Started in 1957 with four school buses, GO Riteway Transportation Group has grown into a multi-faceted transportation company that today boasts 750 school buses and 30 motorcoaches, as well as black cars, airport shuttles and 1,400 employees.
The business, co-founded by Roland “Rollie” and Pearl Bast, is run by Ron Bast, president, and his sister Rochelle Bast, and now includes the third generation family ownership; Ron’s son RJ and daughter Wendy.
“It feels great to have my sister and children as part of the business, and I know my parents felt great about it too,” says Ron Bast. “It’s well-known that third-generation businesses are not the most successful, but we are aware of that and working hard to stay on the right path.”
GO Riteway’s path includes diversification. Not afraid to venture into different markets, the company entered the black car market 10 years ago and the airport shuttle market five years ago. It is also pursuing additional work in its core school bus and motorcoach businesses, as well as in the university shuttle market, and always looking for new opportunities that would fit into its current business model.
“A company has to be diversified and look at new revenue options differently, Bast explains. “I’m not saying grow for the sake of growth, but you have to look at different forms of revenue to bring into your business.”
A key to the businesses success, Bast says, is “being nice” to its customers and employees.
“It doesn’t set us apart from anyone, necessarily, but we know there’s a lot of great competition, so you have to treat people, as the old saying goes, ‘the way you want to be treated,’ and I believe, that goes a long way,” he says.
Meanwhile, being nice to its employees includes a focus on healthy lifestyles.
For instance in 2008, GO Riteway partnered with Waukesha, Wis.-based Sleep Apnea Solutions (SAS) to implement a sleep apnea safety program that tests all of its drivers and offers them payment programs if they need a C-Pap or Auto-Pap machine. SAS also has a doctor on staff and provides employees with directions on how to get other treatments aside from a machine.
Originally initiated in the company’s motorcoach division, GO Riteway has now expanded its sleep apnea program across its entire organization.
“We kind of lead the way in our initiation of safety programs that provide our employees the opportunity to get treatment and living healthy lifestyles,” says David Butcher, safety director at GO Riteway. “Drivers are hard to come by these days, so if we spend a couple hundred bucks to help an employee get better physically, that’s a win-win for the employees, their families and the company.”
Further ensuring their drivers’ safety, GO Riteway recently made the decision to notify its customers that it will no longer travel on charters where the trip initiates in the evening hours and requires a driver to operate the motorcoach throughout the night.
“Even though it’s legal, we just don’t feel it’s a safe practice,” explains Butcher. “You have a lot of other vehicles on the road at night and drivers with inverted sleep schedules, which exponentially increases risk to our passengers when we’re out on the roads during the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. We just aren’t comfortable doing it any longer.”
Bast and Butcher explain that the company’s decision is not a knee-jerk reaction to any particular incident at GO Riteway and that this new rule will only help ensure that nothing will.
“We will probably lose business, and we hate to lose any business because it’s a competitive market, but it would be more harmful to us if we had a catastrophic event because we didn’t make this decision,” adds Bast.
At the end of the day, Bast says, that he hopes these safety practices not only provide a better, healthier life for his drivers, but helps make GO Riteway attractive when trying to hire or retain drivers. Mostly, though, he feels they are just good safety practices.