For over 90 years, James River Transportation has embraced its deeply rooted core values – Customer Service, Safety, Reliability, Integrity and Teamwork. Our consistent practice of these core values guide our team to exhibit respect and civility through these challenging times.
We are not only proud of WHAT we have accomplished as a business, but HOW we have been able to do it with integrity.
James River celebrates the diversity in our Team, our Customers and our Partners and challenge ourselves to remain open to new ideas and opportunities for improving our community.
We are proud of our actions, our relationships and of those who advocate for change.
James River’s Core Values will continue to guide us as we exercise compassion and understanding as we work together to move our country forward to a better future for ALL.
Since 1928, James River Bus Lines has been a national leader in transportation. Serving a diverse client base, the firm’s rich history sprang from modest beginnings in rural Virginia where its only bus would bring passengers to Richmond for daily shopping. Today, the firm is headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, and features a fleet of more than 80 vehicles of all kinds.
Notably, we’re adept at working with organizations of all types, including corporate, military, schools and colleges, wedding parties, religious congregations, hospitals, and government. James River Transportation has the resources and experience to meet every transportation requirement.
Our dedication to unparalleled safety and customer service has remained unchanged through the years. It’s the reason we are continually ranked among the top 50 transportation firms in the United States, and consistently rated “Outstanding” by the Department of Defense.
We will WOW our customers through our continued passion to provide superior transportation services by demonstrating our core values with dedicated team members, and utilizing innovative strategies and technology.
We employ the right people and train them to deliver exceptional service. In fact, in a move unique to the industry, we employ a corporate training manager to ensure the best possible service. We use our statistical models to monitor traffic incidents, mechanical failures and customer service issues to verify that our passengers have a great experience.
Safety is always taken seriously. Thorough training, retraining and a state-of-the-art driving simulator, enable us to ensure driver safety. In addition, we use rigorous screening techniques, including drug/alcohol screening, criminal background check, personality testing, and medical review. Safety is not limited to the highway; we also utilize extensive safety systems for our maintenance and office environments.
Our maintenance facility and procedures are state of the art and 99.5% of our trips are completed without any mechanical problems. This performance ranks us as the “best of the best” in North America. In addition, we have developed an impressive support network utilizing our International Motorcoach Group partners and Greyhound to ensure quick responses to any situations that occur on longer trips.
We value honesty and integrity above all else and all of our employees must adhere to the highest standards. We will go to great lengths to retrain people who may be lacking a specific job skill, and give second chances to employees who make mistakes. However, we do not tolerate dishonesty and will dismiss employees who are dishonest with us or our customers.
We view our customers as partners and focus on building long-term relationships. Whenever we are involved in planning the transportation services along with the customer we routinely suggest cost saving ideas that can be implemented without hurting customer service. Internally, we foster excellent working relationships between our different locations and departments through a variety of company events. Each year, we typically go to ballgames, go cart tracks, and holiday dinners. We also participate in holiday parades and other community service events.
Ninety-five years ago, a man by the name of William W. Briesmaster started a bus line from rural Virginia to Richmond. The route closely followed the path of the historic James River through central Virginia. Consequently, his bus line came to be known as The James River Route.
After a short, but groundbreaking moment in James River’s history, Briesmaster gave up ownership of the company and sold it to Mr. W.J. Sheppard who operated a vehicle maintenance garage in Buckingham County. As additional services were added, the name was changed to James River Bus Lines.
Sheppard operated the service until 1954 before selling it to Irving C. Hammock and James H. Rand. Along with a Chrysler Plymouth Dodge automobile dealership, they owned a company called Picket Service Company which provided transportation between Richmond and the busy United States Army Base, Camp Picket. The purchase provided a great opportunity to expand their passenger transportation business.
At that time, James River’s main service consisted of 3 scheduled buses operating between Buckingham and Richmond, VA, two charter coaches for leisure trips and two Highway Post Office Mail vehicles. The Mail Vehicles provided an interesting and diverse revenue stream. The vehicles had postal workers inside who would sort mail enroute to the destination, a popular delivery system at the time.
Because of increased business opportunities, James River’s operation was moved to Richmond, VA. Hammock and Rand began searching for an individual who could look after their transportation company while they remained in Blackstone, VA with the automobile dealership.
