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March 01, 2005  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

SBF's 2005 Contractor Showcase

Meet five of the nation's largest school bus contractors, and find out what separates them from the rest of the pack.


2005 Contractor Showcase'>
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First Student, Inc.

Cincinnati

Transporting more than a million of our nation’s pupils each school day, First Student clearly has a lot riding on its buses. The contractor fulfills its mission through a three-tiered approach with the fields of safety, maintenance and operations.

The company, which is an operating unit of worldwide transportation company First Group plc, offers an array of services — including full turnkey contracting, special-needs transportation, management contracting and bus leasing and maintenance — to meet the needs of school systems.

First Student touts safety as its highest priority and bolsters it through a combination of training, incentives, programs, tools and personnel. Employees make a commitment to act safely both inside and outside of the workplace.

Last year, the company initiated a program in which its employees are required to wear reflective vests while walking in the bus yards. The company distributed about 27,000 of the vests in an effort to prevent pedestrian-vs.-bus accidents.

These sorts of bright ideas don’t just appear on the national level, though. In Vermont, for instance, First Student bus operators devised a creative way to make up for their lack of paved lots. Since school bus mirror clinics are traditionally painted on asphalt or concrete, staff members rigged up two portable devices to use in all First Student locations in the state. One part of the mirror clinic was made on a large sheet of polyethylene, while the other part was made with red, yellow and white plastic plates joined by twine.

First Student has made employee satisfaction another focus of its strategy for success. Programs such as effective passenger management training, employee recognition, tuition reimbursement and community outreach are key elements of that effort. So is a benefits bundle that includes medical, life and dental insurance, a 401(k) plan, various savings and retirement packages and company holidays and vacations.

First Student also highlights maintenance as one of its strong points. The company has an ongoing policy to continually improve its preventive maintenance practices, and it strives for perfection on vehicle inspections.

In 2003, SCHOOL BUS FLEET selected the First Student terminal in Augusta, Maine, as one of the Top 10 Maintenance Programs of the year. The Augusta operation had scored 100 percent on each of the twice-a-year state inspections since 2001. In SBF’s 2004 Top 50 Contractors survey, First Student was ranked as the second-largest pupil transportation company in North America. The company experienced an 8 percent growth in fleet size from the previous year’s tally, expanding from 15,600 to 16,867 vehicles. FLEET FACTS
School buses in fleet: 18,319
States operating in: 34
Students transported: 1.2 million
Company head: Carey Paster, chief operating officer
Website: www.firststudentinc.com
Phone: (800) 844-5588

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