Operations

How To Be A Straight-A Shuttle Student

Lexi Tucker
Posted on January 3, 2018

A chauffeur with university students
A chauffeur with university students
NORTHUMBERLAND, Pa. — There’s nothing quite as heavy as a stack of college textbooks; this is especially true if the bookstore isn’t even on campus. Chris Peifer, president of Susquehanna Valley Limousine, saw a need at Bucknell University to help shuttle students to and from the local downtown area and has built a strong relationship with the service he provides.

Back To School

When Peifer bought Susquehanna Valley Limousine from the original owner in 2005, the company had shaky relationship with the college. Bucknell is located in Lewisburg, Pa., and heavily promotes the downtown area to attract new students. But for those without personal vehicles, it’s not easy to get there, especially during autumn and winter.

Chris Peifer, president of Susquehanna Valley Limousine
Chris Peifer, president of Susquehanna Valley Limousine
As the campus grew, it needed to move its bookstore downtown. Administrators had to find a way to bridge the gap for students and provide an easy way for them to get to and from the store. This ended up being Peifer’s first huge contract, and has since evolved into a route with multiple stops.

Students can now get to the local hospital, grocery stores, and other vital locations. Peifer is three years into the second five-year contract, and has recently started a late night shuttle through the campus and downtown to ensure students get home safely.

“The campus is getting larger, so

Katherine Doyle, a senior managing for sustainability major at Bucknell (Credit: Emily Paine, courtesy of Bucknell University)
Katherine Doyle, a senior managing for sustainability major at Bucknell (Credit: Emily Paine, courtesy of Bucknell University)
it makes it a bit easier for students to get from the academic buildings to their housing areas,” he says. The company runs two 20 passenger Ford F550 shuttle buses (one diesel, one gas) that are also ADA compliant and have room for two wheelchairs each. Peifer estimates they transport about 14,000 riders a year.

For operators looking to pursue shuttle contracts with universities, Peifer says to consider this: “Colleges want only a limited number of drivers to interact with the students so they can get comfortable and know them by name. Good, friendly drivers are the key to the whole operation.”

 Company History 101

Peifer didn’t always want to be in the luxury transportation business. He had over 15 years’ experience in the trucking industry before buying Susquehanna Valley Limousine from the original owner, who started the company in 1994. He partnered with a friend because they were both detail oriented and liked exotic cars, so they thought it would be a good fit for them. Peifer bought this partner out in 2016.

Through the years, he’s learned the supreme value of retaining long term customers and earning their loyalty. Also, even if your company operates in a rural territory like Susquehanna Valley Limousine, you have to remain efficient.

“Tech is key to standing out, and allows you to provide great customer service with less expensive vehicles,” he explains. As you get bigger, you can invest in better vehicles.

“This is not a get rich quick industry, so focus on slow growth. Be sure you’ve done all the research you need to be sure of yourself before you make a move.”

In the future, Peifer plans to continue corporate work, college and wedding shuttles, and expand the company’s reach with wine tours which have become more popular in the last few years.

Related Topics: customer contracts, customer service, How To, mapping & routing, Pennsylvania operators, philadelphia, shuttle buses

Lexi Tucker Associate Editor
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