About that time, a man named Story had decided to enter the bus business. L. Woodrow Story, known by his friends as ‘Woody”, purchased a 1947 Aerocoach to transport students between his church, Westhampton Baptist, and the University of Richmond for worship service on Sundays. He also obtained the proper insurance and permits to provide charter service on the weekends while he sold automobiles full-time during the week. He became familiar with James River Bus Lines through the industry and often leased his coach and driving services to them.
Hammock and Rand noticed Story’s enthusiasm and in 1959 hired him as their General Manager in Richmond, As the company grew, Story worked his way to Vice President. After enduring some tough economic times in the seventies, Hammock and Rand decided to sell the bus business and concentrate on their dealership. Because of the close relationship that had developed over the years, they decided to sell the business to Story. The deal was discussed, formulated and finalized over lunch during their weekly visit. On April 1, 1978, Woody Story became owner and President of James River Bus Lines. His partner and wife, Anne Story, was Vice President and later Vice Chair until her passing in 2000.
During the 70s and 80s several members of the Story family were involved in the operation. The daughter, Diane Story Hall, began in the Tour Department and later entered administration, overseeing accounting and human resources. Diane is currently Vice President and Secretary of the corporation. The younger son, Stephen W. Story, worked in the business through high school, progressing through most departments including maintenance, dispatch, safety and management. Stephen is currently President. Their oldest son, Dr. L. Woodrow Story, Jr, serves as Treasurer and is a retired Optometrist.
Under the leadership of Diane and Stephen, a Long Range Strategic Plan was developed utilizing an updated SWOT analysis. James River had long suffered from very seasonal activity and relying on a relatively small customer base. The newly devised Strategic Plan would take advantage of James River’s transportation and customer service expertise to expand into other types of passenger transportation. The added services would stabilize the ups and downs during the year and add revenue sources in case part of the business declined.
- James River began winning contracts that provided regular service throughout the year. Getting passengers to Amtrak Stations throughout Virginia was one of the first opportunities. James River also had numerous contracts for manufacturing employees and Kings Dominion employees.
- James River took over a local sightseeing service providing daily historic tours in the city and throughout the area.
- The James River Team also became experts in large event transportation and convention services. James River remains the city’s recommended transportation provider for meeting and events in the area.
- As James River continued to expand its business, an opportunity to purchase a chauffeured company came up. The purchase of Carey VIP Chauffeured Services added a location in Williamsburg and Norfolk. It also added a larger variety of vehicle types for our corporate clients including luxury sedans, vans and mini-coaches. The Norfolk site provided a strategic location to expand our contract shuttle business. It included service for airport employees, city employees, ship yard contractors and the transit system for Old Dominion University.
- Some years later, James River was awarded contracts at Richmond and Norfolk Airports to provide Business Class Sedan Service and Military Shuttles to various bases.
When COVID hit passenger transportation and tourism came to a grinding halt. The bus industry suffered such great loss that 50% of the buses went away. Although James River never anticipated a pandemic, the company did have plans for a sustained loss of business due to a catastrophic event.
James River always had strong cash reserves and the very diverse revenue plan kept the company strong. Early losses were difficult, but James River became profitable again early 2021 as others in the industry were just beginning to emerge from the disaster.
Probably the proudest part of surviving COVID was the fact that the company maintained a full employment base. As an essential service, employees were potentially exposed to COVID. James River once again was an innovator in utilizing technology, training, and safety systems to keep the JRT Team safe. As other essential workers experienced, rapidly changing information caused our plans to be updated almost monthly.
The company that started out with a few buses in the 1920s has become a full-service passenger transportation organization with a wide variety of services and vehicle types.
Stephen and Diane still maintain the high standards taught to them by their father. Every decision that is made is based on James River’s Core Values.
In 2011, the family completed an extensive succession plan to ensure the business’s success well into the future. Options included developing management from within the organization, hiring management from outside the organization or selling the business.
Due to its long-term success, James River frequently receives purchase offers from a variety of investment groups. In December of 2022 an offer was received that created much interest with the ownership. The succession plan and purchase offer were evaluated. The decision was made to offer to sell James River to an established motorcoach company. After a short conversation, the deal was done.
