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  • Writer's pictureAbena Bonso-Bruce

Welcome! Tristar Transportation Joins TTA Ranks

Tristar Transportation has evolved in leaps and bounds over the last three decades, and is now joining the ranks of The Transportation Alliance.


Company president Lauren Payne said Tristar is a family affair, started by Payne’s grandfather originally as a driving school in the 1970s. Tristar evolved into a transportation company for special needs students in Columbus, Ohio in the late 1980s.

“We were approached in 1988 by one of the school districts that we were servicing, and they had asked if we were able to help with some of their special needs transportation. Our company kind of transformed into that business,” Payne said. “We put all our ducks into special needs services and, without any marketing, it just exploded, which is great. I think it’s just a great testament to the service we’ve provided.”


The drivers at Tristar make a difference in their students’ lives.


“Our drivers are a big piece of helping them have a good day and we really consider our drivers as part of their support team,” Payne said.


In the 1990s, Tristar sold its driving school to focus on special needs transportation. The company is now owned by Payne’s father, and over the last two years the company has expanded its business into providing non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT). Going from working with special needs students to working with senior citizens or people with mobility issues made a lot of sense for the company.


“We see that transportation is such a critical component to ensuring the well-being of folks when they have health issues or they just can’t drive themselves, or they don’t have a family member to help them with that,” Payne said.


When Payne joined the team four years ago, Tristar was still operating on older systems and using dated software. She has since implemented routing software for dispatching, paperless driver operations, and collaborative documents to keep Tristar up to speed and efficient.


Like so many other small businesses, the COVID pandemic had an impact on Tristar’s operations. With schools shut down for the spring semester of 2020, the company lost much of its revenue. Luckily, since they had just launched their NEMT business, and people still needed rides to medical appointments and hospitals, the company was able to push through and continue to provide services.


Payne now sees NEMT as Tristar’s future.


“I think it’s because we have the infrastructure and the training that we do for the student side of the business,” she said. “I see a ton of opportunity to cover a big gap in marketplaces, especially in Columbus where there seems to be not a lot of really strong, reliable transportation providers.”


Tristar joined TTA after attending the Non Emergency Medical Transportation Accreditation Commission (NEMTAC) Annual Conference in 2021. Payne and one of her colleagues have also joined the Young Transportation Professionals committee, where they have learned more about TTA.


“We were super invigorated by meeting with a lot of like-minded individuals, especially younger people,” she said. “I think there are a lot of topics we can learn from as we grow into this space.”


Payne recently registered to attend Mobilize 2022, TTA’s Annual Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, October 30 - November 2.


Please join us in welcoming Tristar Transportation to The Transportation Alliance and be certain to introduce yourself when you see her at TTA’s show in Las Vegas!

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