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March 01, 2005  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

SBF's 2005 Contractor Showcase

Meet five of the nation's largest school bus contractors, and find out what separates them from the rest of the pack.

2005 Contractor Showcase'>
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Laidlaw Education Services

Naperville, Ill.

Transporting close to 2 million students on more than 39,200 school buses daily is an enormous logistical challenge, but Laidlaw Education Services does just that.

As North America’s largest school bus contractor, Laidlaw’s influence spreads inward from the far corners of the United States and Canada, touching home at the company’s Naperville, Ill., headquarters.

Although size is the most salient feature of Laidlaw’s school bus operation, company officials point to its emphasis on safety, efficiency and innovation as its hallmarks of success.

Safety is heralded by all who transport the nation’s schoolchildren on yellow buses, but Laidlaw has made significant investments in training and equipment to buttress its claim of superiority.

“We call it our unwavering commitment to safety,” says Hugh MacDiarmid, president and CEO of Laidlaw Education Services. To that end, the company not only provides top-grade training to its new and experienced drivers, it also screen its new hires with a full array of tools, including the Avatar Selection System, to find the most promising candidates.

Laidlaw also has taken up the challenge of not stranding passengers on buses. It has installed child reminder systems on all of its buses, requiring the driver to walk to the back of the bus and look for any remaining children after every run.

To provide school systems with a menu of transportation options, Laidlaw offers what it calls “unbundled” services. Instead of simply offering turnkey contracting, the company offers stand-alone services such as safety training, computerized routing through its LPS technology consulting firm and maintenance services. In addition to home-to-school transportation, it also offers contracting for field, athletic and extracurricular trips. “This concept of unbundled services focuses greater attention on the true needs of customers and positions us to fulfill their unmet needs,” MacDiarmid says.

Keeping such a large, geographically diverse fleet running smoothly is an unenviable task, but Laidlaw’s maintenance staff is up to the challenge. Many of its mechanics are certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. They’re also aided by VTrak, a proprietary software system. Once a week, every VTrak branch location sends full maintenance data — including inspection status, repair costs, licensing warranties, mileage and other information — to the central management system.

Comprehensive vehicle maintenance and compliance histories are then generated and monitored by regional management to ensure that Laidlaw meets all state and national compliance requirements.

School buses in fleet: 39,287
States operating in: 36
Students transported: 2 million
Company head: Hugh McDiarmid, president and CEO
Phone: (800) LAIDLAW

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