Academy Express is a family owed company that provides a great fit for our employees, our customers, and our family. Academy has multiple locations between Boston and Miami but allows each location to operate as a local, community minded business, but with the resources of a large organization. Most of the JRT Team will remain and carry on the tradition of exceptional experiences for the community.
James River Transportation celebrates its 95th Anniversary in 2023. After having been a part of Virginia history for so long, it will be very odd to not see the familiar Blue and White buses all over. The James River legacy will live on through books, videos, movies, photos and memories.
James River Transportation has played a major part in World, National and local events throughout its long history.
Since its inception, a major part of its early success has been providing transportation for our Armed Services. James River has provided scheduled service to local military bases for reserve duty training and of course emergency transportation for active duty assignments during wars. The organization is one of the few transportation companies that has participated in a World War, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and various Peace Keeping missions.
The Department of Defense has consistently awarded James River Bus Lines for its service including the highest safety and performance rating available. James River Bus Lines is proud of its support during serious events, but the “fun “events are also memorable. The organization has participated in all World’s Fairs in the United States and Canada as well as the Olympics in Atlanta. While James river is in business to transport passengers, sometimes it is just for show. The company has provided coaches and drivers to be in motion pictures like “Gardens of Stone” and “A Girl Named Jackie”. Transportation has also been provided for actors and cast members for a host of other films. Even famous people like “little” Stevie Wonder, Sam the Sham and the Pharaoh’s, heads of states, foreign dignitaries, Broadway actors, and sports stars have utilized James River Bus Lines’ services.
James River Bus Lines provides transportation to a very large variety of individuals. Being so close to Washington, the company is called upon to support all of these groups in expressing their right to help shape government policies. Marches on Washington include Civil Rights Protest, tax issues (Phillip Morris-cigarette tax), Million Man March, Promise Keepers, Alternative Lifestyle marches and many, many more.
Unique Events in its History:
- Mr. Briesmaster begins service along the James River in 1928 and calls it “the James River Route”.
- A few postal vehicles were purchased that allowed US Postal Service workers to sort mail enroute to the various Post Offices in Virginia.
- One of the first brand new buses was purchased for about $6,000.
- James River changed ownership and moved from Goochland to Buckingham to Blackstone.
- It was later moved to Richmond to better serve Central Virginia Passengers and Woody Story was hired to run the operation.
- Story expanded the charter business and continued to partner with Greyhound, sharing passengers and terminal space in Richmond for decades.
- Siblings Diane and Stephen entered the business as James River expanded into Tours and Contract Services.
- As part of James River’s Tour program, JR Travel Consultants planned tours for groups all across North American including Canada, California and Florida.
- James River takes over a daily sightseeing service and remains it Richmond Tours.
- Carey VIP was purchased and opened up Williamsburg and Norfolk regions.
- The Norfolk location allowed the expansion of shuttle contracts and college transit service.
- The Williamsburg location allowed James River to showcase its Meeting and Event services to a new region.
- James River opened sedan and military shuttles service at Norfolk and Richmond Airports.
- James River becomes a major passenger transportation supplier for the US Navy along the North-East Coast.
- COVID hits and James River is designated an essential service for hospital employees, the military, flight crews and public transportation.
- James River makes the decision to sell its business to Academy Express, an established motorcoach company with multiple locations between Boston and Miami.
- James River becomes a major transportation supply for America’s armed forces assisting in all major military events since World War II.
- James River has participated in every Worlds Fair and Olympics in North America.
- Because of its proximity to Washington DC, James River has provided a “voice” to thousands of citizens visiting DC. Events include civil rights issues, the Million Man March, Promise Keepers, Million Women March, 9/12,
- James River has provided transportation for Gubernatorial and Presidential Inaugurations for decades.
- James River holds the record 2000 meeting guests safely and orderly departing the convention center in 15 minutes.
- James River planned and supervised 178 bus load of protestors from Richmond to DC.
- James River has provided transportation for extras and crew as well as vehicles for “props” for many productions including Gardens of Stone, A Girl Named Jackie, Lincoln, The Jackal.