tempe, Arizona. “The sessions were very informative, but for me the most exciting part was reconnecting and seeing our vendors and sponsors join us in Nevada.”
Curtis Riggs, of VIA Trailways, left and Juan Lepe, of MCI, at the 2021 CBA Annual Convention & Trade Show in Las Vegas.
Tom Miller, owner of Antelope Valley Express and Santa Clarita Express, remarked, “I was telling others it felt like we were not alone. Everyone had the same stories of what we went through and how we are now all facing the same driver shortage issues.”
“We initially planned for a modest 175 attendees and exceeded that number by 25% in same-day registrations and new member registration on site,” said Vicki Bowman, CBA’s Executive Director. “CBA’s annual convention has always had strong regional attendance, but this year, operators in surrounding states were particularly eager to see our program and supplier exhibits as everyone is getting their businesses up to speed.”
The meeting’s keynote speaker was Donald Ross, VP Meeting Operations, Caesar’s Entertainment, who explained how the Las Vegas casino giant managed the pandemic and is ramping operations up now.
Educational panel sessions covered everything from financial preparedness for regrowth to ongoing advocacy in the fight for greater government funding for the industry. American Bus Association’s Brandon Buchanan and DATTCO Motor Coach’s Pamela Martinez hosted roundtable panel discussions covering a wide range of topics including telematics, driver hiring and recruitment, insurance issues, California regulatory compliance and new bus safety laws.
Megan White of Prevost, left, and Bob Greene of Amaya Astron Seating, and his wife Erica, catch up in Las Vegas.
Vickie Cole, CBA President and Co-Owner of American Stage Tours, Concord, California, said: “After 18 months of Zoom calls it was great to be back meeting face-to-face. We put a lot of information out to our membership to communicate how the industry has changed during COVID and how CBA is fighting for national relief and for our members statewide.” Two years ago, the association also began a membership drive for operators in neighboring states.
“Many of our surrounding states are without a state or regional association,” said Cole. “Carriers making trips to Disneyland or California’s state parks need to better understand state compliance and can benefit from our ongoing educational and safety programs.” CBA’s most recent legislative achievement was working with the California State Assembly to refund 2020 DMV registration fees, a valuable part of membership.
Awards and more
Recognizing excellence among its members, CBA honored Best Tours & Travel, Fresno, California as 2021 Operator of the Year. Steve Tesconi of Royal Coach Tours, San Jose, California received CBA’s Maintenance Technician of the Year award and John Gilb, Royal Coach Tours, San Jose, California was named Driver of the Year.
Royal Coach Tours, San Jose, CA, co-workers attending CBA’s annual convention celebrate driver John Gilb’s Driver of the Year Award sponsored by Lancer Insurance. From left are Greg Gallup, CEO; Steve Tesconi, Director of Maintenance; Micaela Ward, Director of Operations Las Vegas; Earl Reed, GM; Sandy Allen, President; John Gilb, Driver of the Year; Dan Tomlinson, Safety & Loss Control, Lancer Insurance; and Dan Smith, Vice President.
CBA made sure members also had plenty of networking opportunities during the convention with evening events sponsored by ABC Companies, Irizar, Motor Coach Industries, Prevost, Temsa and Icomera.
The annual golf outing also brought many operators back together. Antelope Valley/Santa Clarita Express’ Miller thought this year’s annual golf outing – sponsored by TIB Transportation Insurance Brokers and Republic Indemnity Insurance Company – was especially worthwhile because he was paired with Eric Onnen of Santa Barbara Airbus. “We both run scheduled service into LAX and have sat across from each other in meetings, but this was the first time we got chance to become better acquainted. And it didn’t hurt we won second place.”
The next two CBA in-person annual conventions are already scheduled — Oct. 23-25 for the 2022 event at the Omni Resort & Spa, Rancho Mirage, CA and Nov. 5-7 at Silver Legacy Resort Reno in 2023. CBA sponsored Legislative Day and Maintenance Programs also return in 2022.