Through multiple generations, this Minnesota-based operator stays ahead of the curve
With 80 years of operation and expansion, Trobec’s Bus Service Inc, of St. Stephen, MN, has not lost touch with its roots as a family business.
The company was founded with the purchase of a $2,100 school bus in 1938 by Tony and Frances Trobec, simply so local children could travel to a neighboring community and continue their education beyond the eighth grade. The operation continued expanding over the next few decades, adding school bus business and eventually beginning interstate motorcoach charters in 1981.
Today the rising company has a fleet of over 15 motorcoaches, the clear majority supplied by Motor Coach Industries (MCI), conducting charter business to 49 states, as well as 65 school buses servicing the Sartell/St. Stephen and St. Cloud school districts in Minnesota. Their most recent purchase from MCI includes two new hi-spec 2018 J4500 coaches, with sleek seating by Kiel, customizable RGB lighting and custom paint and graphics.
Though many of the second-generation Trobecs remained involved in the business into the late-aughts, and Betty Trobec worked in accounting and human resources until her death two years ago, a new, family leadership team has emerged – Tim Schubert, who started with the company as a driver and mechanic in 1985, assumed the role of CEO and president in 2016. His daughter Bethany Schubert serves as vice president, where she fulfills many roles – from manager to driver, and assisting in dispatch and routing.
“We all wear many hats at Trobec’s,” she says. “It’s a tightly-knit crew, so everyone helps out where they can.”
New customers, new employees, new coaches
The most important developments at Trobec’s in recent years have been the development of new customer bases and an influx of great young drivers.
Driver outreach is heavily emphasized at Trobec’s. Drivers, Schubert says, are drawn to Trobec’s positive and exuberant company culture.
“There’s a driver shortage in the United States motorcoach industry,” she says, “so it’s very important that companies really sell themselves to drivers.”
To that end, Trobec’s aggressively recruits drivers in their twenties with full-time employment and associated benefits, as well as complete and comprehensive training. Driver recruitment occurs at job fairs, on social media and in local physical advertising.
Job retention is accomplished by keeping employees engaged with the company’s culture, and encouraging them to take ownership over their positions. Mechanics at Trobec’s compete with the cleaning crew in a contest that awards prizes for keeping equipment clean. All 110 employees uphold mandated environmentally-friendly practices in their facilities.
Schubert says the company’s social media marketing has been the biggest driver of new customers. Trobec’s is very active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, a fact lends the company a youthful image in its promotions and attracts a younger clientele than in previous years.
The Trobec’s team’s participation in Go Motorcoach and Spader 20 Groups, Schubert says, helps them stay abreast of fresh marketing strategies and industry trends. Spader 20 Groups are comprised of non-competing motorcoach operators which share confidential information and best practices for mutual benefit.
“The Spader 20 Group is such a valuable tool for our operation to take advantage of,” Schubert says. “The other group members are effectively like a board of directors for us, and a great place in which to float new ideas.”
Schubert says the company uses social media for outreach to customers who normally would not consider motorcoach travel a viable option.
“Whether it’s a wedding or sporting event, we try to market group transportation with Trobec’s as a fun, stress-free way to travel,” she says.
For these first-time, oftentimes younger passengers, first impressions are everything. Trobec’s two recently-purchased 2018 MCI J4500 coaches are critical to a positive first impression for the company with its new riders. Both buses completed delivery and entered service by the end of December and, at MCI’s hi-spec design, they feature eye-catching accoutrements and new features sure to impress everyone who rides with Trobec’s.
Enhancements to the 2018 J4500
Trobec’s new coaches feature MCI’s new interior with indirect LED ceiling lights and spotlights, creating a modern lighting atmosphere for passengers. As passengers enter the vehicle, they are treated to the classic MCI spiral stairway now enhanced with RGB (red, blue and green) lamps programmed to bathe the stepwell and cabin in colorful light. It is a dramatic entranceway into the coach, which fits the first impression Trobec’s seeks to make with each new customer.
The coaches also feature handrail lighting, right- and left-entryway lighting and step-tread lighting based on the RGB color scheme, from entry to interior. Increased floor space, owing to MCI’s redesign of the J4500’s lavatory, adds to the sense that motorcoach travel is first class.
“Customers notice the lighting and branding treatments as soon as they board our new vehicles,” Schubert says. “It lets them know that they’re traveling with a professional operation.”
All Trobec’s coaches are equipped with Wi-Fi for increased passenger comfort and convenience.
Schubert says her drivers appreciate the updated driver’s dash and integrated instrument panel for reduced distraction, with a high definition, 12-inch Thin-Film-Transistor LCD instrument panel, plus A/V and HVAC displays.
“All our drivers are asking about when they’ll get to take the new J4500 on the road,” she says. “The drivers who have driven the new coaches say they like the improved visibility over the dashboard as well as the expanded legroom space.”
Advancing the industry
Trobec’s partnered with Happy Trails Tours for transportation at the Northland Senior Expo in October, where they impressed passengers with their fleet of 2016 J4500 coaches. It represents a relationship that is now over 10 years old, and is a great example of Trobec’s forward-thinking mindset – partnering with a third-party tour operator to grow business. They’ll continue that partnership, adding the 2018 coaches into service, with next year’s Senior Expo.
“The team at Happy Trails Tours, at this point in our partnership, is almost part of our family,” Schubert says. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship with no end in sight.”
Schubert is a member of the American Bus Association’s Women in Buses Council (WIB), a networking, education and mentoring program which seeks to advance the role of women in the motorcoach industry. She says her membership in that group has proved invaluable as an executive.
“The motorcoach business is often looked at like an ‘old boys’ club,’” she says, “when our industry is actually filled with strong, smart female leaders. I’m always interested in the WIB as a tool to help promote that narrative, which is so important in this business.”
Additionally, Tim Schubert currently serves on the Minnesota Charter Bus Operators Association board of directors, while Bethany serves on the Minnesota School Bus Operators Association board of directors. They are and will continue to be highly involved in each organization.
Putting the fleet to use
Trobec’s Bus Service will be utilizing their new 2018 J4500 buses, as well as their entire fleet of motorcoaches, when Super Bowl LII kicks off at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. There, the company has contracted with the NFL for 55 motorcoaches per day.
Drawing on their fellows in the motorcoach industry, Schubert says that Trobec’s will partner with members of its Spader 20 Group to offer complete service during the week of the Super Bowl.
“We’re used to working with athletic organizations, but it’s going to be great to have such appealing vehicles for such an important event,” Schubert says. “We’re very excited for the opportunity.”
The future is now
Schubert says that thanks to a sterling fleet and community outreach, combined with an outstanding company culture, Trobec’s is well positioned for the future. Schubert says she’s determined to see the business grow further, and that Trobec’s will accomplish that growth thanks to the quality of its people and its equipment.
“I believe we are one of the best places in this industry to work,” she says. “That’s because of the culture we keep as a family-operated, multigenerational business. And it’s also because of our high-quality equipment, thanks to long-time partners like MCI.”