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July 02, 2013  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

With growth, Krapf keeps focus on people

After 70 years in operation, Pennsylvania-based George Krapf Jr. & Sons is the sixth-largest school bus contractor in the nation and extends into multiple states. CEO Blake Krapf says that building strong relationships with districts and maintaining a top-quality staff are still the keys to the business.

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On a national level, what issues are you monitoring as far as their potential impact on the school bus business?
One is potential regulatory activity regarding sleep apnea, and how that might affect our drivers. As part of NSTA [the National School Transportation Association], we’re monitoring that as closely as we can and working with our legislators to make sure that there are well-thought-out regulations put in place that are specific to the school bus industry.
We just want to make sure that drivers aren’t disqualified unnecessarily. Obviously we want to make sure that they’re the safest, healthiest drivers we can find, but still, we don’t want drivers to get disqualified unnecessarily because of a regulation that was intended for over-the-road truck drivers and not school bus drivers.

The other issue is what is popularly referred to as Obamacare. Obviously, the mandated health coverage is a potential threat to not just our business, but all small businesses.

On the sleep apnea issue, is the goal to get FMCSA [the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration] to do a formal rulemaking process?
You understand that absolutely correctly. Right now they are considering implementing regulations without doing the formal rulemaking process. The issue is that there is no data that suggests that there is a problem with sleep apnea among school bus drivers. There’s no record of accidents that they’ve been able to produce that suggests that sleep apnea is the cause of the accident.

Would you say that business conditions for school bus contractors have gotten better or more difficult over the past few years?
Similar to what I said before, I think it’s gotten more difficult because of the financial conditions of our customers. Frankly, I don’t see any significant improvement in the landscape for them anytime in the near future. I think they’re going to continue to have financial struggles.

In your state, Pennsylvania, are there any pressing issues that you’re working on with the Pennsylvania School Bus Association?
A couple of issues: There’s a Senate bill being proposed right now that would significantly raise fees for the registration of school buses and also for the driver licenses. So we want to monitor that and make sure we have an understanding of how that impacts our industry. Also, there’s a lot of legislation as a result of the scandal involving Penn State University and Jerry Sandusky — how to make sure that with all background checks, there’s nobody slipping through any loopholes.

Krapf was recognized with the first “Go Yellow, Go Green” award from NSTA a few years ago. Where do you see the alternative-fuel market going?
Pennsylvania’s a big Marcellus Shale state, so compressed natural gas [CNG] is a big topic of discussion here. In my opinion, there is not yet an adequate infrastructure to support a fleet of CNG vehicles, but there is a lot of money being invested currently in the infrastructure. So I think you will see more fleets trying CNG-powered vehicles. That’s a result of the close access to natural gas through the Marcellus Shale.

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