Crew chief keeps buses rolling

January 28, 2010

Members of Purdue Transportation Service are (from left) Keith Rothenberger, bus driver; Don Smith, bus driver; Steve Moorman, bus crew chief; Bryan Keller, bus driver; and Jill Moore, bus driver. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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Six hundred thousand miles. Tens of thousands of hours. Twenty-two years of service. That's just the surface of Steve Moorman's resume.

Now the Purdue bus crew chief, Moorman is responsible for keeping Purdue on the move.

Since the early 1960s, bus service has been an integral part of Purdue's transportation program. University buses are rolling billboards, carrying the message that Purdue is a world-class institution.

Yet Purdue is one of only a few universities in the nation that operate their own motor coaches. In addition to Moorman, Purdue employs four full-time bus drivers and 16 part-timers to fill any shortfalls. Transporting more than 100,000 passengers a year, the fleet travels all around the country, safely delivering students and other University-affiliated groups to their destination.

From local trips to the agronomy farms, to weeklong tours of the Deep South, the Transportation Service department handles all University bus travel.

"I always think the trips into Quebec City are the most interesting, considering French is their language and I don’t speak any," Moorman says. "I soon found out what it was like to be a stranger in a foreign land, but I muddled through it, got to know a few people and had a great time.

"Spring break trips, down into Florida, with Purdue Musical Organizations have also been high on the list of preferred trips of other drivers, but the international trips are the ones that I have always liked."

Moorman was promoted to bus crew chief last year after 13 years as a full-time driver. His favorite part of his job is simply interacting with passengers.

"Traveling throughout the continental United States and getting paid for it isn’t bad, either," Moorman says. "However, our favorite part of the job is meeting and interacting with the passengers because of their diverse backgrounds and cultures."

Transportation Service uses all available coaches and needs the use of outsourced vehicles. Moorman takes responsibility for this, booking outside companies to supplement the fleet. Coaches are contracted from several regional bus companies.

When working with outside companies, Moorman takes extra time to ensure everyone is on the same page.

In the fall, Purdue football Saturdays are a sea of gold and black in the Transportation Service office, as drivers pour in to run the football shuttles from the parking lots to Ross-Ade Stadium. Decked out in their most spirited finery, the drivers jest and laugh as they prepare for the big day.

And while on the road, Moorman says, alumni are always coming up to him to talk about Purdue.

 "I feel, as all of our drivers do, that we are ambassadors of Purdue in many different cities," he says. "People will see our Purdue University name plates and proudly announce their alumni status."

One instance occurred in 2000, when Moorman was on a trip to Washington, D.C.

"I was in an ice cream parlor," he says. "An elderly couple came up to me and in unison proclaimed, 'Class of '29.' Come to find out, they both graduated from Purdue in 1929 and had not been back to campus since.

"I happened to have some recent pictures of parts of campus. They looked at them and you could see the amazed look in their eyes as they saw all of the changes that had taken place since they had graduated. It is always fun to see and hear Purdue alumni reminisce about their years at Purdue."