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June 01, 2004  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

7 Ways Transportation Supervisors Can Beat the Clock

A closer, more intuitive analysis of their management styles can help Head Start transportation supervisors become more efficient and less stressed out.

by George Horne


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You are the Head Start transportation supervisor, and, like most of your colleagues, you wear multiple hats.

Transporting children safely to and from program centers and special activities is only a portion of your job responsibilities. But as a veteran, you know that transportation alone can consume an inordinate amount of your administrative time.

Federal and state regulations specify records you must maintain and procedures you must follow. You must prepare for triennial program review (“PRISM”: Program Review Instrument for Systems Monitoring of Head Start and Early Head Start Grantees). You constantly must scrap for funds for training, vehicles, equipment, maintenance and other essentials, and there never seem to be enough resources to meet requirements. You wonder, “Why did I accept this job?”

Stop! Step back! Take a moment to analyze your management style and the tools you have to work with. Examine the systems you have in place and how you apply them. To use a cliché, “Think outside the box.” Can subtle or even revolutionary changes help free up some time and otherwise improve your operation? Might there be a “better mousetrap”? To begin the analysis, ponder the questions that follow. All are interrelated, bearing on one another and resulting collectively in improving your transportation system. Obviously, suggested options may not all be available to you or may not be feasible every day. Be a “cherry picker,” and try what might work in your transportation system.

1. How well do I manage time?
Have I established a routine for processing mail efficiently? Do I handle postal service (“snail”) mail and electronic mail minimally, discarding non-essential items, routing what needs someone else’s attention, replying as necessary and otherwise responding appropriately and trying to establish set times for doing so?

Do I set aside time daily to respond to phone messages, striving to select times that most likely will reach the other party without having to play “phone tag”?

When possible, do I schedule meetings at times that are least disruptive to the operation and not during times when transportation emergencies are most likely to occur? Do I try to keep meetings brief and to the point when I am able to do so?

Can I delegate responsibilities to others? Can drivers deliver vehicles for service? Can drivers and monitors be groomed as trainers? Can Center managers be trained as “field supervisors” in transportation matters?

2. How well do I manage information?
Is computer routing software a viable option for my operation? (Consider mobility of families, relocation of facilities, growth patterns and changing demographics of communities served. Time saved with routing software may be well worth the financial investment. See SBF, February 2004, pages 34-38, or click here.)

Have I streamlined records with maximum use of computers: vehicle acquisition; maintenance and repairs; pre-employment screening and employment documents; driver and monitor training; drug and alcohol testing, etc.? (General-use software may be adequate; specialized software, if available, may be better.)

Do I update files as soon as possible after changes occur and when new or revised information is available?

Do I attempt to eliminate non-essential records or repetition of information collected (unnecessarily) during the program year? (Consolidation of information requested on forms — or the forms, themselves — can be helpful to persons who must provide the information, as well as to those who must process it.)

How do I use the information that is readily available? For example, do I use the reported effective dates of drivers’ licenses and physical examinations to establish “tickler files,” to alert them when renewals are required and/or to document renewals? Do I provide supporting data to reports that I prepare?

{+PAGEBREAK+} 3. How well do I manage financial resources?
Have I proposed and received approval for maintenance, repair and replacement plans for vehicles, passenger restraints and other transportation equipment?

How often do I review routes in terms of ridership, length of ride, loading zone safety and alternate emergency routes to ensure safety, efficiency and economy?

Have I evaluated optional strategies—outsourcing vs. in-house, collaboration or partnering, for example — in the Head Start transportation system? (Group purchasing of parts, fuel, vehicles and equipment; sharing computer software systems; joint training activities and acquisition of training materials; use of tax-exempt status with respect to purchases — all are worthy of consideration. Be aware of the specifics contained in 45 CFR 1310.23.)

What can I learn from a request for proposals (RFP) to vendors for providing vehicles, maintenance and repairs, drivers or a combination of these items? (RFPs can be a means of comparing the cost of current operations with alternative systems. You may be surprised at the efficiencies you have in place already.)

4. How well do I manage personnel resources?
Are classroom aides, teachers or other employees required (or permitted) to serve as full-time or substitute drivers and/or bus monitors?

Are drivers and monitors equipped to provide safety training to parents and children, thereby assisting teachers and Center staff in fulfilling the requirements of 45 CFR 1310.21?

Might one transportation supervisor serve more than one Head Start grantee and in so doing reduce overhead costs?

Do I call upon my state director of pupil transportation (www.nasdpts.org) or area school district transportation officials to assist with vehicle specification issues, state laws and related matters?

5. How well do I communicate?
Do I schedule and participate in meetings with drivers, monitors and other appropriate staff to review schedules, safety and related pertinent issues?

After reviewing trade journals and other publications, do I pass them along to other Head Start personnel?

Do I communicate with parents throughout the program year, providing tidbits such as safe-riding tips, schedule changes, etc.?

6. How well do I manage professional growth opportunities?
Do I attend conferences hosted by state, regional and national associations so that as transportation supervisor I become better informed and prepared to improve local transportation operations?

Do I “shop” conferences, previewing agendas and selecting conferences that afford professional growth opportunities on a variety of fronts in pupil transportation? (The National Association for Pupil Transportation offers accreditation courses designed specifically for transportation professionals. Check out www.napt.org.)

Am I a member of state and national professional associations? (See SBF’s 2004 Fact Book for associations and conference schedules.)

7. How well do I manage the overall transportation operation?
When did I last have an expert review of the overall transportation operation to assess the level of compliance with regulations and best practices? (Operational audits, after all, can yield positive responses, highlighting strengths, as well as areas that may need your attention. If your transportation operation is not reviewed more often than every three years, perhaps it is time for an interim review.)

This list may be just the beginning of your analysis, as you think of other possible ways of improving the management of your transportation activities. Think on! You will discover that, indeed, there may be a “better mousetrap.” Find it, or better yet, design your own.

 


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