Louisville Team Prepares To Race Around Kentucky Derby

Lexi Tucker
Posted on April 24, 2019
(L to R) LCT senior editor Lexi Tucker speaks to Nick Lopez and Todd Roberts of JACO Limousine and Bus. (Photo: LCT)

(L to R) LCT senior editor Lexi Tucker speaks to Nick Lopez and Todd Roberts of JACO Limousine and Bus. (Photo: LCT)

[This is the first episode in a recurring series of educational videos by LCT editors Martin Romjue, Lexi Tucker, and Jim Luff].

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Held annually at Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby is a big money maker for operators in the area that brings out potential clients from all across the nation and around the world.

Success doesn’t come easy, and operators need to figure out many logistics. But those who work the event see a handsome ROI. Nick Lopez, VP of operations, and Todd Roberts, president, of JACO Limousine and Bus are seasoned veterans when it comes to organizing transportation for the big race, happening Saturday, May 4.

Mastering The Derby

Roberts has been working the Derby since 2006. He says it’s difficult to describe a typical day, since it changes every year. Lopez says the weather plays a big factor in how operations unfold.

“It doesn't impact the type of vehicles being used, but it sets the mood for the day,” Roberts says. “You have to make sure you have umbrellas in the car. You're also dealing with people getting in and out tracking mud in your vehicles.”

This means you must have detailers ready to clean those cars, get them ready to go, and send them back out as fast as possible. “When you hit Derby weekend, those vehicles hardly ever shut off for about four days. You refuel them, clean them, and then they go back out for a party.”

Keeping yourself and your staff energized is an important part of having them perform at the top of their game, so Lopez says pack a lunch. “They’re long days. You start early and finish late with groups. You typically have 10-hour minimums and your groups may be out for 12 to 15 hours a day. You will be dropping off early in the morning and then picking back up early in the morning sometimes. It's a pretty rigorous event, and you have to have some stamina as a chauffeur.”

You must make sure your chauffeurs know the best routes to avoid congested areas. It helps to know multiple ways to get to main points of interest, as many people will be going to the same locations all day. Derby days require a lot of planning and execution.

Familiarizing yourself with the area will spare you hassles, Roberts says. “Understand the track and how to get in there, as well as where the parking lots are. We try to get people who haven’t been there before to do dry runs to prepare them.” Be sure to keep lots of water in your vehicles. “Even when it's over, you're going to be sitting in traffic for hours. It doesn’t matter if you're coming in a limousine or a Rolls Royce. If you're not the governor or the president, you're going to be sitting in traffic a while. So be ready and just try to keep your people comfortable”

Best Friends, Best Coworkers

When asked about the best part of working with each other, Lopez says Roberts’ passion for being involved in the business, including the driving, stands out.

“You have some folks who come in on the operational side of things and never get into a vehicle,” Lopez says. “That's not how we've grown our business. Everyone involved in our organization has started as a chauffeur first, and we groom from within. For me earlier, it was about trying to get Todd out of the vehicle.”

He says the company looks for such passion when considering new hires. They hope to instill Roberts’ level of excitement in all of their employees.

“His commitment to the fleet and setting a mark that's high for our markets is what's been the focal point of his, and he's done a great job of bringing us great equipment that represents our company.”

Roberts says he appreciates how their strengths and weaknesses complement each other. “There's no one person who knows or can do everything. Nick’s able to pick up on things I don’t. The reason you see us together a lot is because we work in unison. He’s always got a computer on hand, so I tell him he's sort of like the president's guy that has the nuclear football,” he jokes.

With his laptop, Lopez can make things happen in just a few minutes. Roberts also praises Lopez’ ability to bring reliable people on board. “He has great communication skills. The first time I ever met him was at a networking event. He pretty much sold himself as I sat in the corner and watched him work the crowd.”


Related Topics: 2019 LCT video education series, group transportation, group travel, Kentucky operators, logistics, special events, sporting events, video

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
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