Mike McDonal honored for service to motorcoach industry

Ask Mike McDonal what he loves about the motorcoach industry, and he’ll say the people.

“This entire industry is built on relationships,” said McDonal, noting that operators are there for competitors when their vehicles break down. 

“This is just such a unique industry. You have these really hard-working, resilient family businesses. I’m not sure there is any other industry where there is such camaraderie and compassion for each other.”

Although he doesn’t own his own company, McDonal has spent his career going out of his way to help others in the industry. This month, his decades of commitment to the industry were honored with the prestigious Norm Littler Memorial Safety Award. The American Bus Association (ABA) and its Bus Industry Safety Council (BISC) bestowed the award on McDonal for his “contributions and distinguished leadership” to the council and to ABA.

Significant contributions

McDonal, who works for Saucon Technologies in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, became emotional when he accepted the award during a June 15 virtual ceremony. He’ll pick up his award during a formal presentation that will take place at the annual ABA Marketplace event on Jan. 10.

Mike McDonal
Mike McDonal

The award honors individuals who have 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. 

The Bus Industry Safety Council is made up of security, mechanical, safety, operational and maintenance leaders from across the North American motorcoach industry. The group meets regularly to discuss issues and innovations in areas of safety, regulatory compliance, mechanics, technology and security.

Pam Martinez,  Vice President of Human Resources and Risk Management for DATTCO, and current BISC chair, presented the award to McDonal, the committee’s previous chair.

“I’ve known him for a number of years, both professionally and personally. He’s just one of a kind,” said Martinez, during the presentation, explaining that McDonal is often her go-to expert when she needs help solving a problem. “He’s always there to take my call, anytime a day, or night. 

“Mike’s always the first to volunteer for everything. Right now, he oversees the mentor program for BISC. He’s done a fantastic job getting that up and running. It’s got a lot of people participating and that doesn’t just happen. Mike makes it happen.”

35 years in transportation

McDonal has dedicated more than 35 years to the transportation industry, nearly half of that with the motorcoach industry. He’s had a long-time presence with Maryland transportation circles, beginning during his time with Eyre Bus, Tour & Travel based in Glenelg, Maryland. 

During his tenure with Eyre, McDonal became heavily involved with a variety of industry organizations, including BISC, where he served in many leadership roles, including a term as Chair. He has become a recognized national speaker on motorcoach safety issues and is considered a “go-to guy” on compliance and training issues.

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 the Bus Maintenance and Repair Council, where he serves as Chair.

“Mike has been a fixture and standard bearer for motorcoach safety in our industry for many years,” said Peter Pantuso, president and CEO of the ABA in a statement. “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.”

Instrumental in implementing ELDs

McDonal joined Saucon Technologies as the Director of Regulatory Compliance in 2015. In his role, McDonal has been instrumental in the implementation of the new electronic logging device regulations in both the United States and Canada. 

“I like to tell people that before I came to Saucon, I was a general manager of one bus company. Some days, I feel like I’m the general manager for 20 bus companies, and that’s what I thrive on. I like being a problem-solver. I like learning about people’s businesses to say, ‘Hey, have you thought about doing it this way or thought about going that way?’” he said. 

McDonal assists motorcoach operators daily, not only with telematics-related concerns or safety monitoring, but also as a mentor and trusted adviser. He took a leading role in helping to develop the first formal mentorship program for the motorcoach industry through BISC. In large part, the program is based on his personal experiences mentoring people in the industry.

“It’s just a great place to work and hang out with my friends in the bus business and be able to help them continue along the way. It’s just a little different perspective, and it’s not about just selling our products,” McDonal said. “I have plenty of people who were not my customers that call me. “I have plenty of people who are not my customers that call me. I’m going to give everyone the same attention whether they have one bus or 2000 buses.”

The honor is special for McDonal because of his friendship with the award’s namesake. Norm Littler was in the bus and motorcoach industry for more than four decades. During his career, Littler served as ABA’s Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, and had a similar role at the United Motorcoach Association for a time. He also was executive director of the Bus Industry Safety Council before his death in 2013. He was known for his accessibility, frequently offering guidance and advice on safety, security and regulatory issues.

Ken Presely, UMA’s Vice President of Legislative & Regulatory Affairs & Industry Relations/COO, added he appreciates how much McDonal has contributed his safety expertise to UMA members over the years, most recently during the weekly Town Hall sessions. 

“Mike’s career is a model for how motorcoach operations and safety are integrated, very much paralleling Norm Littler’s career. I know Norm is beaming with pride knowing Mike is the recipient of this distinctive award,” Presley said.

Transportation in his DNA

Transportation is in McDonal’s DNA. His maternal grandfather, George, drove a streetcar in Baltimore for most of his career, but spent the last few years driving for Baltimore Transit when the streetcars were retired. An uncle was an executive with Ryder. His dad, Bill, was a truck driver and for many years, he drove part time for the Baltimore and Annapolis Bus Company, as well as Monumental Trailways in Baltimore as a part-time driver. 

Later in his career, the elder McDonal was hired as a safety director for a trucking company. McDonal says he had not idea when he was going to safety meetings early in his career that they would impact his careers so much in the future. 

“I had no idea where those classes would take me today. Some of those people who were in those classes with me then, I still work with on a daily basis,” he said. “We didn’t have a family business that we operated ourselves. But there are transportation segments all the way through my family.”

McDonal says he tried to work as a bank teller after high school, but didn’t last six months.

“It’s just the same thing over and over and over again,” McDonal said of his stint of banking. “In the motorcoach business, every day is different.”


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