The driver testing the autonomous vehicle was streaming a TV program at the time of the accident.
PLEASANTON, Calif. — Longtime operator Bill Wheeler noticed some distinct trends in group transportation emerging a few years ago, as the economy began to pull out of the recession.
His corporate clients in the San Francisco Bay Area region were asking for more bus service for employee shuttles and company site visits. While many of the groups could still fit into a minibus, the number of companies needing extra seats per trip increased. Clients also had to travel longer distances while raising their expectations for more advanced technology access, luxury-level creature comforts and the smooth handling of a full-size motorcoach.
What to do? Wheeler, who founded Black Tie Transportation in 1986 and runs a diverse fleet of 90 vehicles, says he sought a practical option with all the “bells and whistles” of a large motorcoach. After first seeing Temsa buses in the January 2013 LCT Magazine, he took delivery from CH Bus Sales in February at the International LCT Show in Las Vegas, where CH Bus Sales had a display. He bought his first two TS30 30-passenger buses at the Show, a TS35 40-passenger bus in March, and two more TS35s in June.
“We were doing larger moves with opportunities for employee shuttles, site inspections, and long distance trips going out to Bakersfield or to Southern California,” Wheeler says. “It became a bigger part of our business. We wanted to keep that business in house and control the client’s ultimate experience so they got the same high-end service they had come to expect from Black Tie.”
The Temsa TS30 and TS35 buses are unique entrants to the U.S. chauffeured transportation market. Their mid-coach sized, monocoque bus shells retain the attributes of a motorcoach while preserving the overall cost and value elements of minibuses. Those qualities provide smooth rides and durability superior to conventional cutaway and chassis-based minibuses. For limousine operators who want to maintain luxury level group transportation but do not need full-size 55-58 passenger charter buses, the Temsa is a flexible alternative. Temsas can seamlessly handle both local minibus-type runs and longer-distance motorcoach-type trips. With operating costs below those of a larger motorcoach, the Temsa saves money for group transportation providers.
The Temsa, built in Turkey, is moving quickly into the U.S. market via CH Bus Sales, a bus distributor based in Minnesota with service facilities in Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas, Nev. CH Bus Sales Chairman and co-owner Michael Haggerty, the founder of Ryan’s Express (see article) and previous owner of Stardust Limousine in Los Angeles, bought the company in 2011 after selling Ryan’s Express so he could capitalize on his years of running stretch limousines and charter buses across the southwestern U.S.
“The motivation for selling the company in 2011 was the opportunity we received from Temsa,” Haggerty says. “They liked our footprint in the Southwest. It was better to sell Ryan’s so I could focus on the Temsa opportunity. I saw the benefit of being an exclusive distributor for U.S. and Canada instead of being a regional bus operator.”
Temsa had approached Haggerty about distributing its U.S. buses after learning about his company and using one of his facilities for prototype testing. “They chose our site and we developed a relationship with good chemistry between us,” Haggerty recalls. “We made trips back and forth to Turkey and developed a rapport and distribution agreement. Then we started taking delivery.”
The TS30 and TS35 are the only integral monocoque designs that offer the true bus ride at a price point that enables limousine operators to enter the bus market at a cost of about $250,000 to $350,000 per bus instead of the $500,000-plus price range of a new big charter bus, Haggerty says. The higher residual value of a Temsa when compared to a minibus offsets its slightly higher purchase price.
Temsa buses originated in Turkey and have served the European bus market since 1987. The buses are built in Adana, Turkey and are shipped from a port in Mersin to a port in Brunswick, Ga. They are then driven to CH Bus Sales’ primary distribution and service center in Orlando, Fla.
Manufacturing the buses in Turkey is cost effective and makes the buses affordable for the U.S. market, says Bob Foley, President and CEO of CH Bus Sales. “The vehicles are completed in Turkey and dealer options installed in Florida. By having customer deliveries out of Florida, we can give the customer a review of the vehicle and driver’s orientation, and also visit with them and review parts and after sales service.”
Sales to the U.S. market are more than doubling from about 60-70 units in 2011 to an estimated 175 or more this year, Foley says. The U.S. market is now about evenly split between the TS30 and TS35 models, with 90% of TS35s sold to traditional motorcoach operators, Haggerty says. With a serious push in the past year into the chauffeured transportation industry, Haggerty projects the breakdown of limousine operator versus traditional charter bus operator purchasers to soon split about even. A Temsa TS45, a full-size motorcoach that can carry 57 passengers, will enter the U.S. market in Spring 2014. “For the limousine operator and the motorcoach operator, the Temsa is more durable, quieter, and more comfortable,” says Foley, when comparing them to minibuses. “When someone drives or rides in them, they understand the difference. The [Temsas] are unique in that niche.”
So far, Black Tie clients and their passengers compliment the “fit and finish” of the Temsa interiors, replete with leather trim, foot rests, window shades and sleek interior features that exceed the generic dated looks for many full-size motorcoaches, Wheeler says. The Temsa also proves ideal in training professional chauffeurs for coach driving. The placement of controls, the public address system, European-style rear view mirrors and a good turning radius on the TS30 and TS35 ease the maneuvering for the drivers, especially on some of the narrow, congested, steep streets of San Francisco, he adds.
“CH Bus Sales cared not just about selling a bus, but selling me a bus that was right for our needs, while exceeding our clients’ expectations,” Wheeler says.
Location: Adana, Turkey
Temsa brand launch: 2001
Production capacity: 3,250 buses/coaches per year
Revenues: $750 million, 2011
Bus designs: stainless steel integral monocoque
Options/amenities: leather seats, wood grain floors, 110v outlets, WiFi, turning rear axle (TS-35), individual climate controls and lighting, footrests, video/audio/DVD entertainment/P.A. systems, shades/window curtains, restrooms.
CH Bus Sales
Founded: 2009 (as CH Trading Co.)
Headquarters: Faribault, MN
Distribution center: Orlando, FL
Import entry point: Brunswick, GA
Service/support centers: Orlando, Las Vegas, NV
executives: Michael P. Haggerty, Chairman; Robert F. Foley, CEO and President; Duane Geiger, Executive VP of Sales/Service
More Info: (507) 331-7911;
Temsa annual U.S. sales volume:
2009/10: 30 units
2011: 60-70 units
2012: 100+ units
2013: 175+ units (est.)
Black Tie Transportation
Location: Pleasanton, CA
Service region: San Francisco Bay Area; North/Central California
Owner/founder: Bill Wheeler
Fleet size: 90 vehicles
Temsa buses: two TS-30s; three TS-35s
Temsa bus rates: $125/$145 base per hr.
Other fleet vehicle types: Krystal/Grech Motors minibuses; Mercedes-Benz Sprinters, Ford executive vans, limo buses, executive coaches, Lincoln Town Car (sedan), Lincoln MKT Town Car, Chrysler 300, Cadillac XTS, Audi A8, Lincoln Navigator, Lincoln Town Car stretch, Lincoln Navigator SUV stretch
Daily runs: 200 avg.
Key corporate clients: Apple, Facebook, Cisco, HP
Contact: (800) 445-0444
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