Pacific Western Group of Companies leads with core values
by David H. Hubbard
The celebration of Prevost’s 95th anniversary continues with a salute to some of its longstanding customers. Prevost’s unique business performances and successes with their products speak to the substance of these treasured partnerships.
A carefully cultivated framework of core values bond 28 semi-independent, private and public bus and coach operations throughout the Canadian Provinces to their parent organization, Pacific Western Group of Companies (PWT), located in Calgary, Alberta.
Founder Robert B. Colborne gave considerable thought to the tenets that would guide the school bus operation, acquired in 1957, to become the group of bus companies that evolved from his vision.
“We cannot emphasize enough the impact my father’s values have had on our belief in our organization,” says PWT Chairman and CEO Michael Colborne. “His ingenuity will always guide our employees in how they make their daily decisions. Our values are our special sauce, so to speak.”
The 10 “secret ingredients” that underpin the values of Pacific Western Group of Companies are: Safety, Teamwork, Customer Service, Loyalty, Resourcefulness, Accountability, Integrity, Respect and a Positive Attitude.
Consequently, the annual Robert R. Colborne Award recognizes top performing employees for their understanding and adherence to these values. The coveted award has generated genuine excitement within PWT for years and set a record in 2018 with 39 employees earning a nomination.
“We are continually brainstorming new ways to ensure our culture takes hold with our people and makes a difference,” Colborne says. “If we don’t, we grow stale from our employees hearing the same messages year in, year out. We live by our core values and never want to see them simply reduced to lip service.”
In the company’s search for excellence, their appointment of Stephen Evans as Vice President, Safety, points to the propensity to market basic business operations such as customer service, maintenance compliance and punctuality as PWT’s distinguishing factors.
“As important as these functions are, to regard them as core values is misleading,” he says. “These are just the starting points for conducting business; but not necessarily the reasons a company is in business.”
Evan says the values that truly characterize an organization are the intangibles that require a commitment from everyone in the company to know and understand. “This resonates with our employees,” says Colborne. “We regard the daily operations as the table stakes in our company. Once we nail the basics, we can look for the sizzle that engages our people to make good decisions and execute at their personal best.”
Working with Prevost over the years on emerging technologies
According to Evans, some years back when Prevost’s safety program was undergoing some changes, the company took a special interest in PWT’s attention to safety and successful workplace initiatives.
“We had thoroughly researched our solutions, implemented them carefully and we were seeing significant positive change,” he says. “When Prevost hit a plateau in its safety program, we received an invitation to visit the factory and other locations for our assessment and observations and to offer suggestions that might be of help to them.”
Evans affirmed that these stories demonstrate the trust the two organizations have for one another and reaffirms the strength of their relationship. Colborne adds that any good partnership requires support from one another when needed; working relationships are always give-and-take propositions
Colborne and Evans believe in their years working together, Pacific Western Group of Companies and Prevost stand out as companies clearly devoted to doing what is important.
Inside Pacific Western Group of Companies
Pacific Western Group of Companies separates its operations into four divisions: scheduled motorcoach service, employment transport, student transportation and public transit.
Red Arrow, the flagship brand of Pacific Western Group of Companies, leads the motorcoach division and celebrated its 40th anniversary this summer. The consummate inter-city scheduled service showcases 23 Prevost H3-45s—custom- equipped with 36 luxurious plush-leather seats in a spacious 2 + 1 seating configuration with space for a galley offering complimentary snacks and beverages.
Operating out of branded terminals in convenient locations, with arrivals and departures as punctual as clockwork, Red Arrow has become the lifeline for Alberta commuters in Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge and Grand Prairie.
Ebus – Pacific Western Group developed Ebus in 2011 as an intracity discount carrier as the Province of Alberta deregulated. Running the same routes as Red Arrow except for Lethbridge, Ebus provides affordable coach transportation with fewer onboard amenities.
Additionally, when Greyhound exited the market in western Canada last year, PWT added an Ebus route through British Columbia that includes stops in Vancouver, Kamloops, Vernon, Kelowna and Vancouver Triangle. “We Launched Ebus in British Columbia on the last day of Greyhound service - October 31,” says Colborne. “We were running the next day and didn’t miss a stop.”
The Ebus fleet in both provinces showcases five new 52-passenger 2019 Prevost H3-45s for chartered coach service in Alberta and contracted corporate transportation in British Columbia. The Ebus fleets also includes three 48-seat Prevost X3-45s.
Northern Health Connections – Based in Prince George, BC, Northern Health Connections is a partnership between PWT and Northern Health Group. Together, they provide reliable regional coach service for patients in remote areas travelling to non-emergency medical appointments in cities and larger communities from Vancouver to McCann Loops.
Diversified Transportation – PWT has been transporting workers to and from job sites on the Athabasca Oil Sands in northern Alberta for 50 years. The large, all-Prevost fleet routinely carries up to 12,000 passengers daily; transporting workers to and from to major oil, gas, energy and construction companies in northern Alberta.
Robert B. Colborne’s small fleet of yellow school buses launched PWT in 1957. Today, a diverse fleet of over 3,000 vehicles carry nearly 75,000 students to and from school each day. This year so far, PWT has established 400 new routes to meet urban and rural community demands in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and the Yukon Territory.
Pacific Western Transit – PW Transit provides public transportation through partnerships with 15 municipalities in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. Operating the agencies’ buses, PW Transit delivers a complete portfolio of operations, maintenance, and dispatch/scheduling services for regular route operation and specialized transit for the mobility-challenged.
ELA – PWT is on the frontline of autonomous technology, with the operation of ELA - Canada’s first electric autonomous shuttle open to the public. Following successful operations in communities in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Richmond, PWT has expanded ELA to Beaumont for a four-month run in mixed traffic. According to Colborne, ELA positions Pacific Western Group of Companies as an innovative company and a leader in this up-and-coming transportation mode.
And at the end of the day … Safely Home
Pacific Western Group is especially proud of Safely Home. This branded initiative asserts that PWT is responsible to its more than 5,000 customers for promoting effective safety choices to help mitigate risks and the lasting consequences of accidents.
“Work is important, but at the end of the day, most everyone is working so that they can look after their families at home,” says Evans. “This is why they come to work each day, and it is the wish of our company that they always return home safely.” Colborne says PWT devotes a great deal of time, energy and money to keeping its people abreast of the meaning and intentions behind Safely Home. “We believe Safely Home reflects a partnership that encourages our people to take steps at work and home to be safe”, states Colborne.