Forty-two years ago, Rick Thielen came to Redwood Falls to move kids from their homes to their schools; today his coach buses transport riders all over the nation.
In 1972, Rick Thielen was working in Minneapolis. “I was looking to get out on my own,” he said, adding his dad had owned a bus company in Little Falls. So, Thielen began looking around, which is when he found Redwood Falls and bought the existing bus service from Tom Arnett. “Tom was a long-time figure in Redwood Falls,” Thielen said. “He stayed on with us while we got our feet wet.” That business in transporting school students was enhanced in 1976 when Thielen decided to start a charter bus service. “We started that service from scratch,” he said, adding he bought a bus and then started looking for work. Charter bus services mean being on the road a lot, and as he continued raising his family, Thielen decided to open up the Thielen Travel agency in 1989 and got out of the charter bus service business. “We started up the charter service again in 1995 and sold the travel business in 1998,” he said, adding today the company operates seven full sized coaches and one mini coach, with buses traveling throughout the 48 continental United States and throughout seven provinces in Canada. The primary focus on the charter business is in offering motor coach tours, said Rick, who operates the company with son, Joe, who grew up around the business and began working full time 13 years ago. Those tours are offered in conjunction with tour companies, said Rick, adding Thielen Bus Lines works a lot with companies out of Willmar and New Ulm. Charter bus services are also offered to high schools for various athletic, academic and artistic events, with colleges also being served.
There are currently 18 school buses and a few Suburbans in the Thielen fleet, and Rick said the company currently is operating 14 routes in the area. The two services complement each other, said Rick, adding there are 35 drivers across the fleet, with four of those drivers also serving as mechanics for the company. “We are always looking for more drivers,” said Thielen, adding that is an issue companies throughout the industry are currently facing. “We want to thank our drivers for the great job they do for us.” Thielen recognized those school bus drivers who go out every school day in the morning and afternoon when they are called regardless of the weather and get the job done safely bring kids to school and taking them home again. Thielen also said the coach drivers really represent the company well, as repeat business reflects the good job they do. “Our drivers are the unsung heroes of what we do,” he said. Drivers are required to have a CDL and must pass a background check, and Thielen said the field is wide open right now for people who want to get involved in it. Thielen said the company puts on hundreds of thousands of miles each year as it transports people from here to there. Find out more by calling (507) 637-3600, or visit thielencoaches.com.