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January 01, 2007  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Great Fleets Across America 2007

To further recognize the invaluable service provided by the nation’s pupil transportation programs, we present the seventh installment of our “Great Fleets” series. Find out how this year’s 10 outstanding operations have raised the bar in safety, efficiency, maintenance and other areas.


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The transportation team at Queen Creek Unified School District embraces a family-like philosophy. Pictured are (from left) Dave Pratt, Rudy Perez, Larry Benton, Edd Hennerly and Linda Nuetzman.

 

Growing Fleet Rooted in Home-Grown Values

Queen Creek Unified School District
Queen Creek, Ariz.

Queen Creek Unified School District’s fleet service manager says her town is no longer Arizona’s best-kept little secret. Linda Nuetzman just may be right.

Nestled in the fertile valley below the San Tan Mountains, Queen Creek is rapidly transforming from its agricultural roots into a booming business community, creating unprecedented growth for the community’s schools and school transportation department.

“We have been experiencing a 20 percent annual growth for the past three years,” says Edd Hennerley, the district’s director of transportation. “We see major changes on a daily basis, from farming operations of a few years ago to major residential and business developments crisscrossing our 44 square miles.”

As such, the district’s biggest challenge is accommodating the town’s — and school district’s — rapid growth. The district has one terminal and one bus bay with parking designed for 25, and yet the fleet has grown to 64. A new terminal is in the design stages, and the groundbreaking is slated for fall 2007.

But despite the town’s rapid growth and subsequently the fleet’s, Hennerley’s team adheres to and maintains an exceptional standard of excellence — the district has had the highest inspection pass rate in the state, per the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

“Our growth demands that we keep the entire fleet on the road,” says Hennerley, “and our staff of three technicians works miracles.”

Queen Creek’s 64-bus fleet comprises a blend of Blue Bird, International and Thomas Built buses, of which 17 are special-needs buses. All of the buses are fitted with air conditioning and sport the Athletic Script lettering denoting district ownership. Hennerley cites safety as the priority issue. As such, the district maintains a top-notch preventative program and carefully selects new purchases.

The district has committed to a high quality fleet, and it honors that commitment. Buses are spec’d with regard to student and driver comfort and vehicle longevity. Excluding the district’s 17 special-needs buses, new buses purchased averaged $104,000 each.

“We have gained the respect of our district personnel as well as our vendors and surrounding districts,” says Hennerley. “It may be right to follow the leader, but we prefer to be the leader in pupil transportation in Arizona.”

Hennerley’s team leads the way in maintaining a small-town, family-esque work environment too. The district shares numerous breakfasts and BBQ luncheons together, and they celebrate the holidays with a potluck. They also attend a three-day motivational conference in Bullhead City and close the year with an annual awards banquet, where in addition to staff being recognized for excellence, the “Oops” award is presented in acknowledgment of the biggest blunder.

“Our philosophy is that we want Queen Creek Schools Transportation to be the best place you have ever worked,” says Hennerley. “We truly are a family.”

— ALISON BLASKO

Fleet Facts
Buses: 64
Students transported daily: 3,000
Total students in district: 4,500
Schools served: 6
Transportation staff: 70
Area of service: 44 square miles
Average driver wage: $13.44/hour


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