Since becoming CEO of National Express Corp. in 2011, David Duke says the company’s safety performance has continued to improve, and employee and customer feedback is positive.
When David Duke became CEO of National Express Corp. (NEC) in 2011, one of his goals was ensuring a renewed focus on NEC’s core values: safety, people, customers and community.
Now in his second year at the helm of the nation’s second largest school bus contractor, Duke says the team has achieved this.
“Our safety performance year over year has continued to improve, and I’m very proud of that,” he says. “Our customer surveys are very positive. Our employee survey results are also positive, so a lot of the right things are happening.”
NEC has also had notable safety accomplishments under Duke’s leadership. All of the company’s safety directors have become certified by the Institute for Safety and Health Management, and NEC was awarded an ANSI/AIHA Z10‐2012 Safety Management System certificate for the provision of student transportation services for one of its sites. Duke says they are rolling out the review across the company.
For his commendable efforts at NEC and in the broader pupil transportation community, SBF named Duke its 2013 Contractor of the Year.
Significant company growth
NEC has added 24 new customers over the past year, eight of which had not previously contracted their transportation needs.
Also, the company acquired Petermann Ltd., which increased NEC’s fleet to more than 20,000 school buses. Petermann joined the company’s other U.S. subsidiary, Durham School Services, and its Canadian subsidiary, Stock Transportation. (NEC is headquartered in Warrenville, Ill.)
“Petermann is a great addition to our business,” Duke says. “Our cultures were very much aligned. We both had a focus on safety and people, so it’s gone well.”
The intent of the merger was to combine the best practices from both companies to best serve customers.
An example of this is NEC’s revamped driver training program. Duke says Petermann’s driver training program was stronger than NEC’s program, so officials took the best components of both programs and worked with an outside firm to develop what Duke says is a “really solid” program.
Improvements have been made to the passenger management and behind-the-wheel aspects of the program, as well as to the overall delivery of the training material.
What’s ahead for NEC
Duke says it’s important for NEC to progress, and this involves building a learning organization, and building a data-driven business by using telematics to enable customers and stakeholders to measure NEC’s performance. He also wants to build a best-in-class maintenance organization and enhance the company’s customer service culture.
From a learning standpoint, Duke says he wants to provide tools and training opportunities for the company’s existing employees to grow, and he wants to attract new people to the business from other industries.
NEC created a manager-in-training program to better target internal candidates for opportunities.
“It includes a more focused approach to screening to ensure a better fit, and it also includes more hands-on training,” Duke explains.
To attract more people to the business, the company has successfully leveraged networking sites like LinkedIn, and Duke says there has been an effort to reach out to colleges and universities.
“We also need to make sure that we’re giving opportunities to our military veterans,” he adds. “We utilize the Military Times job posting website as a recruiting tool and also partner with local offices of the Wounded Warrior Project.”
Later this year, the company will launch the National Express Giving Foundation, which will be open for scholarships, community grants and other charitable endeavors.
“I think it’s going to be pretty powerful,” he says.