Michael and Lory Fullington repurchase Fullington Auto Bus Co. from RATP Dev. The Pennsylvania-based company’s fleet includes 230 school buses.
With the new year approaching, SBF interviewed Linda Burtwistle, president of North America’s largest school bus contractor, First Student Inc., in December to get her outlook on industry issues for 2011. She also discusses recent developments with the company.
SBF: What do you see as the top issues for the school bus industry in 2011?
LINDA BURTWISTLE: School districts around the country are facing funding and budgetary constraints, and as a service provider we have the opportunity to work with our partners to create efficiencies and identify savings. Outsourcing transportation can help districts focus their resources on the core function of education, which is necessary in these challenging economic times.
In addition, we as an industry are constantly focused on the safety of our operations. Statistics show that taking the school bus is the safest way for students to get to and from school, but we can always improve. From inspections and training to daily home-to-school travel and weekend charter activity, we must always be focused on safe and secure operation.
Any thoughts on how the new Congress might impact the industry?
Recent elections have stressed the importance of prudent spending across all areas of business and government. School districts are challenged to do more with less, which challenges us to help them find solutions that will enable them to operate even more efficiently.
Are there any new initiatives that First Student is undertaking this year?
With safety as our core value, we are continually striving for zero incidents across the company. Our internal First to Zero safety program allows us to focus on best practices and spotlight those locations who have demonstrated safety excellence.
We are committed to growing and expanding our charter program. Charters are a hidden gem for us — they are a safe, cost-effective mode of transportation for customers and a valuable revenue source for our business. New marketing materials and charter manager training will help us better communicate our service to current and prospective clients.
We are streamlining our internal processes to operate at maximum efficiency. In addition, we are focusing on our local managers to ensure they have the tools and resources necessary for operation.
First Student recently acquired Star Shuttle Co., a school and charter transportation services provider in New Jersey. With transitions like this, what are some of the key challenges?
Our focus with any acquisition is on the employees. We strive to make the transition as seamless as possible for each new employee, ensuring they receive the training and information necessary, while maintaining their local culture and camaraderie. We are also focused on getting to know the new customers, students and parents. Our commitment to safe and secure transportation is core to any service, and we need to make sure this is communicated.
What kind of equipment is First Student spec’ing on its new buses?
Our commitment to safety is seen on each of our buses, both new and existing. Each bus includes technology such as Child Check-Mate and GPS that ensure the safety and security of students on board. New buses include high-vis yellow handrails, and existing buses are retrofitted with durable high-vis tape. We are also focused on fuel efficiency and utilize technology on each bus that reduces idling.
School bus operators can still apply to take part in the next SBX educational networking event.
Patti Royce-Moser is promoted at Educational Bus in New York. She has been a longtime routing coordinator with the company.
The New York Association for Pupil Transportation supports the legislation, which responds to instances of school bus driver DUIs.
The New York School Bus Contractors Association presents a new award to First Student’s Bobby DeLee, who evacuated his passengers after smelling smoke.
The Massachusetts drivers are instructed to drive their routes and advise students of a school start delay when some buses fail to run in the cold.
State Sen. Jeff Klein is recognized for supporting safe student transportation and tougher penalties for passing stopped school buses.
Venecia Bisono of New York is arrested after allegedly leaving a 4-year-old on a school bus for six hours. She is charged with failure to exercise control of a minor and reckless endangerment.
Feature articles that drew the most traffic on the School Bus Fleet website in 2017 included tips on buying a used school bus and an immigrant’s journey from cab driver to running a school bus company.
School bus drivers who work for contractors in the state can now administer epinephrine auto-injectors for students who have allergy attacks.
Harrisonville, Missouri, Mayor Brian Hasek says he was enlightened “about all the work that goes into getting our students to school safely.”
The contractor is named a Clean Fuel Champion by Wisconsin Clean Cities.
Leonard Bus Sales of New York’s “Giving Thanks and Giving Back” includes a program that provides meals to children in need, a holiday canned food drive, and annual direct contributions to food banks.
Drivers will receive more pay, sick leave, and increased retirement plan contributions in the new contract with Baumann & Sons Buses.
The New York School Bus Contractors Association calls for school buses to be included in a proposed bus lane for the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.