School Bus Contractors

In the Office or at the Wheel, Contractor of the Year Led by Example

Thomas McMahon
Posted on August 31, 2015
Riley Williams was honored posthumously as SBF’s 2015 Contractor of the Year. Carol Williams (middle left), Riley’s wife, and Chloe Williams, their daughter, accepted the award on his behalf. At left is outgoing NSTA President Tim Flood. At right is SBF General Manager James Blue. Photo courtesy NSTA

Riley Williams was honored posthumously as SBF’s 2015 Contractor of the Year. Carol Williams (middle left), Riley’s wife, and Chloe Williams, their daughter, accepted the award on his behalf. At left is outgoing NSTA President Tim Flood. At right is SBF General Manager James Blue. Photo courtesy NSTA

When Riley Williams began in the contracting business in 1975, he had little knowledge about school buses.

Williams’ father, who ran an eight-bus operation, had died suddenly. Williams and his wife, Carol, decided to take on the family business.

While Williams lacked yellow bus experience at the time, he made up for it with sharp business instincts, a magnetic personality and dedication to serving students and their families. He quickly learned the ropes of pupil transportation while working to build strong relationships with school leaders and to earn the trust of the community.

“Everybody knew that Riley would take care of their kids,” his daughter Chloe Williams says. “Everybody had the confidence in him.”

That commitment to his customers and community continued throughout Riley Williams’ career. For his decades of safely transporting students, contributing to industry associations and giving back to the community, School Bus Fleet named Williams its 48th Contractor of the Year.

The posthumous award came a month after Williams died in June. SBF General Manager James Blue presented the honor at the National School Transportation Association (NSTA)’s awards ceremony in Minneapolis on July 21. Carol and Chloe Williams accepted the award on Riley’s behalf.

Fleet Facts:
Headquarters: Alloway Township, New Jersey
Number of locations: 2
School buses: 180
Total staff: 250
Districts served: 14
Students transported daily: about 2,250

From trucks to buses
Riley Williams’ parents founded B.R. Williams Inc. in 1935. They initially provided transportation service to the school in rural Alloway Township, New Jersey, where the company is based.

Williams didn’t graduate from high school, but he earned a GED. After serving in the U.S. Air Force for four years, he drove a truck for a chemical company. During his time as a truck driver, he and Carol married and had three kids.

When Riley and Carol Williams acquired B.R. Williams Inc. from his parents in 1975, it was still a small company serving its hometown with eight school buses. But soon a neighboring school district wanted to privatize its transportation service.

With the help of a colleague in the contracting business, Williams pulled resources together, bid for the district’s contract and got it. Then another district went out to bid for its school bus service, and Williams won that contract as well.

Williams expanded the business fairly quickly during his first eight years at the helm, and it continued to grow gradually over the following decades. Today, B.R. Williams Inc. operates about 180 school buses and serves students in more than a dozen districts in New Jersey. 
 

Early in their contracting career, Riley and Carol Williams became members of NSTA in 1985. They drove about 90 miles to Baltimore for their first NSTA convention in 1988. Photo courtesy Chloe Williams
Early in their contracting career, Riley and Carol Williams became members of NSTA in 1985. They drove about 90 miles to Baltimore for their first NSTA convention in 1988. Photo courtesy Chloe Williams

Industry leader

Along with running a respected school bus operation, Williams was recognized for his impact in state and national associations.

Early in their contracting career, Riley and Carol became members of NSTA in 1985. The couple drove about 90 miles to Baltimore for their first NSTA convention in 1988. From that point on, they regularly attended the association’s annual gatherings for the majority of their time in the industry.

Williams also offered vital leadership and shared his insights with colleagues throughout New Jersey. Also early in his career, he joined the New Jersey School Bus Owners Association, and he went on to serve two terms as president of the group.

That state association split into two in 1997, with some members breaking off to form the Garden State School Bus Contractors Association. After years of the two groups operating separately, Williams was integral in reuniting them.

“He was one of the old timers who said, ‘We need to put it back together,’” Chloe Williams says.

In June 2012, the two groups merged to form the New Jersey School Bus Contractors Association (NJSBCA). The association encompasses more than 30 contractors and around 10,000 of the 17,000 privately owned school buses in the state.

NJSBCA represents small, medium and large contractors. Like B.R. Williams Inc., many of them are multi-generation family businesses.

Riley Williams continued to contribute to NJSBCA, in recent years driving with Chloe to the association’s monthly meetings.

“It was good to have him there to get his perspective — to hear some of the wisdom you get from the old guys,” Chloe says.

On Riley Williams’ passing, the NJSBCA issued a statement pointing to his leadership, influence and dedication to the industry throughout his career.

“B. Riley Williams was a man of dignity who acted quietly and gave generously,” NJSBCA officials said. “He did the right thing — not for rewards or recognition, but because it was the right thing to do. … Riley will be fondly remembered and infinitely respected.”

“Everybody knew that Riley would take care of their kids. Everybody had the confidence in him.”
-Chloe Williams, B.R. Williams Inc.

The New Jersey School Bus Contractors Association called Williams “a man of dignity who acted quietly and gave generously.”
The New Jersey School Bus Contractors Association called Williams “a man of dignity who acted quietly and gave generously.”

Related Topics: New Jersey, NSTA

Thomas McMahon Executive Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Dwight

     | about 3 years ago

    School Bus contracting. A family business that gives back to the communities. "That makes a difference"

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