Family pride in every ride
Kobussen and Trailways form a natural partnership
By Glenn Swain
Kobussen Trailways has been a family affair since 1938. The current owner Dan Kobussen, whose grandfather, Elwood Kobussen, founded the company, believes it is important to have family involved in the company. He says the Kaukauna Board of Education originally chose Elwood, also known as “Grandpa Goldie,” to transport out-of-town students to and from Kaukauna High School.
“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to work with my family, and bring in others and treat them like family and operate the business as a family unit,” Kobussen says. “We live by our company motto: Family Pride in Every Ride.
For years this Kaukauna, WI-based bus company was known for its yellow school buses. Today the entire Kobussen vehicle fleet features 24 56-passenger MCI J and E model motorcoaches, five 47-passenger MCI D coaches, two 38-passenger Sun Liners, five 27-passenger ABC M1235s and 10 20-passenger Ford shuttle buses. The company employs a staff of nearly 700 people.
Kobussen school bus and motorcoach drivers working out of seven offices in Oconto, Kaukauna, Neenah, Oshkosh, Sun Prairie and Orfordville, WI, put on nearly two million motorcoach miles per year, with many of those miles recorded in the harsh, snowy winter days Wisconsin is known for.
How Kobussen grew
The name changed in 1976 to the current Kobussen Buses, Ltd., and the growth continued. In 1980 Outagamie County hired the company to transport adults with special needs. This specialized service took the name of Valley Transit buses. Kobussen expanded again in 1983 by offering luxury motorcoach travel for group charters and tours.
Over the past ten years, besides earning the highest safety certification from the Department of Transportation, Kobussen has received certification by the Department of Defense to move military troops, which is a higher level of safety certification than the Department of Transportation requires.
“We got involved with the Department of Defense and have done quite a bit of work on its behalf,” Kobussen says. “It’s great working with the armed forces and doing what we can to help them out. We go in and out of Fort McCoy, we pick up troops from the reserve centers where they go for basic training or for service the reserves.”
Kobussen is also known for its affordable shuttle transportation to University of Wisconsin football games, Green Bay Packers games and home contests with the Milwaukee Brewers.
“We have a lot of sports fans who enjoy going to Packers games or Brewers games and like to consume a certain amount of alcohol,” he says. “We are finding that more and more people would rather take a bus than have a designated driver.”
Kobussen joins Team Trailways
Kobussen joined the Trailways franchise in 2006. Trailways is a fully integrated, passenger transportation services system offering charters, tours, sightseeing, daily routes, runs and schedules, airport feeds, commuter, shuttle, and other related travel services. For Dan Kobussen, partnering with Trailways was a natural fit.
“We were looking for a national affiliation and thought it was important to have that credential,” he says. “Trailways offers a host of resources for us.
The organization gives us the opportunity to work with other contractors and bus companies. The name is certainly known in the industry. Say Trailways to anyone, they know it is a bus related company.”
Kobussen says his connection with Trailways helped secure work his company had in transporting people to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. The company sent five motorcoaches and 10 drivers to Vancouver to bring spectators from the city to the Whistler Resort area where the majority of events were held. In preparation for the Olympics, Kobussen drivers and staff went through a six-month program that included terrorism training and safety inspections.
Kobussen Buses, Ltd. won the Great Idea of the Year award from Trailways Performance Group for coming up with the solution to change the gear ratio of the rear ends of certain coaches. The company purchased new 3.21 differentials for about $2,500 and replaced the stock 3.73 Detroit Series 60/ZF transmission differentials. It then took the stock 3.73 and replaced the stock 4.30 in a Cummins/Allison coach, allowing a net of nearly one mile per gallon per coach.
Kobussen goes green
Last year, Kobussen Buses earned the National School Transportation Association’s Green School Bus Fleet Certification Gold Level award. The honor recognizes Kobussen for its commitment to improving the environment through cleaner school bus fleets and company-wide practices to reduce engine emissions and conserve fuel.
“I think people are more cost and environmentally conscious,” Kobussen says. “On the school bus side, we have installed external heaters on the buses parked outside so they do not need to be plugged in at night. We have also changed out the differentials to improve our mileage by one or two more miles per gallon.”
Kobussen says it also instituted programs to further conserve fuel and reduce idling.
“We are doing our part to make our commutes even greener for our community’s children and our passengers,” Kobussen says. BR