It is said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Be it the first day at a new job or the first day of school, that inaugural interaction sets the tone.
For students who travel to the CDP for training, the first representative they see is normally an Apprio driver. It’s these drivers who set the tone for new CDP students. Charlie Williams, Apprio’s transportation manager, and his team take that job very seriously.
“Charlie and his team are very dedicated to the job,” said Tommy Buzan, Apprio program manager. “His crew is the welcoming committee for the CDP.”
Williams retired from the Army as a master sergeant in 2002 and almost immediately started driving buses for the CDP. He worked his way up to transportation manager within a few years and now leads a team of 20 employees.
“I haven’t ever seen anyone as good as Charlie,” said Buzan, though Williams is quick to say that it is the quality of the drivers that makes his job easy.
“All our drivers are top-notch,” said Williams. “They are all caring and responsible drivers that maintain safety as their first priority.”
Safety is definitely in the forefront of every driver’s mind. In fact, last year the transportation team drove more than 228,000 miles, made over 29,000 trips transporting a combined total of 351,000 passengers, all without a single accident. This includes moving students to and from airports in both Atlanta and Birmingham, as well as numerous universities and colleges in Alabama and Georgia.
Transporting students is not the only focus of the transportation team. They also support distinguished guest visits, said Peggy Luallen, contracting officer representative for the Apprio contract. Apprio drivers also disinfect all the vehicles regularly and conduct preventative maintenance checks as well, she said. With 20 vehicles including three coach buses, three school-type buses, five smaller buses and nine vans, that can take a lot of time.
“Our biggest issue is time,” Williams said. “We have to be on time.”
Most transportation movements are scheduled with tight precision, but the team must be flexible enough to move with changes of the schedule or weather issues.
“You never know when something is going to happen,” said Williams. “Things can change at any time and we have to be able to react.”
These special circumstances could happen at any time. Students have had to return to the airport to fly home for a family emergency, or they may just need to go to a local pharmacy for medication.
“It’s all about the people,” Williams said.
Moving all those people gives drivers like 83-year-old William Ford a chance to meet and interact with a lot of students.
“I’ve had the chance to meet all sorts of people from all over the state, the country and even the world,” Ford said. “I really enjoy talking to people and seeing the differences.”
“Many of the students love to shop at the local stores,” he said, having seen some students experience the American way of life for the first time. “The Israelis wanted to go to Wal-Mart almost every night. Guess they don’t have that sort of thing over there. It’s interesting.”
Ford started driving buses when he was a senior in high school. He has been a minister for over 43 years and currently he is the senior adult pastor at Harvest Church of God in Anniston. He said he enjoys working for Apprio as the split shift schedule allows him to visit ill churchgoers when students are in class.
Ford started driving for the CDP in 2006 and he has no plans to retire anytime soon. That fact wasn’t a surprise to Williams, Ford’s boss, who said that Ford is by far the most energetic person he knows.
When asked when he was retiring, Ford smiled and simply said, “I’ll know when I get there.”
It’s dedicated employees like Ford who make the Apprio transportation team a success. They all know there is no second chance to impress our students and they strive every day to leave a strong and long-lasting positive first impression.