Dale Krapf, chairman of the board for Krapf Bus Companies began his career in the bus business as a child, working alongside his parents sweeping school buses. “I will probably always bleed yellow, because I came up in the school bus arena, and what we did there enabled us to get into these other businesses, like charter and transit,” admits Krapf.
In 1942, Krapf’s parents, Eleanor and George Krapf Jr., started the company in Exton, Pa., with two buses running one single route per day, in the morning and afternoon.
Krapf is leading the company into its third generation of family-run management, working closely with his children, including his son, Gary Krapf, president, Krapf Coaches, Bradley Krapf, president, Advanced Student and Gregg Bus Company, and Blake Krapf, CEO, Krapf Bus Companies. The company now operates more than 1,000 buses, which also serve public transit and paratransit in southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware, and is a member of the International Motor Coach Group (IMG).
With a background rooted in school buses, Krapf has made significant contributions to that aspect of transportation, as well as to the motorcoach side of the industry. He is the past president of the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), serving a term from July 2003 to July 2005, and won SCHOOL BUS FLEET magazine’s “Contractor of the Year” award in 1994. Krapf is also active in the United Motorcoach Association (UMA), serving on the board of directors.
To recognize his exceptional achievements in the industry, METRO Magazine selected Krapf as its 2009 Motorcoach Operator of the Year. METRO publisher Frank Di Giacomo presented the award to Krapf at the United Motorcoach Association’s 2009 Motorcoach Expo in Orlando, Fla., in January.
In 1982, Krapf and his brother, Dallas, decided to branch out and take on the motorcoach business. Krapf noticed there was no motorcoach company in the area, and spotted an opportunity to provide that service to the community and become involved in a more exciting aspect of the transportation business. “I wasn’t only looking for diversification of our business structure, but to get into something new and re-energize,” says Krapf. “It was something that I thought we could have a lot of fun with.”
Soon after getting into the motorcoach industry, in 1984, the brothers added paratransit to their list of services, and then won multiple public transit contracts from Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). “We were probably one of the first companies, in this part of the country, that really embraced stepping beyond just one specific core business and getting into transit, coach and paratransit,” Krapf says. “However, that all grew and evolved from our yellow school bus business,” he adds.
Making growth greener
The company also shows a strong commitment to greening the workplace. Krapf notes that they have built modern operational facilities to include “green” aspects. Currently, in their facilities, Krapf Bus Companies has a gantry wash with recycled water, heats their buildings with waste motor oil, uses power-efficient lighting and a 20 percent blend of biodiesel in their fleet.
Krapf also notes the company was the first in the region to begin equipping their fleet of school buses with diesel particulate filters, a project that is now more than 65 percent complete. “We won the first national ‘Go Yellow, Go Green’ award from the National School Bus Association this past year because of our work in that area. We intend to do the same thing in the motorcoach side of our business,” says Krapf.
Family and community
In addition to running a successful transportation business, Krapf also gives back to the communities that the company serves. In 1986, Krapf Bus Companies began an annual scholarship program, reaching out to all the major area high schools and awarding students who demonstrate business acumen, and by participating in the Chamber of Commerce and area nonprofits.
“Locally, he is an extremely well-known and respected business man, and has been active in many different organizations,” says Gary Krapf.
He also credits his father and uncle in particular with the initiative to bring the family business to the next level, noting that they took what was essentially a small school bus company and grew it into the million-dollar business it is today.”
Krapf’s son adds that his father is one of the family members that has kept the business together, and routinely keeps seven other family members and nearly 1,500 employees focused. “I think that’s an enormous challenge,” says Gary Krapf.
Mapping future routes
Embarking on his forty-second year in the transportation business, Krapf pointed out that the industry is still full of challenges and that there are more unknowns now than ever. “I think the challenges ahead for the bus industry are enormous, but they create a lot of opportunities. We haven’t even determined what some of them are yet… [with] the economy, I don’t think anyone really knows how quickly as a country we’re going to get back on our feet,” says Krapf.
He advises those in the industry to be prepared to be quick to adapt and make sure they are in the right place at the right time to take advantage of arising opportunities, many of which he believes need to be created by the industry itself.
“The UMA board can really set the stage for growth, as a group of operators, manufacturers and the other tour and travel professionals in the industry. We represent more than 900 operators in the U.S.” Krapf says.
He predicts that the new charter rule could possibly be a terrific opportunity for privately owned companies, if the industry works hard over the next year to make sure that it remains intact.
The company is looking to implement new services and technologies, including GPS. “Tracking our vehicles and being able to monitor what our drivers are doing is of high interest to us. There are some new safety devices that are coming down the road that we’re trying to equip our vehicles with. Some of them are going to become standard very quickly.” He adds that seat belts may be beneficial for motorcoaches. “Personally, I think we should support that issue, because motorcoach travel is unlike school bus travel. You’re traveling at higher speeds on major highways, there’s more opportunity for rollovers,” says Krapf.
Krapf emphasizes that it has always been a goal of his to upgrade and improve the overall image of the bus industry, whether it be motorcoach, school bus or transit, and that he continues to find the constantly evolving motorcoach industry exciting. “Every day is different. I just celebrated my 64th birthday, and I [still] love to come to work, I love the action. There are always new opportunities, and that’s made it enjoyable for me.”