She’s Stepping In And Taking Charge

Lexi Tucker
Posted on November 20, 2019
Vicki Shafer, executive director of operations for Shafer's Tour & Charter

Vicki Shafer, executive director of operations for Shafer's Tour & Charter

ENDICOTT, N.Y. — When someone close to you passes away, it’s rough to say the least. When their passion has become a part of who you are, it’s not easy to carry on without their presence. For Vicki Shafer, executive director of operations for Shafer's Tour & Charter, after her husband and company co-owner Larry died, coming to work became a source of strength and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Carrying On A Legacy

Shafer’s was established in 1947 by Vicki’s father-in-law. He used to deliver coal, a business that started to go by the wayside in late 1940s. He saw an ad in the local paper for a local school bus service and bought it. After running the business for 30 years, his two sons, Vicki’s brother-in-law and late husband, acquired it from him, and ran it together until Larry died in 2012. At that point, Vicki knew she had to step into his shoes, and now runs the daily operations while sitting in Larry’s chair every day.

She didn’t originally set out to work in the bus business. She was an engineer for 23 years until that company downsized. After spending one summer at home doing nothing, she decided she had to occupy her time in a better way. In a twist of fate, Shafer’s receptionist quit, and Vicki got her start at the company as her replacement.

Coworkers Are Family

The company now runs 16 vehicles, which include 15 full-sized motorcoaches and one 30 passenger cutaway bus. They do a lot of college work with local universities, particularly their athletics departments.

Vicki has been working at the company since 2003 and says her colleagues and the friends she’s made in the industry are the best part of her job. “We are a family business; when you work here, you’re part of the family. Since losing Larry, I needed that clan feeling, and it’s been so helpful,” she explains.

While working in an environment that doesn’t always follow the nine-to-five workday can be taxing, it also builds solid bonds. “When you get a call and three or four of us must come in at 11 pm, you do what you have to do. But situations like that are what help you realize what you are capable of doing as a team.”

You’re Not Alone

At first, Vicki was skeptical of joining a group like the Women in Buses Council. She didn’t want any special consideration simply because of her gender. “But the more I thought about it, I realized how much it helps to know everything I face as a woman; I’m not the only one. I don’t have to come up with all the answers myself. Whatever I’m dealing with, someone has probably already figured it out and has the answer. It doesn’t have to be an original solution to be good. We just want to do what’s good for our clients, employees, and industry. It really takes the ego out of it all.”

One challenge they’ve focused on is hiring good drivers. “It’s not just a job; it’s a lifestyle. It sounds to a lot of applicants like we are trying to talk them out of the job, but we are just giving them a realistic picture of what they’ll have to do.” She elaborates it’s not inexpensive to hire people because of the physicals, drug testing, and training that goes in to onboarding new drivers. “It’s not cheap. You go through all that and they do two runs and decide they don’t like it. Warm bodies don’t necessarily have common sense; sometimes it’s cheaper to leave the bus sitting in the yard.”

A Job Well Done

Despite the demands, Shafer finds her job rewarding. When all goes well and happens on schedule, she feels satisfied. She cites the example of when their local Little League team won their world series a few years ago. “We took them to a lot of games and got to really know the kids. Our drivers loved it, and some of them still have relationships with those kids and their families. It’s truly something special.”

When asked about her biggest success, she hesitates. “I don’t think I’ve had it yet. If I have, then my job is done, and I don’t want to be done yet.”

Related Topics: American Bus Association, buses, charter and tour, charter and tour operators, customer service, family businesses, motorcoach operators, motorcoaches, New York operators, women in the industry

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
Comments ( 2 )
  • Connie Giddens

     | about 7 months ago

    Congratulations!! Wonderful article about an awesome woman and friend!!

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