Nobody knows buses better than the Hageys of Souderton, PA. Since 1936, the family has been operating school and tour bus operations out of their eastern Pennsylvania headquarters.

Bob Nolen, fleet manager, says that currently there are 185 fleet vehicles between the two divisions. Twenty are MCI motor coaches and the rest are school buses, including International chassis with Amtran bodies and some Freightliners with Thomas bodies.

“We own all our fleet equipment, the majority of which is diesel-powered. In preparation for the switch to ultra low-sulfur diesel, we installed our own fueling station and now fuel our diesel buses on site,” Nolen reports.

All Hagey vehicles are equipped with two-way radios from Uniden so personnel at the base station can communicate with drivers, and drivers can also communicate with each other on the road. Nolen says there are about 200 company drivers at the present time.

Drivers for all charter buses also carry cellphones from Verizon Wireless. “In two of our motor coaches and four school buses we have wheel chair lifts,” Nolen adds. “Also, we've begun installing air conditioning units in buses carrying special education students in anticipation of regulations mandating a/c in these vehicles within the next couple of years.”

Nolen explains that the Transportation Services division was started in 1936 to service the local school district and is still in operation today. In addition, the company has a charter school bus division that takes children to and from special events as far away as New York and Delaware.

By contrast, buses operated by Hagey Coach & Tours — which comprises both a charter bus service as well as Hagey's own tour business — will travel to almost anywhere in the U.S. and Canada, Nolen asserts.

Bus maintenance is all done in-house. There are six full-time mechanics and four full-time cleanup people working around the clock on three shifts. Work on the motor coaches and charter school bus fleet is mostly done at night when the vehicles are available.

“The key here is preventive maintenance. Our coach and tour buses are away anywhere from a day to a week or more, depending on the destination. To prevent problems on the road, we do thorough pre-trip inspections, going through them top to bottom, inside and out to make sure there is absolutely nothing wrong,” declares Nolen.

Since 2000, he says, the maintenance department has been using Dossier fleet maintenance software from Arsenault Associates. “We do pretty much everything with this program, from tracking VIN numbers, registrations, and vehicle mileage, to monitoring warranty and parts. We also keep track of inspection due dates for a variety of vehicle components, and we use the software to monitor tire and brake depths, as well as all work orders.”

According to Nolen, the company's policy is that for any job requiring a part, as well as all repairs that take longer than 15 minutes, mechanics are required to write up a work order. “All work orders are entered into the system, including parts used, so the Dossier software can monitor parts inventory.”

Nolen notes that more recently his division acquired a tablet PC. The Fuyitsu LifeBook 1500D weighs only 2 lb. and looks just like a small computer, with a viewing screen and a keyboard that can be pulled up when needed for typing. “With it we use a wireless Bluetooth scanner for doing inventory and checking parts location on the shelf.

For the future, Nolen says he is also considering equipping his mechanics with handheld PDAs for retrieving job orders. He notes that the Arsenault software has the ability to send work orders via a wireless network to a PDA. “Arsenault has been a fantastic company to work with. They take input from users like us to enhance their products, which is a huge benefit.”