As summer drew to a close and children everywhere prepared to go back to school, The Trans Group — which operates a private fleet of school buses in New York State — went into high gear getting its buses ready and training drivers for the kick-off of another school year.

According to John Corr, president, the company is a family business that dates back to 1963. “When my father was still alive, in addition to operating school buses we were a bus dealership for Ward School Buses, based in Conway, AR. In the early 1980s Ward sold the business to Amtran (American Transportation Corp.), which later became a financial partner with International Truck and Engine Corp. With my dad's passing in 1995, we merged our facilities into one and renamed the company The Trans Group,” Corr explains.

The company has continued its long relationship with International Truck and Engine Corp. In fact, the bulk of the company's fleet is comprised of school buses from IC Corp., an International subsidiary. Corr notes that CE model (Conventional Engine) buses make up 85% of their large bus fleet, with the rest being FE (Front Engine) models, also from IC Corporation.

Because of their great maneuverability, Corr advises, the forward-powered FE school buses are used in areas that require a larger capacity. Half those buses are also spec'd with air conditioning, making them a very popular vehicle that can be used almost anywhere.

All of the company's school buses are also equipped with seat belts. New York State, Corr notes, was one of the first to mandate lap belts in school buses in the late ‘80s. “There are both pros and cons to lap belts,” he says. “I believe the better choice is a three-point belt and we are starting to spec them now with our new bus purchases, although we do not plan to switch out belts that are already installed in older equipment that is still on the road.”

Buses and vans run by The Trans Group are on a 12-year lifecycle, according to Corr. “Sometimes we have to extend that out if the need for additional equipment arises. For example, to be sure we can meet any growth requirements the schools may have for us, we won't get rid of equipment that's slated to leave us this year until after the 1st of November. By then all routes are well established and we can be certain we have enough buses to meet the schools' needs.”

The Trans Group operates over 1,000 vehicles. In addition to 400 school buses and 400 school vans (or mini-buses), the fleet includes 50 Chevrolet Suburban and Ford Excursion vehicles for applications where only one or two children require transportation to private or special education schools. These vehicles are set up with school signs and lights, and are inspected by the State of New York and insured just like a regular bus, Corr says.

Starting next year, New York State has mandated that school vehicles operated in non-attainment areas will have to begin using ultra-low-sulfur fuel. New York also has a strong anti-idling policy, which is another way to conserve fuel and keep diesel emissions and particulates down. “We support the need for cleaner burning vehicles; we just need to figure out how we'll pay for the added cost of ultra-low-sulfur fuel because the ruling comes with no extra funding for us,” Corr notes.

The Trans Group, with headquarters in Spring Valley, NY, runs school buses in Sullivan, Orange and Rockland counties in the Hudson Valley of New York State, as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island. It operates out of 11 facilities throughout those regions.

According to Corr, all facilities are equipped to handle regularly scheduled preventive maintenance and minor repairs. Heavier maintenance is done at two regional centers, one in Long Island and one in Rockland County. There is approximately one mechanic for every 20 vehicles in the Trans Group fleet.