Jim Rowe, Transportation

For over 40 years, Jim Rowe has been a key to the successful operation of the transportation department.

Jim’s career in transportation began a little differently than most – at 14 years old, Jim began washing buses. He wouldn’t become an official employee of ECS transportation until 4 years later, and as the Head Mechanic at Elkhart Community Schools, his dedication to keeping buses up and running has never wavered.

“I can remember in the blizzard of 1978,” Jim recalls, “I remember the snow being taller than the fence, it was like a fort. It’s been so cold in the past that we had to leave buses running all night.”

The bus industry has changed since Jim began his career – going from gas engines to diesel engines to special emissions engines, and now the industry is trending a return to gasoline engines. Flexibility and continually learning is something that always appealed to Jim on the job.

“Buses have computers now – we need laptops to diagnose problems. Most buses have three computers – braking, engine, and transmission. The job of a mechanic is not what it used to be. One positive change to the operations is that the buses usually start right up now.”

One thing that’s remained constant for Jim? Outstanding coworkers, who he says are one of the best parts of his job, saying, “I cannot say enough good things about our staff. From the front office, to dispatch, to the drivers, to the mechanics – we all work together very well. The positive relationships within the transportation department make our jobs more enjoyable, and keep us productive.” The bus garage works nearly around the clock – from 5:00am until 10:00pm, with crews maintaining and repairing buses and service vehicles for the district. The dedication of this team is evident by their successful inspections by the state – an initial 95% pass rate. Repairs and adjustments from Jim’s team easily take the number to 100%.

“We really do have top notch mechanics here. We have much fewer breakdowns than in the past. But I will say – something really great is that our community is always so supportive. If there is a bus with a situation on the road, people show great courtesy and want to help.”

Jim recognizes the importance of keeping his buses in good working order, saying, “we care a lot about our cargo. Working with a bus full of students is much different than a semi of materials. I’m extremely proud of our department and the care each person takes with their route and bus. We want everyone to stay safe.”

Jim is set to retire later this year. He and his wife are looking forward to finding warmer weather, traveling by RV. They’ve traveled some by RV – their favorite places have been Colorado, Texas, and Arizona – but they’re ready to make it more of a lifestyle than a vacation.

We’re thankful for Jim and his work to keep our buses running, and our students safely transported to and from school.