Anchored by two generations of family management and an exceptional employee base, Stout’s Transportation is driving the future of motorcoach travel in the Northeast. Founded in 1982 by Harry Stout III, the ground transportation operation relies on the talents, skills, and tenure of a well-seasoned staff, combined with a cutting-edge fleet and customer-focused culture to keep their brand at the head of the pack.
With locations throughout the state of New Jersey, the Trenton-based operation has grown exponentially since its early days as a two-bus operation that began in 1982. Stout says his love and passion for the bus industry goes back to his childhood when his father Harry Jr. and mother Marion established and operated a successful school bus service in Ewing, N.J. Harry the III mirrored his father’s work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit, working multiple jobs throughout the years, including as a bus driver. He pushed his parent’s business to new levels by adding “extracurricular activity bus” service — successfully driving new revenues and business opportunities to the operation. Ultimately, Stout’s business acumen and instincts drove him to pursue his dreams of owning his own operation, and Stout’s Charter Service was born in the early 1980s.
Customer, employee Focused Now almost 60 years later, the company still maintains a business philosophy that focuses on customers and their employees. In his role as company president, Tim Stout, along with brothers, Shawn, who heads business development for the medical transportation division, and Harry IV (aka HJ), Stout’s safety director, are hands-on managers within the 100-plus employee family-owned business. A culture of mutual respect and open communication pervade throughout the organization. Employees and staff are encouraged to brainstorm new ideas and provide input on how to improve and enhance daily operations at all levels. From drivers to dispatchers, sales staff, and mechanics, Stout’s employees feel the freedom “to have a voice” and contribute as individuals within the Stout’s team.
“I learned the value of relationship building from an early age by watching my dad interact with our customers,” says Tim. “He inspires me and my brothers, as well as our entire staff to always give our 100% best.”
Excessively-low employee turnover is a testament that the business model and “open-door policy” of management works. “Many of our staff members have been here for upwards of 35 years,” says Harry. “Without their commitment and business savvy, we would not be as well respected and positioned in the marketplace today.”
Service, Driver Performance
When it comes to customer service the Stout’s organization is dedicated in their commitment to creating a lasting and positive impression with customers. Their relationships run long and deep with their customer base and the brand is known throughout the region for its emphasis on safety and a high-level customer experience. The company is DOD-certified and maintains a rating of “Excellent.”
Nurturing the Stout’s philosophy is central to the company’s driver training program. As new hires are brought on-board, each will shadow five different Stout’s drivers to acquire not only necessary driving skills, but also to gain firsthand customer service skills that are the hallmark of the Stout’s passenger experience.
“Learning and demonstrating the Stout’s customer service philosophy is a crucial element to creating a successful driver,” says HJ. “Our goal is to immerse new recruits in the Stout’s culture right from the start.”
The company uses the Smith System for driver training and believes it is the best program the industry has to offer. Stout’s has also created a Driver Incentive Program that was developed to reward good driving behaviors derived from hard data in key categories, such as idle times, passenger safety, roadside inspections, and more. Bonus points are also awarded at the discretion of Stout’s management to further recognize and motivate exemplary behaviors and performance. As drivers accumulate points, they can be redeemed for rewards within the Stout’s “Rewards Zone” portal — which offers prizes and merchandise such as electronics, household items, event tickets, and travel packages.
A Modern, Diverse Fleet
Stout’s Transportation serves key markets within the tri-state area including New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The predominantly Van Hool fleet consists of 76 vehicles, which include 38- to 56-passenger motorcoaches utilized for tour and charter operations; 29-passenger vehicles for high-end shuttle transport; and 16- to 20-passenger paratransit specialty vehicles for a variety of private contract service applications in and around the New Jersey region. It also includes multi-use, DOT-approved, air-conditioned school buses for student transport and extracurricular activities and transit buses, which have helped enhanced their line-run business. Stout’s maintains a newer fleet with most models offering Wi-Fi, 110-volt outlets, and three-point seatbelts. Fleet diversity is a key factor that enables Stout’s to virtually provide transportation for any type of group size or scenario, according to Tim.
“Our fleet gives us the ability and capacity to support a very broad range of transport applications,” he says. “And, while we consistently invest in our fleet assets, we never lose sight of our most important asset, our incredible Stout’s team, and foremost, our customers.”
“Our team is very creative in their sales and customer service strategies,” continues Tim. “Our main goal is to create an unparalleled customer experience, by looking at new ways to improve our service and expand our market reach.”
Tim holds a position on the board of the UMA and is president of the Greater New Jersey Motorcoach Assoc. He also participates in Spader 20 Groups and notes that he finds these sessions invaluable in terms of assessing and exploring business strategies with other operators. Tim and Stout’s also maximize their networking efforts via memberships in ABA, Charter Partners — a local peer organization — and many local chamber chapters.
Efficiency, Compliance, Control
As the business evolves, Stout’s leadership continues to focus on best business practices and technology improvements that will enhance operational efficiencies. In fact, Stout’s is consistently first in their market to add on-board technologies to their fleet. In 2006, DriveCam technology was added, followed by Saucon and the fleet’s most recent upgrade to Zonar.
“Technology truly enhances the hands-on management style at Stout’s”, says Vivian Tuccillo-Giglio, Stout’s VP. “Because we’ve consistently been early adopters, we have reaped many benefits, in terms of compliance, cost reduction, safety, and streamlining fleet management”.
For example, Tuccillo-Giglio cites that Stout’s complete implementation of the Zonar electronic logging system across the entire fleet gives them a competitive edge. She says that while some competitors are still in various stages of ramp-up, Stout’s has been fully compliant since 2016 and is well-ahead of the mandated 2017 deadline. Tuccillo-Giglio notes that early compliance has also allowed Stout’s to educate their clients about how adherence to hours-of-service guidelines further enhances passenger and driver safety.
Stout’s latest implementation of the Zonar fleet management mobile platform is a critical tool in helping the company maintain compliance, remotely monitor fleet and driver performance, and enhance fleet maintenance. Additionally, the system supports automated processes, effectively reducing paperwork and record storage, which are also key priorities within Stout’s “green culture.” Their state-of-the-art 8,000-square-foot office building (built on the very spot Stout’s began in 1960) with a three-bay garage and wash bay features energy-efficient utilities and an environmentally-friendly heating system utilizing waste oil as fuel, as well as modern and welcoming décor. Security fencing and lighting was installed for safety of employees.
Stout’s also owns an on-site maintenance garage — giving them total control over their own vehicle maintenance. The garage doubles as a Service Center, providing additional revenue and maximizing manpower. Warranty certifications of mechanics enables a multitude of services to outside vendors and companies. Additional locations throughout the state of New Jersey support Stout’s maintenance, dispatch, and parking requirements. “We want to provide a higher level of service to customers by offering faster, easier, and more reliable access to Stout’s services and transportation routes,” says Tim.
Expanding Toward the Future
With a strong and growing infrastructure in place, healthy market share, and sales and marketing efforts focused on new and emerging markets, Tim says the sky is the limit for Stout’s Transportation. The company is actively seeking growth, and the timing is perfect for acquisition according to Stout.
“We are a financially sound company and are primed to take our business to the next level,” Tim says. As the industry continues to consolidate and downsize, Stout’s plans to take advantage of strategic opportunities that will enable them to better serve the traveling private and public sectors. They believe that while innovation and market savvy have pushed the needle forward for Stouts, respect, gratitude, and appreciation for their customers and employees will always be the driving force behind the Stout’s brand.