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August 29, 2014  |   Comments (2)   |   Post a comment

For Gallagher, Commitment to Customer Fuels Great Growth

In 17 years, Student Transportation Inc. leader Denis Gallagher has built his company into the third-largest school bus contracting firm in North America. Along the way, he has embraced alternative fuels and new technologies, focused on recruiting good people, and maintained a 95% contract renewal rate.

by Thomas McMahon - Also by this author


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When he founded Student Transportation of America in 1997, Denis Gallagher’s goal was fairly simple: “to just build a good company with good people who shared the same philosophy as I do,” as he puts it.

“I always thought that if you took care of the people you work with, they would take care of the customer, and the customer would take care of the company and so on,” Gallagher elaborated recently. “It’s called the ‘Service Profit Chain,’ and it is best delivered by people who really care about what they do. I thought if we did those things, we could possibly grow and make a difference.”

And grow they did. Student Transportation Inc. (STI), as the overall company is now known, has become the third-largest school bus contracting firm in North America. Each school day, STI shuttles 1 million students to and from school in the U.S. and Canada with a fleet of more than 11,000 yellow buses.

Gallagher, who serves as chairman and CEO of the company, has long been an outspoken champion of outsourcing school transportation in STI’s work with school districts and in high-profile interviews on news networks. He has led STI’s remarkable growth with a strategy dubbed “A-B-C”: acquisition, bid and conversion.

For his efforts in building a top-caliber company, providing safe and efficient transportation for students, and promoting privatized school bus service, SCHOOL BUS FLEET named Gallagher its 2014 Contractor of the Year.
SBF Publisher Frank Di Giacomo presented the honor at the National School Transportation Association’s awards banquet in Charleston, South Carolina, in July.

School bus roots
Gallagher was essentially born into the school bus business. In 1922, his grandfather launched a school transportation company when he began shuttling a few kids home from school in an old truck.

Gallagher’s father continued in the family business, called Coast Cities School Buses Inc., and later brought his son Denis on board.

“My father had the greatest influence in my career and taught me all about the school bus business,” Gallagher says. “He taught me how to drive, fix buses and dispatch as well as the importance of service to customers and the importance of never forgetting where you started.”

In 1987, Coast Cities — which had become the largest privately held school bus company in New Jersey — was sold to Laidlaw, where Gallagher became a senior executive and played an integral role in acquisitions and expansion into new markets. In 1996, Gallagher left to launch his own company.

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Read more about: SBF Contractor of the Year, Student Transportation of America

Mr.Gallagher has brought together an amazing management team in the Buffalo, New York area. I am so proud to be a part of the STA family. It has been a good change for me and I look forward to seeing STA grow and develop more in the Buffalo areas.

Sandra Fialkowski    |    Sep 06, 2014 12:33 PM

Denis congratulations on being named 2014 Contractor of the year by School Bus Fleet. Keep up the good work Denis and continue to reward the good people you have hired to help make your company successful. I still maintain that Student Transportation of Canada is the best in Ontario from the years that I was a charter driver for Parkview Transit/Parkview Simcoe Bus Lines in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.

Ivan Winger    |    Sep 02, 2014 07:33 PM

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