Justin Wilczynski became fascinated by school buses when he first rode one at age 4. He is pictured here (standing) with staff from his transportation department.
Director of Transportation, Central Indiana Educational Service Center, Indianapolis
What are your key responsibilities in your job?
I oversee the daily transportation for Central Indiana Educational Service Center. My responsibilities include overseeing the day-to-day activities of all facades of our agency. I oversee a staff of two technicians, one shop coordinator, four office employees, 60 bus drivers and 11 transportation assistants.
When and how did you first become involved in the school bus industry?
I became interested at age 4. I was standing outside with my mother waiting for the bus to take me to preschool. I heard a loud roar coming down the street and saw this incredible large yellow vehicle. I jumped on the bus and was greeted by my bus driver, Mrs. Loretta Burke. I was amazed at the bold color of the bus, the red flashing lights and how the door opened and closed. From that point on, I have always been fascinated by school buses.
I joined the transportation industry immediately out of high school, working for Laidlaw Education Services as a bus driver. I have been in the industry since graduating from high school.
Since then, I've also graduated from Purdue University and become a certified director of pupil transportation through the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT).
What do you find to be most challenging in your job?
It's the lack of funding for tools that can assist us with student safety. This is unfortunate, since no price tag should be placed on a child's safety. As the economy recovers, I hope to see funding shift back to public schools and transportation departments to further increase our ability to keep our children safe.
How do you think the industry will change over the next 20 years or so?
I believe the industry will change over the next 20 years in the form of technology and vehicle design. I see Wi-Fi being a normal item on all school buses. I see touch-screen technology on the back of bus seats in the near future, letting students learn or communicate on the bus.
The school bus itself will change in design in my forecast. I see vehicles that are sleeker looking, more aerodynamic and powered by natural resources. I believe manufacturers will look toward solar energy and alternate choices for future power.
Leah Walton says saving every e-mail from her mentor, who was a longtime school bus safety expert at NHTSA, has helped build her knowledge of the industry.
Pedestrian and Pupil Transportation Program Manager, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Washington, D.C.
What are your key responsibilities in your job?
I am the pupil transportation and pedestrian safety program analyst for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA], within the U.S. Department of Transportation. I serve as the pupil transportation safety expert for behavioral safety programs.
I manage contracts and cooperative agreements that fund programs to increase safety on school buses, including the Child Passenger Safety Restraint Systems on School Buses National Training (and training DVD, to be released in October), the School Bus Driver In-Service Safety Series (to be online in October), and the School Bus Ridership promotional materials (to be released in October).
When did you first become involved in the school bus industry?
My involvement in the school bus industry began when I started working at NHTSA in 2006.
What do you like most about being part of the industry?
The yellow bus is directly associated with school and learning, and just as every child deserves a good education, every child deserves to get to school safely and ready to learn. I am proud that I am working in an industry that provides the safest mode to transport students to and from school.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of your job?
Providing guidance to parents who contact me with children riding school buses that are overcrowded, or who have children whose school bus routes have been eliminated due to budget cuts.
What's the best advice that someone has given you in your career?
I was told early on in my career to save every e-mail I received from my mentor, who was a school bus safety expert at NHTSA for nearly 20 years. I'm glad I took that advice, as he has since retired and I still refer to that information as I continue to build my vast knowledge of the school bus industry.
Do you see a need for the industry to attract more young people?
I feel as though green technology is only going to become more popular and more necessary as time goes on. If the school bus industry continues to push the green initiative both with hybrid technology and reducing the number of cars on the road, it's a large area of opportunity and growth for the new generation of engineers.