School Bus Contractors

2012 Contractor Showcase

Thomas McMahon
Posted on March 27, 2012
Atlantic Express operates some buses with left-side doors along one-way streets in New York City.
Atlantic Express operates some buses with left-side doors along one-way streets in New York City.

Atlantic Express Transportation Corp.
Staten Island, N.Y.

What is the biggest change you have seen in your area in recent years?

It has been another challenging year for school bus contractors. Prevailing economic conditions have tightened school budgets. Many school districts target reduction of transportation costs by increasing walking distances, cutting routes, eliminating field trips and combining runs, which are legitimate cost reductions.

Requiring school bus contractors to reduce prices, as if transporting children is a commodity, is not a legitimate reduction.  It is a service that cannot be slashed, because labor costs, insurance, fuel, maintenance, capital expenditures and a long list of other fixed and variable hard costs typically escalate. It’s unreasonable and unrealistic when school districts demand contractors to slash their prices.

Children are precious cargo, and safety is paramount. Since my company began service over 40 years ago, we have always regarded the safety of transporting children as our top priority. Recently, we invested in the latest technology in further enhancing safety and security with the installation of the GreenRoad 360 system on board our buses. We have continuous and dynamic information about each driver’s driving habits as well as vehicle movements. Our safety training programs are custom tailored to each driver’s needs. We call this precision and targeted training. Additionally, we continue to reduce exhaust emissions and fuel consumption with improved driving habits. We are proud to be ahead in the industry with our fleet-wide utilization of advanced technology.
Domenic F. Gatto
CEO and President

At Atlantic Express, safety training programs are tailored to each driver’s needs.
At Atlantic Express, safety training programs are tailored to each driver’s needs.

Fleet Facts
Number of school buses: 5,477
School district contracts: 185
States operating in: 5
Company head: Domenic F. Gatto, CEO and President
Website: www.atlanticexpress.com

 

Cook-Illinois Corp.
Oak Forest, Ill.

What is the biggest change you have seen in your area in recent years?

I believe local school districts’ expectations regarding school bus transportation have been elevated dramatically in the last couple of years. School districts expect almost perfect daily service regardless of weather or any other types of distractions. School districts want immediate answers to all inquiries and will not tolerate even the slightest problems. 
John Benish Jr.
Chief Operating Officer

Cook-Illinois’ Clean Air Club Bus is a mobile museum that teaches children to be environmentally conscious. The 45-foot, brightly colored bus runs on biodiesel and has interactive exhibits.
Cook-Illinois’ Clean Air Club Bus is a mobile museum that teaches children to be environmentally conscious. The 45-foot, brightly colored bus runs on biodiesel and has interactive exhibits.

Fleet Facts
Number of school buses: 2,200
School district contracts: Over 200
States operating in: 2
Company head: John Benish Jr., Chief Operating Officer
Website: www.cookillinois.com

First Student Inc.
Cincinnati

What is the biggest change you have seen in your area in recent years?

With the reduction of state funding, all of our school districts are looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing safety. First Student has seen this as an opportunity to work even more closely with our partners to identify savings so they have more resources to bring into the classroom.
Chris Pedde
Area General Manager, South Region

One of the biggest changes I have seen involves technology and how it has improved safety. First Student is an industry leader. Our buses are equipped with the latest safety features, including technology such as Child Check-Mate andZonar GPS. We continue to build upon our safety culture with innovative programs and the latest equipment.
Colin Michael
Area General Manager, Atlantic Region 

 

 


I have noticed that school districts have become increasingly more cost conscious. I am grateful First Student is responding with the means to control cost while also providing the highest level of safe, reliable and efficient transportation. We are able to capture the savings and ultimately pass them along to our school districts. We are able to help them create value by putting more of their budget directly into the schools.
Michael A. Shedor
Area General Manager, Central Region

 

 

Many school districts that may have been hesitant to partner with a transportation provider are now looking at using First Student as a way to bring more resources back into the classroom without sacrificing safety. Our economies of scale provide access to new parts, fuel, buses, etc. at rates an individual district is unable to realize. In many cases, a school district can upgrade or replace an aging fleet with new buses without making the capital investment.
Scott Turney
Area General Manager, Great Lakes Region

Due to state funding concerns, school districts are feeling the need to look at all cost-cutting measures, including route reductions, reducing service days and putting business out for bid. So we work closely with our partners to identify savings so they can funnel the resources back into the classroom without sacrificing safety.
Van Criddle
Area General Manager, Northwest Region

Fleet Facts
Number of school buses: 57,400
School district contracts: 1,500
Operating in: 38 states, 9 Canadian provinces
Company head: Linda Burtwistle, President
Website: www.firststudentinc.com

Student Transportation Inc.
Wall, N.J.

What is the biggest change you have seen in your area in recent years?

In the Northeast, there has been a tremendous growth in charter schools. Initially, charter schools were predominantly elementary/middle schools, but with student enrollment nearly tripling over the last few years, more charter high schools have been created. With the expectation of continued growth in both enrollment and new school charters being issued over the next five years, I think it will have a significant impact on transportation requirements.
Gene Kowalczewski
Senior Vice President

 

 

We’ve seen more opportunity to help struggling school districts save money. Whether they are looking at the possibility of completely converting their operation to a contracted service or they are looking for competitive pricing on an extracurricular trip, we are certainly seeing more opportunities to get involved.
Mike Straus
Vice President – Midwest Region


 

While there are a lot of budget cuts being made in our area, we’re still noticing that more school districts are requesting newer technology and safety equipment on buses, like digital cameras, child-check systems, stop arms and GPS. Even requests for alternative fuel sources like biodiesel have increased.
Chris Ingold
Terminal Manager – Jacksonville, Fla.

Fleet Facts
Number of school buses: 8,371
School district contracts: 220
States operating in: 13
Canadian provinces operating in: 1
Company head: Denis J. Gallagher, Chairman and CEO
Website: www.RideSTBus.com

 

 

 

Related Topics: Atlantic Express Transportation Corp., First Student Inc., Student Transportation Inc.

Thomas McMahon Executive Editor
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