Currently, the cooperative replaces its small buses every 10 to 12 years. Bonin plans to move to an eight-year lifecycle replacement schedule.
In addition to its safety record, Bonin says flexibility is the cooperative's biggest strength. "We can pretty much do whatever the schools want, and we give the school districts a real value for the dollar," he says. "It saves the districts money to contract with us because we're transporting students long distances. Some of our routes are 200 miles a day."
Turnover at the operation is low - several of the drivers have worked there for more than 20 years. Bonin attributes this to the type of service they are providing.
"Our drivers feel good about what they're doing and enjoy seeing the difference they make in those children's lives," he says.
Communication has been integral to facilitating this.
"We require the drivers to talk to each student's parents or caregiver on the phone or in person so that before they ever transport those students, they understand their needs," Bonin says.
School buses: 50 (all small)
Average students transported monthly: 300
Districts served: 23
Schools served: 161
Transportation staff: 62
Area of service: 6 counties in Washington state; Portland, Ore.