Since its beginning 40 years ago, Yankee Line has used a luxurious, amenity-rich fleet to set itself apart from other charter and tour companies serving the Northeast. Currently operating a fleet of over 60 motorcoaches (including 35 Setra S-417 motorcoaches), the company serves the entire Northeast corridor from three locations, two in Massachusetts and one in the New York City area.
The company outfits its fleet well beyond standard specifications, prides itself on its drivers’ roles as ambassadors for the company and has compiled a safety record that includes achieving the Department of Defense’s highest available safety rating.
“Throughout Yankee Line’s history, the company has hovered at the ‘high end’ of the charter marketplace,” Don Dunham, co-founder of Yankee Line, said. “Our prices may be close to the higher end of the market, but we do aim to provide a special level of luxury motorcoach travel to our clients for a reasonable fee.”
Dunham said the company began purchasing from Daimler in 2004, taking advantage of the expertise of Daimler’s Northeast regional sales manager, Darril King. King has remained Yankee Line’s sales representative for Setra through multiple distribution partnerships, and he now serves on the Setra sales team at REV Coach. Since that initial purchase, the company has incorporated the Setra’s enhanced style as a cornerstone of Yankee Line’s luxury-class presentation.
“Someone like Darril, who has remained steady with the Setra product through different transitions, has provided an important consistency,” Dunham said. “As far as I’m concerned, he is ‘Mr. Setra’ in North America.”
For the last several years, Yankee Line’s fleet of S-417 Setra motorcoaches has been steady at 35 units, with a recent upgrade and replacement of the oldest units bringing 10 new 2019 units into the fleet and more 2020 models currently on order. With the help of King, the company has purchased new Setras every year since 2004 — several which included trips to Germany with Darril to the Setra Design Center in Ulm, where coaches can be totally custom designed and tweaked to fit Yankee Line’s exact requests for the high-end markets it serves. The company is also able to serve the more traditional markets with an upgraded version of what the industry would consider to be a standard motorcoach.
“The freedom of custom design allows us to make those decisions as we design the coach,” Dunham said. “Setra has always worked to stand behind us with passionate product support, including parts and marketplace support with residual value.”
Dunham said he appreciates that customization when it comes to seating layouts. Where most 45-foot motorcoaches feature a 56-seat capacity, most Yankee Line Setras of the same size accommodate 46 or 50 passengers — for extra legroom, seat recline and personal space.
“The seating on a Setra motorcoach is one of the factors that sold us in 2004 and continues to sell us on the brand,” he said. “They build their own seats in the same factory where they build the motorcoaches. They’re well engineered, designed and tested. They’re reliable and very impressive to customers entering a motorcoach, instantly creating the ‘Wow’ factor that keeps people coming back over and over again.”
An intercontinental partnership
The aforementioned Setra design center has been a major benefit to Yankee Line, but Dunham said that the company has also been able to send drivers to Germany for Daimler-provided driver training at the Hockenheim Ring. The ring is a dedicated training facility and racetrack owned by Daimler in Hockenheim, Germany.
“They have water jets, skid plates, and many other kinds of specialized equipment for vehicle-specific driver training,” Dunham said. “They’ve allowed my drivers to take a S-417 motorcoach down a racetrack and, at 70 mph, make a quick lane change in order to feel and observe how the coach reacts to something that you would never do on an open highway. Emergency braking on a slippery hill, avoiding random water jets, with a curve at the bottom is another especially eye-opening exercise. The drivers come back really feeling like they know that motorcoach and are ready for anything.”
Dunham said that Daimler has been kind enough to make that program available to Yankee Line for five years running, and he is surprised that more of his peers do not take advantage of it.
“The entire Setra team appreciates the strong strategic partnership that the Yankee Line family has cultivated over the years with Daimler products,” Duane Geiger, general manager of REV Coach, said. “The future is looking bright!”
Yankee Line moves forward with Setra motorcoaches
Every year, Yankee Line conducts a few cross-country tours and are always involved with custom corporate work around Boston and New York. Many of the company’s coaches operate in regular service for corporate private commuter service that specifically require Setra luxury equipment. When it comes to the tour market, clients insist on Setra coaches after experiencing them. For quality and comfort, Dunham said, Setra has it all figured out and Daimler continues to improve on its product every year.
Dunham said that with his motorcoaches, customers see the difference. From the entryway to the seat, he said, the coaches always amaze the passengers.
“The Setra presentation is a total package,” he said. “Every detail on that coach has been carefully engineered and designed to take care of the passenger, ensure their comfort level and the quality of the ride. That was true in 2004, and it is still true today.”