The American Bus Association (ABA) has announced the winners of several of its awards.
First, the Motorcoach Driver of the Year award recognizes an individual who has gone above and beyond the performance of his or her duties as an over-the-road motorcoach driver, professionally executing safe motorcoach operation, while providing the traveling public with the safest form of passenger transportation in the United States. This year's award was presented to Mohammad “Raja” Ishtiaq.
Ishtiaq of Riverhead, N.Y., was selected from among numerous qualified nominees from across the country as the 2021 Motorcoach Driver of the Year. With nearly 3 million miles logged in his career, Ishtiaq is known for his driving skill as well as his considerable customer service.
“Motorcoach drivers are the face and backbone of our industry,” said ABA President & CEO Peter Pantuso. “They deliver millions of passengers safely each year to their destinations providing top notch customer service. They are truly the representatives of our member companies and the industry. People always remember their driver and the experience they had with them on a trip. We are happy to not only recognize a deserving driver annually, but particularly in a time when driver recruitment and retention is such a challenge, we have put out new resources to help in that battle. Hopefully this award, is just one more visible incentive to help a company along the way to recruiting quality drivers.”
Hampton Jitney Vice President Andrew Lynch called Ishtiaq’s driving record “unmatched” over the company’s 45-year history and noted that “[Ishtiaq’s career] is a track record of not only skill and safety in the driver’s seat, but of courtesy and caring towards our customers that has repeatedly been recognized by our ridership.”
Company President Geoff Lynch nominated Ishtiaq for the award because of his professionalism, dedication, extensive driving skills, and knowledge of the industry.
“Raja has been a resource to everyone in our organization,” Lynch said. “He’s been involved with our driver training program for more than 20 years, serves as a mentor to all our other drivers, is a 19A certified observer and is the driver called to handle any type of difficult maneuver. He has even been called on by other companies to help navigate New York City. One time, a visiting company had an articulated bus in town, and they needed the best driver in the city to help them out of a jam, so they asked for Raja.”
The award, which is sponsored by Motor Coach Industries, was announced during a virtual ceremony held June 15 online, a formal presentation will take place at the annual ABA Marketplace event on January 10, 2022, during the largest gathering of motorcoach operators in North America. Over the course of his career, Ishtiaq has earned received every single annual safe driving award there is at Hampton Jitney, since 1991.
In other news, the ABA and its Bus Industry Safety Council (BISC) announced the winner of the prestigious Norm Littler Memorial Safety Award: Mike McDonal of Saucon Technologies in Bethlehem, Pa.
The Norm Littler Memorial Safety Award recognizes an individual or organization that has made significant contributions to the profession of safety through the development or implementation of techniques, products, or safety processes and demonstrates a commitment and investment in the day-to-day safety of the traveling public by motorcoach.
McDonal has dedicated more than 35 years to the transportation industry, more than 15 of which has been with the motorcoach industry. A longtime fixture within Maryland transportation circles, McDonal became well known to the motorcoach industry during his time with Eyre Bus, Tour & Travel based in Glenelg, Md. During his time with Eyre, McDonal got heavily involved with a variety of industry organizations, including BISC where he served in a multitude of leadership roles, including a term as Chair. He also emerged during that time as a recognized national speaker on motorcoach safety issues, as well as a “go-to guy” on compliance and training issues.
In addition to his service to BISC where he continues to be involved with the organizational leadership, McDonal approached ABA in 2015 about a gap in its safety education offerings and recommended that maintenance be given some additional attention, leading to the creation of Bus Maintenance and Repair Council, where he serves as Chair.
The award was announced during a virtual ceremony held June 15 online, a formal presentation will take place at the annual ABA Marketplace event on January 10, 2022, during the largest gathering of motorcoach operators in North America.
Still active in the industry, McDonal joined Saucon Technologies as the director of Regulatory Compliance in 2015. In his role at Saucon, McDonal has been instrumental in the implementation of the new electronic logging device regulations in both the US and Canada. He also continues to assist motorcoach operators daily, not only with telematics-related concerns or safety monitoring, but also as a mentor and trusted advisor. He took a leading role in helping to develop the first formal mentorship program for the motorcoach industry through BISC, in large part based on his own personal experiences mentoring people in the industry.
“Mike has been a fixture and standard bearer for motorcoach safety in our industry for many years,” said Pantuso. “He has been a valued expert that almost every company or organization calls on or knows to ask about when they have a question or need advice. He truly embodies all the qualities and enthusiasm that Norm brought to our industry and specifically to safety.”
The award’s namesake, Norm Littler, was in the bus and motorcoach industry for more than four decades and served as ABA’s vice president of regulatory affairs and executive director of the Bus Industry Safety Council before his passing in 2013. He was known for his accessibility, frequently offering guidance and advice on safety, security and regulatory issues.
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