Dakota Transit Association Announces QSL Above and Beyond Award Winners

A dedicated and valiant bus driver with instinct and ingenuity and a transit executive with over 60 Roadeos under his belt were this year’s winners of the Dakota Transit Association’s (DTA’s) “Above and Beyond Awards,” for South and North Dakota.

Darrell Francis, the executive director of Souris Basin Transportation Agency (SBTA) in North Dakota and Frank Vanek a bus operator for Prairie Hills Transit (PHT) in South Dakota took the top Q’STRAINT/Sure-Lok award honors. Dakota Transit Association considers nominees throughout North and South Dakota. The award was presented at the 2019 DTA Fall Conference in Dickinson, North Dakota.

Above and Beyond Holds Special Meaning for Both Winners

“I was totally surprised when I learned that I had won the Above and Beyond award,” said Francis “Of course I eat and sleep transit and have been doing this for over 30 years. I love to see drivers succeed at their jobs. Showing them how to use wheelchair securement is a great thing.”

“I am very happy that my contributions to PHT is being recognized and extremely excited to win the award,” said Vanek. “If you worked all your life and you have a strong work ethic, it carries over the matter what you do.”

What is the Above and Beyond Award?

The Above and Beyond Award was created by the DTA to honor a staff person or system that has exhibited extraordinary dedication, devotion and compassion when transporting people with special needs. Q’STRAINT-Sure-Lok, an industry leading wheelchair securement provider, has sponsored the event since 2006.

“The Above and Beyond Award gives us the opportunity to show our support for the amazing and sometimes life changing accomplishments of our staff,” said Barb Cline, executive director of PHT. “The competition has been challenging and each year we are honored to have Q’STRAINT/Sure-Lok recognize these individuals.”

Bus Operator Perseveres in Extremely Challenging Driving Conditions

Something didn’t feel quite right for bus driver Frank Vanek, while traveling over the curvy and sometimes hazardous South Dakota cliff-hanging roads. As a seasoned bus operator; he wisely stopped the vehicle to inspect the bus. What he discovered was alarming to say the least. Vanek had been traveling with a loose lug nut on one of his tires.

The fast thinking Vanek proceeded to call dispatch for backup and purchased a tire iron to temporarily secure the lug nut. He then drove cautiously, stopping often to check his tire and remarkably detoured back to his previous stop – over one hundred miles away – to return a passenger’s personal items.

After a long, arduous and sometimes harrowing day, Vanek returned home in the wee hours of the night. His valiant and over-the-top customer centric efforts combined with his everyday positive demeanor and cooperation with other drivers – earned him the Above and Beyond Award honors for South Dakota.

For This Transit Director, It’s Not His First Roadeo

Francis, the recipient of the “Above and Beyond” award for North Dakota, has provided the SBTA a wealth of knowledge for many years in a wide range of areas ranging from bus procurement to legislative issues. He is also known as the guy that always rolls up his sleeves to offer his support for his fellow workers.”

But, perhaps Francis’ crown-jewel achievement involves his work outside of the SBTA, where he has participated in a remarkable 60 plus bus roadeos. It is obvious why he is considered a fixture at the North and South Dakota Bus Roadeo events.

The Dakota Transit Association

The DTA was formed in 1985 to address the need for greater communication between transportation providers and to serve as a unified voice for public transportation agencies within the states of North and South Dakota at the national level.

“One of the most valuable assets any transit system has is their drivers and when drivers are recognized by Q’STRAINT/Sure-Lok, the award takes on a special significance,” added Cline. “When a driver is the recipient of this award they assume membership in a very elite group of Above and Beyond winners.”

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