CALGARY, Alberta — Key topics addressed at this year’s National School Transportation Association (NSTA) annual meeting and convention included safety and security, regulatory updates and action plans for improving business for contractors.
The association added a new event to this year’s conference — a Safety & Security Summit that took place ahead of the main convention events and covered such topics as preventing children from being left unattended on the bus, hours-of-service compliance and special-needs transportation.
In a general session, representatives from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Transportation Security Administration were on hand to provide updates from each agency. NSTA also updated members on the progress of its strategic plan, which was unveiled at last year’s meeting and was to focus on business development.
To that end, during the Government Relations Committee meeting, members discussed “Save Our Business” action plans, with topics including anti-privatization, labor, transit, fuel tax exemption and clean diesel. Becky Weber, NSTA lobbyist, provided an update on legislative activity, and Robin Leeds, NSTA’s industry specialist, informed members on regulatory issues. “We spent a great deal of time discussing transit issues, which we see as the most important challenge to the school bus industry in several years,” Leeds said.
In May, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) released a Notice of Proposed Policy Statement regarding its intention to revise its “tripper service” policy and limit the incursion of public transit into school transportation.
In response to a wave of opposing comments from the transit industry, NSTA mounted an aggressive campaign asking members to post comments supporting the proposed policy on the public docket. “Since our meeting, we’ve had an overwhelming response, even after the deadline passed,” Leeds said. “The docket now contains more positive comments than negative.”
The FTA has notified the association that it will consider the additional comments under an extended deadline.
New to the conference this year was the development of the Go Yellow, Go Green Award, created to recognize initiative and commitment in pursuing environmental issues. In tandem, NSTA’s Clean Diesel School Bus Task Force recommended the creation of a school bus operator “NSTA Green Certification” program available to all NSTA members. During the conference, NSTA’s Manufacturer, Supplier and Technology Committee met to begin developing the certification criteria and process.
The following awards were handed out at the conference:
Golden Merit Award
Bruce Dischinger, Minnesota Coaches, Hastings, Minn.
Warren Gumbs, Educational Bus Transportation, Copiague, N.Y.
Thomas Hyatt, First Student Inc., Anchorage, Alaska
Kevin Kalberer, Huntington Coach, Huntington Station, N.Y.
Chuck Moore, Durham School Services, Concord, Calif.
Marvin Shipley, First Student Inc., Grand Junction, Colo.
Lubke Storry, Stock Transportation Ltd., Newmarket, Ontario
Phil Vallone, Rolling V Bus Corporation, So. Fallsburg, N.Y.
Patrick Vaughan, Laidlaw Education Services, Naperville, Ill.
Hall of Fame Award
Charles M. Peterson, Kottkes’ Bus Service, Andover, Minn.
Distinguished Service Award
Bob Pudlewski, industry veteran
Outstanding Driver Service Award
Alice Praud, First Student Canada, Alberta
Go Yellow, Go Green Award
George Krapf Jr. & Sons Inc., Exton, Pa.
Larry Pierce of Pierce Coach Line in Roslyn, N.Y., was named SCHOOL BUS FLEET’s Contractor of the Year.
NSTA also recognized the winners of its International Driver Competition at the conference:
Small Bus Class
First place: David Field, First Student Canada, Ontario
Second place: Jim McMinn, Durham School Services, Kansas
Third place: Brent Carman, Morgan Hill (Calif.) Unified School District
First place: Cindy Shipley, First Student Inc., Colorado
Second place: Mark Koelbl, First Student Canada, Alberta
Third place: Larry Hannon, Centennial School District, Warminster, Pa.
First place: Chris Fritz, Academy District #20 Schools, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Second place: Norm Turner, Dixie School District, San Rafael, Calif.
Third place: Don Hal Haney, Kent (Wash.) School District
The NSTA Mid-Winter Meeting will be held Jan. 25-28, 2009, in Orlando, Fla.