MESA, Ariz. — For Ron Latko, retirement hardly means the end of his career. Instead, he has launched his own pupil transportation consulting business.
Soon after May 22, his last day working as director of transportation for Mesa Public Schools, Latko officially started Latko Consulting Inc. While no stranger to starting his own businesses, such as one he created years ago that manufactured products that included signage for the traffic control industry, consulting is a new area for him.
Latko initially thought he was just going to retire, he told SBF. However, he decided to try going out on his own after having done so much work helping Mesa Public Schools, the largest school district in Arizona, to begin converting its fleet to alternative fuels, and assisting many other districts with pupil transportation issues.
While extending that help to others over the past 12-plus years, he became a passionate advocate for using alternative fuels and infrastructure, particularly propane, to power school buses, and gained expertise in pupil transportation. He hopes to use his extensive knowledge to help student transportation-related businesses and organizations — particularly school bus companies and propane companies — improve sales, and districts across the U.S. become more efficient and save money, just like he did for Mesa Public Schools.
“There are a lot of things I think districts don’t think of, [especially] some of the smaller ones, because there are just too few people wearing too many hats,” Latko said.
For example, the district was using several private bus companies for activity trips; as SBF previously reported, Latko brought most of those in-house, providing a net savings of $1.14 million per year. He described it as a win-win, because it gave more hours to drivers, and gave school districts a lower cost basis to do those trips. He also helped the district’s transportation department start an initiative to go paperless, and encouraged recycling.
However, Latko’s introduction of alternative fuels to power the fleet brought the biggest bang for the district’s buck, saving it more than $800,000. When he left the district, 90 out of the 545 buses in the fleet were propane-powered, and the district has a goal to eventually convert the entire fleet to propane in the next 12 years, he said.
Additionally, the district will eventually be able to buy an average of 40 to 45 buses a year and the fuel to power them using only the money it has saved on fuel.
Latko is particularly looking forward to helping school districts in Arizona convert their fleets to alternative fuel, he added.
“Propane is the answer for school buses and districts’ support vehicles,” he said. “Those don’t travel very far so we have to look at other types of alternative fuels, such as electric vehicles. I let people know that I am there for managing a fleet that’s varied in vehicle types.”
Latko is also participating in a webinar for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program on Aug. 12 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, discussing propane infrastructure. The webinar is open to Clean Cities coordinators and their coalition stakeholders.
Districts, businesses and individuals interested in working with Latko Consulting Inc. can reach Latko at [email protected] or (480) 466-4197.