Innovative Operator Profile: Evolution of an Operation

Posted on May 14, 2013 by Alfonso Jimenez

Robert Swarthout Sr. was the owner of a Texaco gas station when he was approached by a local bus company that wanted to park its vehicles in the area adjacent to the station. In exchange, the company would buy its gas from the station. Swarthout agreed, which led to the next stage in his business’ evolution.

“One morning, sometime in the 1950s, the owner of the bus company asked my father if he could pick up some kids because his driver was sick,” Robert Swarthout Jr. explains. “So he went out and picked up these kids on a school bus run.” At the time, there were no federal laws mandating CDLs for large truck and bus drivers. “That’s when he got the idea that having a school bus contract would work well with a gas station.”

In 1974 the operation went strictly to charters. Five years later, Robert Jr. joined the company. Fifteen years after that, Robert Sr. passed away and Robert Jr. became president. It was his father’s gift for taking advantage of rare opportunities when they presented themselves that enabled the company to make the transition from gas station to school bus operation to what it is today — Swarthout Coaches and Tours.

The Ithaca, N.Y.-based motorcoach company currently provides transportation services primarily to Cornell University, Ithaca College and SUNY Courtland. To accommodate student and business cultures that favor luxuriating in the finer things in life, Swarthout Coaches and Tours recently purchased a 56-passenger, 45-foot Prevost motorcoach equipped with flat-screen TV, sound system and reclining seats. The company will acquire a second such vehicle early next year.

Swarthout’s motorcoaches are equipped with some of the most advanced safety solutions on the market today. Drive Cam, SmarTire and the Kidde Dual Spectrum fire-suppression and detection system can all be found on the operation’s vehicles. The systems work synergistically to keep the operation running smoothly by preventing a wide range of mechanical and driver behavioral problems.

 DriveCam, for example, is an event-triggered video recording system designed to teach drivers to monitor their conduct on the road, as well as safeguard the operator against false liability claims. The other solutions are aimed at preserving vehicle integrity, thereby cutting down on unnecessary costs related to fuel and unscheduled downtime. “We always try for better utilization of equipment,” Swarthout says.

The solutions are also guarantors of customer satisfaction. “The technology benefits customers because it makes the buses more reliable and efficient,” he says. Swarthout knows that a successful business model requires satisfying passenger demands. “If you take care of the customer, they’ll stick with you,” he says. “But customers will only tolerate problems so far. If you’re hauling an athletic team, they want to be at the game on time.”

Swarthout has a company Website ( up and running, which has begun to generate more business for his operation. “We’re making improvements to our Website,” he says. “And as time goes by, we’re seeing what used to be four or five emails a month be four or five emails a day.”


Motorcoaches: 12

Fleet mix: 6 MCI, 6 Prevost

Employees: 28

Drivers: 19

Service area: Central New York

Services offered: Charters, tours, athletic

Average annual mileage: 569,000

President: Robert Swarthout Jr. (pictured)

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More News

FMCSA awards grants to train military vets to drive buses, trucks

The current Commercial Motor Vehicle - Operator Safety Training Grant Program awards are projected to go toward training more than 250 people.

FMCSA proposes enhancements to Safety Measurement System's public website

While the Federal Register announcement responds to comments received following the June 29, 2015, notice, no changes will be implemented in the public SMS website display until after completion of the National Academies of Sciences Correlation Study as required by Section 5221 of the FAST Act.

ABA Foundation to double scholarship amounts in 2017

Also announced that all proceeds raised from ABA’s Annual Meeting & Marketplace Live and Silent Auctions will be allocated to the ABAF’s Fund a Future program to fund this scholarship initiative.

C&J Bus Lines installs Flyte Systems to keep real-time updates on airline schedules

C&J Bus Lines, a New England a transportation provider, installed FlyteBoard flight information displays at three of its terminals.

Calif. Governor signs 2 motorcoach safety bills

One bill requires buses designed to carry 39 or more passengers and made after July 1, 2020, to be equipped with emergency lighting that would be automatically activated in the event of a collision.

See More News

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment


Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close