Destinations Magazine - May/June 2018 - 12
FAST LANE | OPERATOR PROFILE | Behind the scenes of the most successful operators
The Fullington Auto Bus Company
Built on family
n 1908, Emerson Fullington and his
three sons were running a successful
lumber supply company in Clearfield,
Pa. But Fullington was ready to
grow his business into something more.
Recognizing a local need, he purchased
a nine-passenger, horse-drawn surrey to
shuttle residents from Curwensville to the
nearest train station in Clearfield. It was
only a 7-mile journey, but that modest first
step launched The Fullington Auto Bus
Company. It also established Fullington's
reputation for safety and customer service,
as well as a commitment to building a
business based on family.
Within seven years, two Model White
15 buses replaced the surrey, and the horse
barn was transformed into a bus garage.
Growth continued-both in fleet size and
territory-over the ensuing decades. In
1981, the line-run operation was nationalized when the company became part of the
Other companies took notice. In 2009,
Paris-based RATP Dev, the fourth-largest
ground transportation company in the
world, approached Aerial Fullington
Weisman, then Fullington's CEO, about
partnering to enter the U.S. market. In light
of that partnership, Fullington decided to
sell majority ownership of the company to
RATP Dev. The relationship lasted nearly
nine years. Although it was a productive
and positive experience, Fullington's
management team eventually decided that,
at its core, Fullington was meant to be a
family operation. They began negotiations
to repurchase the company in early 2017.
Today, as it celebrates its 110th year,
The Fullington Auto Bus Company is once
again 100 percent owned by the Fullington
family. Husband-and-wife team Michael
and Lory Fullington represent the current
generation of family owners.
President and CEO Jonathan Berzas is
mindful of the company's family foundation and his responsibility to maintain it.
"I'm the first nonfamily member to ever
run the company," he points out.
The Fullington Auto Bus Company
11 terminals in Pennsylvania
Headquarters: Clearfield, Pa.
School buses, charters, tours, VIP,
limousines, shuttles, express
Michael and Lory Fullington.
After a career in transportation that
included years with American Airlines,
Greyhound, and his own charter tour company, Berzas was ready for the next challenge. When he heard about Fullington, he
was impressed. "They had a focus on their
business, as well as a focus on the business
of serving their employees," he says.
Fullington also proved highly focused
when it came to vetting its first potential
nonfamily president. "My first interview
was four-and-a-half hours long!" Berzas
laughs. "I went on to have three follow-up
interviews-with the board, with senior
staff-and then phone interviews with the
parent company." The gantlet was worth
it: Berzas joined the company as president
and CEO in 2011.
Now, The Fullington Auto Bus Company
is a major transportation provider in
Pennsylvania and the surrounding states.
"We have roughly 310 vehicles, not
counting service vehicles," Berzas says,
"primarily school buses and motorcoaches.
If you add our limo division, we have about
320." All locations are in-state, although
destinations are another matter.
"Probably 30 percent of our business
is made up of 220 school buses serving
six school districts," he says. "We also
have senior adult tours and a small limo
division. The remaining is motorcoach.
We have 23 or so buses dedicated to daily
line routes to Buffalo, New York City,
Washington, D.C., and many other cities.
Then we have our charter motorcoach
division, where we go to Canada and across
"On the line-run side, one of our most
popular routes is to New York City," Berzas
continues. "We also have an early morning
run out of State College to Harrisburg; we
have a lot of commuters on that bus who
work for the state."
In a company whose history is dotted
with milestones, it is surprisingly easy for
Berzas to recall one event that sums up
Fullington's unique culture.
"December 27, 2017, was the day we
signed all the documents [to regain full
family ownership of the company]," he
says. "That day, we gathered about 340
employees and guests at a local hotel.
Everybody was ushered into the main
dining space for dinner and a presentation. We had told them that we had a huge
announcement, but didn't say what it was
ahead of time. So, during the presentation
we announced that we had sold the company. You could have heard a pin drop.
Then we told them who the 'new' owners
were. The place erupted in clapping
Not surprising for a company that has
been a real family from the very start.