OWOSSO, MI—Four bus drivers for Indian Trails, Inc., were recently honored with the company’s Million Mile Award for driving more than 1 million miles without an avoidable accident—and one of the four was recognized for the rare achievement of safely driving 2 million miles.
Indian Trails operates 33 daily scheduled motorcoach routes throughout Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas and into Chicago, Duluth, and Milwaukee. Five routes are operated in partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation. In addition, the company operates a large group charter business, as well as the Michigan Flyer-AirRide shuttle service, which makes 12 round trips a day between East Lansing, Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport.
“Reaching these milestones accident-free is a real testament to the professionalism and skills of our drivers, and our foremost goal of getting passengers safely to their destinations,” said Indian Trails President Gordon Mackay.
This year’s Million Mile Award recipients are Carl Briggs, Luis Garcia, and Jerry VanDeusen, Jr. The Two Million Mile Award recipient is Phillip “Al” Kline. They join 24 previous award winners since Indian Trails established the recognition in 1989. The four drivers were honored at a luncheon where they received crystal awards and special jackets and name badges recognizing their million-mile achievements. In addition, the drivers each received a State of Michigan Special Tribute signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, Sen. Joe Hune, and Rep. Ben Glardon.
For perspective, 1 million miles equates to 40 trips around the Earth, two trips to the Moon and back, or 180 round trips between New York and Los Angeles. For the motorcoach drivers, it means averaging 50,000 miles annually for 20 years. The number of miles driven by each motorcoach driver is tracked through Federal Department of Transportation records maintained by the company.
Photo: Front (L-R): Million Mile Drivers Luis Garcia, Carl Briggs, Al Kline, and Jerry VanDeusen Jr. Rear (L-R): Safety & Training Director Dan Tomlinson, President Gordon Mackay, VP Ken Henry, and VP Chad Cushman
It’s All About Safety
Indian Trails Vice President Chad Cushman estimates that each one-million-mile driver has safely transported about 300,000 passengers to their destinations, and made 6,500 trips. Kline, the two- million-mile driver, has safely carried some 600,000 passengers to their destinations.
What advice do these expert drivers have for avoiding accidents? “Stay alert,” they say unanimously. In addition, they advise keeping a safe distance between your vehicle and those of other drivers, being courteous, expecting the unexpected, and being prepared to deal with dangerous situations when they occur. Each has had his share of close calls, yet all have managed to steer clear of accidents.
“Our million-mile drivers are true professionals,” said Daniel Tomlinson, Indian Trails’ director of safety and training, “and they also serve as instructors for new drivers coming into the company. Among the skills they teach are five keys to good driving. The first four involve really paying attention to what’s going on around you on the road at all times. The fifth is making sure other drivers see you.”
More About the Drivers
Al Kline, who’s been with Indian Trails for 39 years, has seen a lot of changes over time, especially in how motorcoaches have improved for both the safety and comfort of passengers. “I love to drive,” he said. “It’s hard to believe I’ve hit two million miles. It doesn’t seem like I’ve been here that long.” The Owosso native has especially enjoyed driving throughout the United States and into parts of Canada.
Luis Garcia, a Kalamazoo resident, has been with the company since 1987. He’s also served as a driver instructor for 10 years. “I didn’t think I’d have the patience for it at first, but I enjoy it very much,” he said. “I try to give our new drivers the tools they need to do the best job possible.” Regarding his Million Mile Award, he says, “I had a lot of help from others here at Indian Trails, including our mechanics and dispatchers.”
Carl Briggs, a native of Lansing, has been with Indian Trails since 1989. As a driver, he’s particularly enjoyed week-long charter trips he’s piloted to areas in northern Michigan that included Traverse City, Suttons Bay and Petoskey, and back down through Saginaw Bay, Frankenmuth and Detroit. He’s thrilled to have reached the million-mile mark accident-free.
Jerry VanDeusen, also of Lansing, said he thought he was getting close to the million-mile mark, “but I didn’t think it would happen this soon.” He began driving for Indian Trails in 1997. In 2006, when the company launched its Michigan Flyer shuttle service, he signed on as one of its first drivers. “I really like dealing with passengers and getting them safely to where they want to go,” he said.
Photo (L-R): Million Mile Drivers Luis Garcia, Carl Briggs, Al Kline, and Jerry VanDeusen Jr.