Doug Stumbo joined the family business in 1969 and currently serves as owner and the sole mechanic on staff.
Long service points to strengths
In this day and age of corporate takeovers and economic struggle, there’s a lot to be said for a small family business that has been doing good work for decades and sees nothing extraordinary in simply providing high-quality service, day in and day out.
Stumbo Transportation of Ogden, Iowa, has been around since 1941, when Doug Stumbo’s father, Jack, started taking farmers’ children to the country school in a single bus. “They approached my dad because he had a couple semis, farm trucks and gravel trucks,” he says. “By 1948 he had five routes.” And by 1956, Stumbo Transportation was exclusively a school bus company. Doug remembers making his first school bus purchase for the company — a $9,500 expenditure — and remarks that of all the changes he’s seen in the industry over the years, the evolving construction of school buses is the most notable.
Today, Stumbo Transportation runs seven routes as well as activity trips for the Ogden Community School District. Stumbo says he hadn’t always planned on going into the family business. “I had other ideas growing up — you know how kids are,” he says. But when he got out of the Army in 1969, Stumbo decided to work with his father. He’s now seen six superintendents at the school district and is transporting his third generation of Ogden families.
Stumbo Transportation has long relationships with its drivers, as well. “I have one driver that has been with me since 1974, and a couple that have been here since 1978,” Stumbo says. He describes the employees as a close-knit group. They celebrate holidays, the end of the school year and birthdays together each year. “I don’t know how it ever started, but whoever’s birthday it is, they have to bring in the cake and ice cream to celebrate,” Stumbo says.
Stumbo takes care of all bus maintenance himself, keeping his seven route buses — 65-passenger diesels — and three spares in prime condition. “I just keep things written down and try to stay ahead of anything that might come up,” he says. “My drivers are good about telling me about problems so I can stay on top of things.” He also fills in as a substitute driver as needed.
Among the challenges the operation faces are severe winter weather, like the heavy snow storms that hit the Midwest this past December, and making sure all the routes are covered when activity trips come up, Stumbo says. “Our schools have a policy that each class gets at least one trip during the year, and some get more than that,” he explains. Students regularly take trips to Des Moines to see the state capitol building, and transportation for sports events also keeps Stumbo busy.
He ensures that a certain set of events are attended to each year: the state’s required school bus safety meetings, twice-yearly evacuation drills with students, and attending the Iowa Pupil Transportation Association’s annual summer conference in Des Moines.
What is he most proud of? “I guess just being around for as many years as we have and the personal contact we have with the school district and people in the community,” Stumbo says. “It’s been rewarding just watching the kids grow up over the years and then graduate, and then all of a sudden you’re taking their kids to school too.”
— CLAIRE ATKINSON
School buses: 10
Students transported daily: 350
Schools served: 3
Transportation staff: 12
Area of service: 143 sq. miles