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Thomas’ Edgerly Talks 100th Anniversary, Platt and More

Caley Edgerly, president and CEO of Thomas Built Buses since March, had more to say during our conversation with him for this month’s magazine cover story.

Not only is he overseeing the implementation of an enhance partnership with Zonar Systems as the two companies pursue a truly connected school bus, but he also talked about his company’s 100th birthday next, what a recent $11.8 million renovation to the Saf-T-Liner C2 plant means for employees and customers a like as well as what he learned from his predecessor, Kelley Platt.

School Transportation News: TBB’s upcoming 100th birthday in 2016. Can you share with us any celebration highlights the company is planning?

Caley Edgerly: Celebrating our 100th anniversary in 2016 will be a very exciting for us. Thomas Built Buses has come a long way in the past 100 years, and we plan to go even further in the next 100 years. We have already started our 100th anniversary celebration with this year’s wall calendar, which gives a nod to Thomas Built Buses of the future.

Thomas Built Buses has been paving the way with innovations in the industry for the past 100 years, and we don’t plan to stop now. You can look forward to upcoming announcements about what’s next for Thomas Built Buses and what we see for the industry as a whole.

We are also working on a number of commemorative items for the dealers, drivers, and fans of Thomas Built Buses who would like a memento of this occasion.

Most important, we will use this celebration to shed light on where the company is heading. We certainly respect the heritage and hard work of our past, and will work responsibly to provide a bright future. We do this through our culture – the behaviors, values and convictions that make us who we are as a company. We do this through respecting our people, products and customers; staying disciplined to honor our commitments and processes; acting with responsibility toward our coworkers, customers, community and environment; always telling the truth; working hard for ourselves and our customers every hour of every day; and leveraging teamwork to accomplish much more than we ever could alone.

Here’s to the next 100 years.

STN: How did the $11.8 million Saf-T-Liner C2 plant expansion come together? What can TBB customers expect as a result?

Edgerly: Our employees played the greatest role in this expansion by providing their thoughts and ideas to improve capacity and make our operations even more efficient. And because of them, we are proud to announce that we have just completed the nearly-$12-million expansion in terms of infrastructure, equipment installation and process improvement. We must say that the expansion will not be fully complete until we are fully staffed and all processes have been monitored and fine-tuned.

We have also made great strides in hiring new staff in our Thomas Built facilities, however we will be continuing to hire welders, painters, assembly technicians, materials technicians, inspectors, supervisors and managers throughout the year.

Through this expansion, we will be better able to meet the growing demand for our popular Saf-T-Liner C2 by increasing plant production by 25% versus last year and by improving the overall work environment for our employees.

STN: Do you think “lowest bid wins” is a thing of the past?

Edgerly: Unfortunately, low bid wins are still very prevalent in our industry. Some states and districts have shifted more toward looking at value or total cost of ownership, while others still have not.

We do think that low bid wins are becoming less common in the industry as our customers become more informed about total cost of ownership. However, we must continue to make headway. It will not be until all districts start looking at their total budget as a whole – considering fuel, maintenance costs and financing options as parts of the overall equation – that “low bid wins” will begin to disappear. And after that happens, districts finally will be making purchasing decisions based on true overall costs – not just a low capital cost.

STN: What did you learn from your predecessor Kelley Platt about leadership and the direction that TBB should go in?

Edgerly: Over the years, the Thomas family, John O’Leary and later Kelley Platt have built a strong foundation for Thomas Built Buses in the marketplace and among our dealers and customers, and I am proud to carry on that tradition.

Working with Kelley in particular has been instrumental in setting me up for success in my new role. Like her predecessors, Kelley exuded such a passion for Thomas Built Buses: a passion for quality buses, a passion for safety, and a passion for continually meeting our dealers’ and customers’ needs. This passion permeated our entire organization and really instilled in me a love for this brand.

I also had the privilege of working alongside Kelley on the launch of many of our new green options, including the propane-fueled Minotour®, the compressed natural gas-fueled Minotour, the propane autogas-fueled Saf-T-Liner C2 and now the compressed natural gas-fueled Saf-T-Liner C2.

Together, we also introduced innovations to the industry that included new corrosion protection treatments, expanded plant technology and enhancements to our production processes, and we launched new features such as onboard telematics and FuelSense.

She set the foundation for where Thomas Built Buses is heading as the company enters its next 100 years, and I am so pleased to be able to carry on that vision for this company.

Editor’s note — Platt was recently named the chief diversity officer at parent company Daimler Trucks North America and president of the Western Star truck brand. 

Read more with Edgerly in our August magazine edition.

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