Arlene Dugan is Safety & Compliance Officer at ABA member Adirondack Trailways Inc., a Trailways of New York brand. Based in Hurley, N.Y., Trailways of New York is the largest intercity bus company in New York state. The company was founded in 1926, and it has been family owned for more than 90 years. Dugan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: How did you get your start in the motorcoach travel and tourism industry?
Arlene Dugan: I used to work for a DMO that promoted New York state tourism destinations to motorcoach operators. I then took a position with Adirondack Trailways in its charter department. When I had spare time, I would assist in the safety department. When the assistant to the Vice President of Safety left, I was given the opportunity to take her place. The company experienced two back-to-back accidents that threw me into the position I am in now—safety and compliance.
Q: What does Adirondack Trailways offer to its customers and community that is unique?
AD: Our first priority is safety, both in scheduled line runs and charters. Our customers and clients come to rely on that. Our charter clients know we can provide them with safe buses and drivers. Our line-run customers who use us daily or weekly know we give them a safe, comfortable ride to their destination.
Q: Describe your leadership philosophy.
AD: I don’t know if I have a leadership philosophy, but I know what has to be done and how to do it when the need arises. Managing the compliance of company drivers, maintaining all state and federal forms, working hand in hand with insurance company and attorneys, and being able to keep up with newly mandated rules and regulations isn’t a philosophy—it’s good business! If a bus company does not keep up with new regulations and claims ignorance, it is asking for trouble. We are individually responsible to know what’s going on in the industry. Ask questions; get answers.
Q: What advice do you have for someone just starting out in the motorcoach travel and tourism industry?
AD: Learn as much as you can and what you have to do to become a reputable bus operator. What does your state require? Do you know the federal regulations? Do you hire qualified bus operators and perform background checks, past employee history, and drug and alcohol testing? Make sure you have secured a responsible and hands-on insurance company willing to work with you every step of the way. Promote your company online, declaring what you have to offer your customers in safety and equipment. Sign up for free email notifications from FMCSA, state DOTs, DMVs, insurance companies, anything that will keep you tuned in to the industry and the commercial driver. Also, attend ABA conferences, join BISC, and participate in any other avenue that stresses the knowledge and information you will need to stay in business.
Q: Why did you get involved in ABA’s Women in Buses?
AD: I wanted to meet my female partners who are involved in safety, operations, and management in the bus industry and have a chance to discuss issues women in our industry face-to-face. Do they share the same goals? Do they keep track of industry updates that keep our companies in compliance? Are they treated as equals by their company in this male-dominated industry? Women must be taken seriously, and we had better know our “stuff” before addressing others in our companies.
Q: What motorcoach travel and tourism industry issue would you most like to see resolved, and why?
AD: The “rogue” operators are still out there, committing untold numbers of unsafe practices! At one time, FMCSA asked legitimate operators to notify them when we saw these unscrupulous operators driving up and down the highways, taking revenue from safe and legitimate bus companies. We did just as they asked, even providing them with addresses, company names, DOT numbers, license plate numbers, pickup locations, and unsafe equipment (all offered to the public at dirt-cheap prices). Funny, in all the publications that are free to us online and by subscription, we rarely see reports that any of these well-known illicit companies are being taken off the road!