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Weekend edition August 18, 2023 | Shannon Smith

Premier Transportation will get you where you’re going safely and in style

“We can serve anybody in this area within about 30 minutes,” said Cazana. “If we have a bus and a driver, and you call and you need a bus in about 30 minutes, we can be there.”

Nick Cazana’s favorite thing about serving as president of Premier Transportation is watching one of his coach buses drive down the road.

“It’s a visual returned to me,” he said. “Doesn’t matter if it rained this morning, our coaches would leave the shop washed. If it’s pouring down rain or snowing outside, our coaches leave the shop washed.”

He admits they’ll be dirty by the time they make it down the hill, but that level of attention to quality and detail is what sets Premier Transportation up for success.

A developer by trade, Cazana got into the coach bus business for an unanticipated reason – the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“People quit traveling. They didn’t do anything for months and months and months,” he said. “Almost every bus company in the country was having trouble.”

A friend of Cazana owned four coach buses then and asked him to help get his bus business get back up on its wheels. Cazana liked the idea, liked the blue and white color scheme, and Premier Transportation as we know it now hit the road.

Now operating 46 luxury motorcoach buses, Premier Transportation is the top choice of group transportation for schools, businesses, and sports teams in East Tennessee. With locations in Knoxville, Chattanooga, and soon-to-be Tri-Cities, Premier’s reputation for premiere services precedes them.

“We can serve anybody in this area within about 30 minutes,” said Cazana. “If we have a bus and a driver, and you call and you need a bus in about 30 minutes, we can be there.”

That’s happened plenty of times, even with the University of Tennessee (UT) basketball team. And once you’re on that freshly washed bus, Premier’s technology kicks in.

“Our dispatch command center keeps us on top of where our coaches are at all times, who our drivers are,” said Cazana. “If there’s a problem, we identify it from that room right there. We can tell how fast they’re going, how many miles per gallon they’re getting. Very few operations in the whole country have that kind of setup.”

General Manager Taylor Thomas said tracking these logistics is important for safety.

“Drivers can only drive 10 hours a day,” he said. “Ten hours means a lot when you’re out west and can do 650 miles a day, but when you’re driving through Atlanta traffic, you may only hit 480. With our experience and the technology that we have, we can predict that and know that so the trips go on and you don’t even realize why we’re switching drivers.”

Thomas said it takes 75 to 80 drivers to operate Premier’s 46 buses, which range from smaller coaches to double-decker giants. He said in a time when the bus and trucking industries are in desperate need of drivers, Premier will only take those who pass their training requirements. For some drivers, that means an extra stint of training in Washington, D.C., and New York City to practice navigating the traffic and parking of a large metro.

Safety is a top priority for the family members of passengers on the coaches as well. All buses can be tracked in real-time through specially created tracking links. For example, if a high school class is taking a trip on a Premier bus, the principal will be given a private tracking link that can be shared with parents.

While Premier has a range of small and large clients, one notable client is UT, as is evident by its now four specially wrapped UT orange and white coach buses.

“Academically and athletically, the university has taken its status up in the last three to five years, really identifying the University of Tennessee,” said Cazana. “And when traveling with Premier for academics or athletics, when they pull in one of the big orange buses, they’re going to be leading the group. So that’s a big deal.”

These buses have lots of experience with UT. Thomas said when they move the entire Pride of the Southland Band, it takes 9 full buses. When they took the UT football to the Orange Bowl in Miami, Premier sent 18 buses, plus an extra just in case. And if you were wondering, the UT basketball team likes the double-decker bus the best.

As Premier continues to grow its reach around East Tennessee, Knoxville will remain home. All maintenance and mechanic work is done at Premier’s in-house garages and will remain that way. If you see a Premier bus driving through the area, Cazana hopes you think just one thing: “Wow.”

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