NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As Nashville rides down the road to reopening, so does its “transportainment” industry.
Nicholas Lyon owns Hell on Wheels, a tourist attraction on Broadway.
“Hell on Wheels utilizes five-ton, decommissioned troop transport trucks that were meant to carry troops in combat,” said Lyon. “So folks can have the opportunity to ride around on these trucks while also giving back to wounded veterans.”
Hell on Wheels is partnered with Homes for Troops Charity, an organization that builds custom homes for severely wounded veterans.
Lyon started the company in May 2019 and said the COVID-19 pandemic hit his business hard. “It was scary as a business owner, it was scary as someone who calls Nashville home. I was getting calls for cancellations and all of the rides. So the trucks and all of the bookings were canceled and they were parked from the very beginning. Between the tornado that had just come through, and that already kind of tested the resolve and strength of Nashville and obviously everyone banded together, it was just incredible.”
Now that restrictions are beginning to ease in Nashville, Lyon said he’s starting to get bookings again for June and July. However, his business model looks a little different than before. He’s now implementing new safety measures.
The new measures include reducing the number of riders from a max of 30, down to only ten at a time. “I have it measured out and there’s six-feet of separation and there are spots that are marked on the truck. I was always very thorough cleaning the truck, but now I’ve really stepped it up. Before and after each and every ride, it gets a full disinfecting top to bottom– and hand sanitizer, lots of hand sanitizer on the truck. I wear a face mask and then I encourage all riders to wear masks as well,” Lyon said.
Lyon hopes these new precautions can make a difference.
“I hope this sheds light into how seriously I am taking the safety of not just the riders, but obviously the people that riders come in contact [with] after the truck and just being thoughtful and respectful and responsible,” said Lyon.
While the future amid the COVID-19 pandemic is uncertain, Lyon said Hell on Wheels will be ready.
“Lord forbid, if there is, you know, kind of a second wave, then the trucks will be parked yet again and, you know, we’ll just have to pick up sword and shield and go back to battle with this thing.”
Currently, the ‘transportainment’ industry is not regulated by the Metropolitan Transportation Licensing Commission. Billy Fields is the Director of the Transportation Licensing Commission. He said, “These ‘party buses’ carry more than 14 passengers and are outside our authority to regulate under state laws.”
However, a bill that would allow the commission to regulate these types of vehicles passed through the Senate Transportation and Safety Committee on March 11, 2020. Now, it has to pass through the Finance Committee.
The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Steve Dickerson. Dickerson’s office provided News 2 with the following statement:
Senator Dickerson does not anticipate that the bill will be heard when session reconvenes in June because it does not fall under the ‘mission critical’ umbrella of addressing the state budget or COVID-19. With that said, Senator Dickerson does plan to work with the community industry stakeholders to bring a similar bill in 2021. Until that happens, he believes that with the anticipated decrease in tourism and commuters, there will not be as much of a problem as there had been before the pandemic hit the city.The officer of Senator Steve Dickerson
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.