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Posted on July 1, 2008

First Student New Orleans moves into new facility

NEW ORLEANS — The First Student school bus transportation facility here has moved to a permanent location, after having operated out of trailers since Hurricane Katrina.

First Student faced the same challenges as other New Orleans-area businesses immediately following Katrina: finding electricity, fresh water and vendors that were still operational to help them get back on their feet and back in business.

Once the inoperable buses were towed away and trailers were brought in, the New Orleans team was able to re-establish the office and resume training and limited operations, said Rick Hendricks, location manager of First Student New Orleans. After that, the team could focus on getting school bus routes up and running.

“The constant challenge for our New Orleans team has been finding adequate facilities in a town that once stood 17 feet under water,” Hendricks said.

The new First Student location is a former auto auction facility with 10 bays, 5,000 square feet of office space and paved parking.

“The site is perfectly suited for school bus transportation,” Hendricks said. “We are pleased to be able to continue providing the highest level of service and safety as we transport New Orleans students to and from school each day.”

The operation has grown from 30 routes after Hurricane Katrina to more than 400 routes, servicing two school districts and a dozen charter schools.


Durham acquires A&E Transport

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. — Durham School Services has acquired Oswego, N.Y.-based A&E Transport Services Inc.

A&E operates approximately 300 school buses in New York state and has been serving the area for more than 26 years. The operation has five additional locations.

A&E President and CEO Jay Saternow founded the company in 1981 as a single-man operation, serving local school districts’ special-needs students.

The company experienced dramatic growth over the years, and its service eventually extended across New York state, from the Canadian border to New York City.

David Duke, senior vice president of services at Durham, said the acquisition will allow the company to achieve its growth goals and increase its market presence in New York state.


Cook-Illinois launches clean-air museum on wheels

LIBERTYVILLE, Ill. — A mobile museum that teaches children to be environmentally friendly made its debut at an elementary school here on Earth Day.

The museum is a 45-foot, brightly colored bus that runs on biodiesel fuel. In conjunction with the museum’s arrival, the school held an assembly about clean air, and students learned about the corresponding Clean Air Club, which educates children on biodiesel and the environment.

The club and bus were the brainchild of Cook-Illinois Corp. The contractor, which serves more than 200 school districts throughout Illinois and Indiana, runs all 1,700 of its school buses on biodiesel.

The exterior of the Clean Air Club bus is illustrated with schoolchildren, clouds, butterflies and rainbows. Inside are four interactive exhibits that explain how biodiesel is made and how it helps the environment and students’ health.

“Our goal is to provide a cleaner and safer environment for students, but also make it a fun learning experience,” Cook-Illinois CEO John Benish said. “We plan to travel to many schools throughout Chicago and Indiana and educate as many children as possible on the importance of going green.”

Students from across the country who are under 14 years old can join the Clean Air Club at The Website offers educational material, games and activities. Prizes are awarded for joining the club and for writing essays.


Roberts Hawaii helps with home makeover

HONOLULU — When the television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition brought together volunteers to build a new home for a local family, Roberts Hawaii Inc. (RHI) was among those that pitched in.

The company donated drivers and vehicles to transport workers between the airport, their hotels and the build site, operating shuttles 24 hours a day during the week-long project.

Craftsmen from across the Hawaiian Islands convened on Oahu to construct the Akana family’s new home in the Kalihi Valley.

The project had a personal connection for Neil Takekawa, president of RHI. “I remember growing up in Kalihi Valley and playing with my friends on the very property used in the Extreme Makeover television production,” Takekawa said.

In addition to providing transportation for more than 1,500 volunteers, RHI gave free rides to tourists and local families who weren’t involved but wanted to visit the build site.

Takekawa said that the company is “proud of Hawaii and proud of the ‘aloha spirit’ in our employees.”

In other news, RHI created an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), allowing employees to be co-owners of the 66-year-old company.

Chairman and CEO Robert Iwamoto Jr. and his family transferred 47 percent of the company’s stock to the ESOP last year. About 1,000 employees initially joined the ESOP, with the company’s 400 additional employees potentially becoming eligible in the coming years.

“Our employees are a tremendous part of RHI’s achievements, and sharing ownership with them will not only reward their contribution but also provide incentives for their continued dedication,” Iwamoto said.

In addition to school bus service, RHI provides sightseeing tours around Hawaii’s four largest islands and a variety of activities, including dinner cruises and the “Magic of Polynesia” show.


STA wins New England contracts

TORONTO — Student Transportation of America Ltd. (STA) has been awarded new five-year contracts with the Danbury and Guilford school districts in Connecticut, plus a new five-year contract in Milton, Vt.

The two Connecticut contracts, commencing in July, will generate approximately $7 million in revenue per year and more than $36 million over the term. The agreements include provisions for the school districts to provide 100 percent of the fuel required. The Vermont contract includes a fuel cap and tucks into STA’s existing facility in the area. The company said that it would add 165 vehicles to its fleet to serve the three new customers.

In March, STA was awarded a five-year contract totaling $8.4 million over the term by the Kearsarge Regional School District in New Hampshire, which also included a provision for the school district to provide 100 percent of the fuel.

STA Chairman and CEO Denis Gallagher said that the new contracts eliminate the uncertainty of fuel costs — a strategic objective for the company. Gallagher also said that 97 percent of STA’s existing contracts up for renewal this year have been renewed, and that the company is renegotiating existing fuel protection agreements to offset higher fuel costs in some contracts without such clauses.


Forsythe wins fleet award

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Forsythe Transportation Inc. was recently recognized for operating the best-maintained large bus fleet in Alaska.

The state’s School Bus Inspection Team made the announcement at the end of the spring 2008 inspection period. All school bus operations in the state must undergo inspection twice a year.

Forsythe’s Anchorage facility won the award after only six months of service for the Anchorage School District.

“We are particularly proud of our successful maintenance record, as it is the heart of our operation,” CEO Bill Forsythe said. “The safety of the students who ride in our buses every day is our No. 1 priority.”

Forsythe Transportation acquired the contracts and assets for the Anchorage School District in October.


First Student inks supply pacts

CINCINNATI — First Student has inked multi-year supply contracts with two major school bus manufacturers.

The contractor signed a $90 million deal with Thomas Built Buses to supply Type D Saf-T-Liner school buses over the next three years. The agreement makes Thomas Built the exclusive supplier of Type D buses to First Student.

The contractor also signed an agreement with IC Bus LLC to supply Type C CE Series school buses through 2010, with further options to purchase additional buses through 2012. Including option years, the deal could be worth up to $1.2 billion.

All of the buses ordered by First Student will be built to customer specifications and will include such safety equipment as crossing arms and electronic child-check reminder systems.


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