School Bus Fleet

September 2014

A management & maintenance magazine for school transportation fleets

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33 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 4 • S C H O O L B U S F L E E T cues and award ceremonies. Gallagher and his team have also maintained strong relationships with customers, as evidenced by the company's 95% contract renew- al rate over 17 years. Fuels, technologies for the future Gallagher has been at the forefront in adopting alternative fuels and new technologies in school transpor- tation. In 2012, STI made the largest single order of propane school buses to date: more than 400, for a new con- tract in Omaha, Nebraska. Gallagher cites a variety of bene- fts that STI has tapped into by em- bracing alternative fuels. "It's cheaper in price per gallon, it is cleaner burning, quieter and starts in extreme cold conditions," he says. "It is an easy shift to make, and customers — especially parents — are embracing the concept." Overall, Gallagher says that STI's costs have been lower with alterna- tive-fuel buses than with diesel or gasoline, but, he is quick to point out, "even if it cost the same, it is the right thing to do for the environ- ment and for our communities." STI has also embraced technolo- gy, such as GPS and on-board cam- eras, to enhance safety and effcien- cy. Looking to the future, Gallagher says that he foresees more security systems in, on and around the bus, including such advances as facial recognition for children as they board and new driver communica- tions like VoIP (voice over Internet protocol). Gallagher adds that STI is increas- ingly collecting and sourcing data on its operations to make them more effcient and less costly, which will allow the company to do more with fewer vehicles and fewer drivers. "Down the road, I think we will see a shift towards custom routes based on daily ridership with new ways to communicate more effec- tively and directly with parents and students," Gallagher says. "The thought was to fnd good companies with good people that know their particular market," Gal- lagher says. "From there, we would fnd bids for new work in the area to grow from an established base. Last- ly, once we established ourselves in the area, we could work with local school districts that own and oper- ate their transportation system to create public-private partnerships known as conversions." Earlier this year, STI acquired the California assets and contracts of At- lantic Express, which shut down at the end of 2013. Gallagher says the incorporation of that new business was seamless. "It was fully integrated and run- ning smoothly after the frst two weeks," he says. "We have an inte- gration team that handles the oper- ations and technology, our commu- nications council meets and greets everyone and explains the culture, and we spend a lot of time with lo- cal management on our programs and systems. We also met with ev- ery customer and have renewed ev- ery contract we got there for another fve years." As STI has grown, it has contin- ued to focus on its people as the core of its success. In 2012, the company launched an annual Employee Ap- preciation Week, which terminals across the nation celebrate with events like catered lunches, barbe- tion's awards banquet in Charles- ton, 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 infu- ence in my career and taught me all about the school bus business," Gal- lagher says. "He taught me how to drive, fx buses and dispatch as well as the importance of service to cus- tomers 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 Gal- lagher became a senior executive and played an integral role in ac- quisitions and expansion into new markets. In 1996, Gallagher left to launch his own company. Targeted growth With STI, Gallagher has main- tained consistent growth through his A-B-C strategy, acquiring companies in targeted areas and then building regional density in those areas. SBF Publisher Frank Di Giacomo (left) presented the Contractor of the Year award to Denis Gallagher at the NSTA awards banquet in July.

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