by Karen Robbins, President

Last month, our team managed transportation for a high-profile, historical event. Eight months ago, this statement would have found its way into a pitch presentation outlining our 30 years of experience doing exactly this sort of thing.

But we are in the middle of a global pandemic. Covid-19 has hurt and changed millions of lives forever. This virus has leveled the meetings and events industry and decimated small businesses around the world. The motorcoach industry, our partners for the last 30 years, have been forgotten in the bailout programs to date and many will not make it through 2021 without urgent relief.

And our team, the one we so carefully nurtured over the years, is much smaller these days. A long-time employee put it so succinctly and sadly when she said early on, “It’s as if we were a dandelion and Covid-19 came along and with one quick breath, “poof, the company, the culture, the team we had yesterday was gone.”

While there are fewer of us now, we are still here, and our culture is alive and well. But a scattered dandelion is what these many months have felt like. We now understand that things will never be the same again.

So, this statement, “Last month our team successfully managed transportation for a high-profile event” means so much more now than it ever did. Here is that story.

Last month, our team managed the transportation for the final 2020 U.S. Presidential Debate held in Nashville, Tennessee at Belmont University. This was our second time to be included by Belmont University (the first in 2008) but to do so in the middle of a global pandemic was truly one for the record books.

Creating a Safe Experience

Safety was our number one priority. Our team, drivers, attendees, Belmont University, and the City of Nashville needed to be comfortable with the plan. We worked with the team at Belmont, HCA, and our partner for this event, Gray Line of Tennessee to ensure the following was strictly adhered to each day.

  • Masks were worn by STS staff & drivers always; no exceptions
  • CDC and Covid-19 safety information was provided to all working staff & drivers
  • Drivers were COVID-19 tested every 2-3 days depending on their work schedule
  • 6 ft of distance between all staff, drivers, & attendees had to be maintained.
  • We loaded the vehicles from back to front and unloaded from front to back.
  • Attendees were Covid-19 tested and provided with bracelets linked to their valid test results for each day.
  • Seats on the buses were blocked with “Keep your distance, please do not sit here”
  • We provided our client with seating charts and distance between headrests so they could decide how many people they wanted to have on each vehicle.
  • Gray Line is an International Motor Coach Group Partner, so the IMG clean care document was posted on each vehicle, visible to attendees boarding and on the vehicles.
  • Vehicles were wiped down by drivers and/or STS team between each trip.
  • Additional staff were added for large transfers to expedite the cleaning process in between trips.
  • Windows, when possible, were open to facilitate air flow.
  • Each night, vehicles underwent a deep clean before service the next day.
  • Air filtration on the Prevost H3-45 motorcoach was refreshed every 5 minutes.
Grateful Does Not Cut It

To say we are grateful for this opportunity is an understatement. Like so many others, our city has been turned upside down by Covid-19. To have an opportunity to be a part of an event that was going to be viewed the world over and to help our city shine was truly an honor. Nashville is beautiful and the people that live and work in this city are beyond amazing and so deserving of a moment like this. We are forever grateful to the wonderful, outstanding planning team at Belmont University for including us in this shining moment for our city.

Relationships are Everything

Gray Line of Tennessee and Gray Line Black Car were our partners on this event. We have managed many successful programs over the years with our friends at Gray Line but this one, was more important than ever. The Gray Line team worked all hours of the day and night to make sure that we were able to be consistent with our driver pool and reduce the number of tests that had to be taken. And, if you did not know, the motorcoach industry has done a great job of helping its members navigate the complexities of mass transportation during a pandemic. The American Bus Association, United Motorcoach Association and here International Motorcoach Group have all taken impressive steps in response to Covid-19.

Remembering How Fun it is to Work Together, even in a Pandemic

Our team mascot is a Penguin, affectionately known as Stewie. The Penguin is a symbol of the principles of servant leadership and working together as a team. The Penguin represents the best of us, it is hard-working and fun, and never leaves another team member behind. The Penguin strives to delight and deliver service excellence. It is the glue that binds this team to do the impossible.

Our team proved managing transportation for a 2020 U.S. Presidential Debate during Covid-19 is not impossible. From the day we started, they showed up in their red STS shirts and happily got down to business like the professionals they are. It was incredibly overwhelming to see how much fun they had seeing each other and working again.

In these 30 years, and in a brutal 2020, we have been through a lot. But we built a leadership culture with extraordinary people that love their work and their mission. This has never been more evident than during this event.

And the best part, our dandelion, even if for just one week, came back together in 2020. It reminded us of why we do what we do and left us feeling optimistic for better days ahead.