At the front of the Pupil Transportation Statistics section in our 2012 Fact Book, there is this slogan: "It's what's behind the numbers that counts." What a great reminder of the importance of school bus transportation.
Starting on pg. 29, you'll find our state-by-state compilation of school transportation data for the 2009-10 school year. The chart shows the grand scale of our industry: Around 472,000 yellow school buses transport more than 23 million public K-12 students daily.
But what's even more significant is the stories behind the numbers: The superior safety design and rigorous maintenance that goes into each of those yellow buses. The highly trained drivers behind the steering wheels. The disadvantaged students who might not make it to school if it weren't for their school bus.
The pupil transportation industry, particularly under the American School Bus Council banner, has made great strides in sharing its success stories with the public. And a federal campaign from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is another promising step.
After many members of the school transportation community wrote to their representatives in Congress in 2010, asking them to support a public education program to promote greater use of school buses, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood committed NHTSA to the project.
At the association conferences in Cincinnati this fall, NHTSA unveiled a new set of promotional posters developed with input from industry officials.
These three posters do an outstanding job of presenting key school bus statistics while emphasizing the human element at the heart of them: families.
Each poster shows parents with their kids next to a school bus silhouette and the header "My choice ... their ride." They also have eye-catching charts — two of which we display on pg. 36 — and facts on why parents should choose the school bus over other modes of transportation for their kids.
Strong messages are incorporated into the designs, including this one: "Students are about 50 times more likely to arrive at school alive if they take the bus than if they drive themselves or ride with friends."
One poster describes the many safety features of school buses. Another focuses on their environmental and traffic benefits.
According to recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, about 49 million students attend public elementary and secondary schools in the U.S. Taking our ridership data into account, around half of the nation's pupils ride the school bus each day.
Among the other half that don't go yellow, many live within walking distance boundaries and don't qualify for service. But how many of them do qualify but instead ride with parents or friends, or drive themselves?
With the pupil transportation industry's combined efforts — and now with the support of the federal government — we can keep spreading our stories and increasing our numbers.