John Corr Jr. believes that quality of service, in addition to price, should be a key consideration during a school district’s selection of a transportation contractor. As such, he spearheaded a successful drive to allow New York school districts to use an RFP rather than lowest qualified bidding for school bus service. Both parties — school districts and contractors — have benefited from this change. In recognition of this accomplishment and other contributions to the pupil transportation industry, Corr, the president of The Trans Group in Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., was named SCHOOL BUS FLEET’s Contractor of the Year for 2000. He received the award from SBF Publisher Frank Di Giacomo at the annual convention of the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) in San Francisco. “I was in a cloud after the announcement was made,” Corr says. “I’m very proud and grateful for the award.” He is no newcomer to recognition, however. In 1997, the New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA) named him its Contractor of the Year. A year later, he received the NSTA’s Distinguished Service Award. Corr grew up in a school bus family on Long Island, N.Y. His father, John Sr., started a school transportation company back in the 1950s, and until his death three years ago, played a key role in the family business. Corr says his father was a strong guiding force. “It’s a customer-service business, and a lot of the skills I was lucky to learn from my dad,” he says. “He taught me everything I know.” In 1977, Corr was given a job by his father, who by this time was operating several bus terminals. The elder Corr put his son to work in one of his bus garages. “I thought buses were made of undercoat and oil leaks,” Corr recalls of his first year on the job, spent mainly in the shop pit. Four years later, in 1981, Corr bought one of his family’s satellite bus terminals, which was later to become Chestnut Ridge Transportation. It operated approximately 40 buses, primarily for a single district. Not coincidentally, the terminal was the “problem child” of the larger operation and farthest from family headquarters. “It was outside my father’s umbrella,” he says. “I pretty much got to do things my own way.” After his father’s death three years ago, Corr bought the remaining pieces of the family’s school bus operation and renamed it The Trans Group. The company currently operates more than 700 school buses at eight facilities in five counties adjacent to New York City.
Strong supporting cast
Corr credits his management team and the districts they partner with for the smooth operation of the business. “We’ve got a really good group,” he says. In particular, Tim Flood, the company’s executive vice president, has excelled in his duties, allowing Corr to focus on big-picture issues rather than day-to-day operations. “Tim’s just done a great job for us,” Corr says. Despite the pressures that go along with running a school bus company — of any size — Corr says the rewards are worth it. “There aren’t very many industries in which you can see the difference that a day of work has accomplished,” he says. “When you’ve transported 25,000 students safely and without any problems, there’s a lot of satisfaction there. At the end of the day, you’ve accomplished a lot.”