School Bus Contractors

Around the Industry

Posted on June 1, 2006

STA Acquires Positive Connections
Student Transportation of America (STA) of Wall, N.J., has acquired Illinois-based Positive Connections Inc.

Through the acquisition, STA gains 400 vehicles and more than $18 million in annual revenue. Company officials said the deal, which comprises six locations in Illinois and Minnesota, also establishes a new platform for operations and growth in the Midwest.

“With a company of this size, we have the opportunity to execute our strategy of adding regional density through acquisitions, bids and conversions in nearby communities and to expand further in other Midwestern states,” said Denis Gallagher, chairman and CEO of STA.

In SBF’s Top 50 Contractors list for 2005, Positive Connections was ranked No. 29. In this year’s list, STA remains at the No. 5 spot but has increased its total school bus fleet from 3,087 to 4,017, a gain of 30 percent.

Michael Perry and Diann Crawford will continue with Positive Connections, with Perry remaining president.

“We will continue to run our operations with a local face and brand, emphasizing our strong commitment to safety,” Perry says.


Cook-Illinois Runs with Biodiesel
At the beginning of the 2005-06 school year, Cook-Illinois Corp. began running biodiesel in most of its school buses, making it one of the few contractors in the U.S. to use the alternative fuel.

The family-owned and -operated school bus contractor, which is based in Oak Forest, Ill., has long been dedicated to keeping itself on the forefront of fuel technology, having used compressed natural gas in the ‘70s and propane in the ‘80s.

Cook-Illinois and its subsidiaries are currently running about 1,000 of their more than 1,400 total school buses on biodiesel in blends from B11 to B20. Chief Operating Officer John Benish Jr. says that within the next half-year, the company will be using biodiesel in all or nearly all of its buses.

Benish says that Cook-Illinois has seen clear benefits from using the fuel. “So far it’s been great — we’ve had a good response from the public and it’s better for the engines and the environment,” he says.


Riteway to ring in its 50th year
In 1957, with a fleet of four school buses, Rollie and Pearl Bast set out to serve the busing needs of the Germantown (Wis.) School District by creating Riteway Bus Service Inc.

As it prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Riteway is still in the business of transporting pupils to and from Wisconsin schools, but now it does so with a fleet of more than 500 buses. Second and third generations of the Bast family continue to oversee the company.

As one of the largest bus companies in the state, Riteway services 35 school districts throughout central and southeastern Wisconsin. With a fleet of late-model motorcoaches, shuttle coaches, limo coaches, limousines and sedans, Riteway also accommodates local and nationwide travel for student transportation, sporting events, business meetings, airport shuttles, group tours and special occasions.

Riteway attributes its success to caring and personal service, which has always been part of the company creed.


NSTA holds tech training at Thomas facility
Thomas Built Buses hosted a National School Transportation Association (NSTA) maintenance workshop March 14-15 at the company’s C2 manufacturing facility in High Point, N.C.

Service trainer Tom Wilkins conducted hands-on technical sessions on multiplex wiring, troubleshooting school bus electrical systems and school bus construction standards. Wilkins also answered general bus repair questions.

Attendee Tom Rufenacht, shop foreman with Harford County Public Schools in Bel Air, Md., said of the seminar, “The entire experience in High Point was very enjoyable and the plant tour was impressive. The training by Tom Wilkins was excellent and provided us with valuable resources and instruction.”

NSTA has several more maintenance workshops scheduled throughout the year, including a return to the Thomas facility Oct. 24-25. For more information, visit the NSTA’s Website,


Petermann focuses on rewards
Officials at Petermann say that since the company’s inaugural year, 1921, its emphasis has always been on respecting its drivers and rewarding the outstanding work they do in safely transporting students and special-needs adults.

Petermann offers its employees various reward and recognition programs. The most recognized safety award is given during National School Bus Safety Week. For the third consecutive year, Petermann will hand over the keys to two new cars for two drivers with perfect attendance and no accidents.

Another valued reward offering is the Safe Service Award Program. Petermann offers Safe Service Award pins, gift certificates, certificates of special recognition and plaques for outstanding contributions to the company and its customers.

Additionally, Petermann sponsors numerous employee events each year, such as pancake breakfasts, pizza parties, luncheons, ice cream socials and holiday parties.

During the spring, the company holds an annual roadeo competition. All Petermann employees and their families are invited to attend. Company officials say they feel it’s important for drivers’ family members to appreciate the challenges of driving a school bus and for everyone to acknowledge school bus driving as a skilled profession.

Related Topics: NSTA, Student Transportation of America

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