Losing weight, spending more time with family, avoiding sweets, quitting smoking, saving money and getting more sleep are all New Year’s resolutions that people make and, for various reasons, often are unable to keep. As transportation professionals, let’s make some New Year’s resolutions for 2004 that will help make our jobs easier and our work environment more positive. More importantly, let’s make resolutions that we will be able to keep. And keep in mind that a little humor never hurts. 1. Reduce bus damage in the yard
When was the last time you took a stroll to evaluate your garage, yard and parking area? Here's what you should be looking for: The flow of employees and buses into and out of the yard. Peak congestion times. Traffic control, speed limit and low-clearance signs. Striping and sizing of parking lot spaces. You might also maintain a visible presence during morning and afternoon departures and returns. Take this opportunity to watch your drivers perform pre-trip inspections and to see if they observe yard speeds. You would be surprised by the positive effect your presence and interest has. 2. Distribute important news
Thanks to industry magazines, various newsletters and the Internet, school transportation-related news items are often available within minutes of release. The problem is that you and I are often the only people to see them. Many of our drivers do not have convenient access to the Internet, and many who might be interested in these news items might not know where or how to look for this information.
Part of the whole “it can’t happen to me” or “accidents never happen” mindset comes from the fact that drivers don’t get the data. When a school bus-related news flash or alert comes across your desk, get it to your staff. If you suspect that people aren’t reading the items, post them on the inside door of bathroom stalls so they have no choice but to read it during the “mandatory” downtime that most everybody has to take.
3. Defend your budget
Running a safe, up-to-date fleet of buses and providing quality training to drivers costs money. Keep your bosses and school boards informed of changes in laws and regulations that impact your training dollars. Compare the cost of common parts such as mufflers, brake parts and tires at today's rates vs. those of 10 years ago. That could help make your point about increasing costs and the need for additional funding.
Remind everyone who will listen that transportation costs are directly related to the wheels on the bus turning. When the wheels are turning, we are spending dollars on salary, parts and fuel, to name a few items. What that means is that you cannot continue to offer the same level of service if funding is cut. Encourage your bosses to look beyond low bid on buses and equipment. Write specifications that will get you the best possible equipment but at the same time keep it fair and legal. Speak to all of the possible vendors and take digital photos of their products so you can properly recommend or disqualify a product in an educated, professional manner.
4. Cross-train your people
This can be a tough one, especially if you have collective bargaining agreements. Drivers, monitors, mechanics and office personnel should work as a team. They should understand each other’s duties and how they fit into the overall transportation team.
Whenever possible, they should do their jobs accordingly; however, when the going gets tough, the needs of the child must come first. Employees should be able to pitch in and get the job done even if a task isn’t in their job description.
5. Drive a bus
You have worked hard to get where you are. Chances are you drove a bus for many years in all kinds of weather conditions. But when was that? I know that many of us drive on a regular basis due to staff shortages; however, there are some managers who have not driven in a few years. Don’t lose touch. Get behind the wheel. Chat with the kids, see how your routes flow and get a feel for your equipment. This also does wonders for your employee relations, and many of your principals are happy to see you behind the wheel at their buildings.
6. Work with your 6-22s
What’s a 6-22? It’s an employee with six months on the job who acts like he has 22 years of experience. These people can be dangerous without the proper training and guidance. Helping them understand this business is about constantly learning and improving for the benefit of the children.
7. Attend a national conference
Budget pressures have put a damper on the travel of transportation professionals. But attendance of national conferences is well worth the investment because of the quality of speakers and the huge turnout of corporate vendor representatives. Unfortunately, many school districts have set blanket policies against national conference travel for teachers and principals and have lumped in middle-level managers.
8. Get out and speak
Take advantage of every opportunity to go out into the community to talk about the business of pupil transportation. The rules and regulations have changed so fast we have difficulty keeping ourselves abreast, let alone our district parents. Go into the community with a new bus and a PowerPoint presentation and spread the word about what you do. You might even pick up a new driver or two in the bargain.
Best wishes in the new year!