Enrollment is now open for the first 2019 session of the Prevost-sponsored Celebrity Bus Drivers Academy hosted at its Nashville Service Center in Goodlettsville, TN, May 14-16.
Founded in 2010 by former country music artist, Chip Huffman and his business partner, the late Tandy Rice, the Celebrity Bus Drivers Academy and the Prevost staff offer specialized instruction and guidance to help drivers secure elite, sought-after positions in the entertainment industry.
This intense three-day program conducted each year brings the bus and entertainment industries together with veteran entertainment drivers and tour managers to discuss the necessary skills, personal makeup and performance expectations for this unique coach driving niche.
“Prevost is pleased to support Huffman’s efforts to introduce and train the drivers everyone in the entertainment industry depends on for a smooth running tour,” says Steve Zeigler, director, Prevost Bus Shell Sales Division. “Prevost entertainer motorcoaches provide unparalleled safe, secure and comfortable transportation. However, capable and responsible drivers who truly understand this industry are essential to the safety and success of celebrities and entertainers out on the road.”
As the spring class generally fills well in advance, Huffman, advises enrolling sooner than later to better the chances of being accepted.
Prevost sponsors technical training and sound advice
Since the pilot class launched in 2010, Prevost has continued to sponsor and facilitate Huffman’s Celebrity Bus Driver Academy at its state-of-the-art Nashville Service Center. The company donates classroom space and makes its newest demo Prevost Shells available, as well as the cadre of Prevost maintenance technicians who train the prospective drivers in the operation of the Prevost and Entertainer coach systems and technology.
“Prevost is fully onboard with the Academy in saying the entertainment industry is forever in search of top quality, capable drivers,” says Huffman. “Driving an entertainer coach for celebrity clients is the pinnacle of the profession for only the best of the best. We offer this program because so few people in the bus and coach industry realize how specialized celebrity driving becomes or understand precisely what the job entails.”
Celebrity driving is not for everyone
Huffman says transporting celebrities and entertainers requires a very special person with superb driving skills, keen people skills and dedication to personal service. He says about half of the drivers who attend the Academy decide not to pursue the opportunity any further once they grasp its difficulty. He sees the best drivers as those who remain true to themselves, dress casually, clean and crisp; and try do not to emulate the people on board; rather, be the person they trust explicitly.
According to Huffman, even highly-skilled drivers fail to grasp the magnitude this sector places on extremely smooth driving — an absolute essential skill for longevity he says. Newcomers to this business are astonished by the degree their employers keep watch on the driver’s performance.
“If a top name celebrity is sitting in a booth with hot cup of coffee, no driver wants to be the one who takes a turn too sharp and sends everyone flying,” he says. “That person is usually out of a job before knowing for sure what just happened.”
An entertainer driver must also be capable of making minor repairs and understanding maintenance protocol; and be willing to keep the bus spotless inside and out throughout the tour.
Huffman walked the walk
Huffman found his way to Nashville in 1980 with aspirations of a place in country music. Signing on with Donna Fargo to sing backup, he eventually became the group’s bus driver simply because he knew how.
Disenchanted with the artistic side, Huffman and another driver launched their own company, Nitetrain Coach, in 1986 to provide buses to the entertainment industry.
“We booked business from the road and drove the next four years — no office, no staff,” says Huffman. “We gained enough clients to eventually open our shop in 1990.”
As their business boomed and included country legends Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw, the leasable all-Prevost fleet grew steadily to 50 entertainer coaches and confirmed Nitetrain as one of the largest purchasers of Prevost coaches in the entertainment industry.
When the idea struck Prevost was there
Huffman recalls receiving as many as 30 calls a month from coach and truck drivers wanting to get into this business, and not having an easy answer for how they could acquire the necessary three years’ experience — not until the idea struck to train drivers how to successfully transition into entertainment transportation. At which time, Huffman sold Nitetrain and partnered with Rice to form their Celebrity Bus Driver Academy.
“Prevost then stepped up to sponsor and host our program,” says Huffman. “Our original concept materialized beyond our wildest expectations.”
According to Huffman the program allows participants to learn and discover if this line of work is for them without jeopardizing their present positions.
“We are conscious of their situations and the expense involved and cover everything in one week.,” he says. “Attendees fly in on Monday, take part in the sessions Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and fly home on Friday.”
For more information and to enroll go to www.huffman-rice.com. See Criteria for Acceptance; Student Requirements; Application and Payment.