PORTLAND, Ore. — Shrinking budgets are top-of-mind among presenters and attendees at the NAPT Summit, with workshops highlighting a variety of approaches to cutting costs through improved efficiency.
Tuesday morning, North Carolina state director Derek Graham gave a presentation that demonstrated how several school systems in his state have adjusted routing through a funding program that incentivizes efficient service.
Routing and fleet data is collected through a statewide computerized system. "Each district is compared to the highest performing district using real-world data, not some pie-in-the-sky ideal," to create a budget rating for the district, Graham explained. "The incentive is to spend less and operate fewer buses to improve the rating."
Without impacting the number of riders and in some cases improving ride times, many counties have been able to reduce miles traveled per student and take buses off the road. Staggering bell times and creating hub-style bus stops in neighborhoods have been key measures in their efforts.
Staff members from Salem-Keizer Public Schools' transportation department shared their experiences in a presentation on the topic of cross training.
Three years ago, the department began a program to cross train personnel in different tasks and skill sets when five out of the department's 25 staff were out of the office at one time. No one was trained to cover their positions at that time.
Clerical staff leader Teresa Derochowski said cross training has become part of the clerical, operations and shop staff training process. Each employee creates detailed job descriptions and step-by-step instructions for each of the tasks they do in their jobs on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis.
The Salem-Keizer team ennumerated both the obstacles to and benefits of this type of cross training, saying that although some employees are hesitant to take on additional duties or share their job "secrets," once they learn what others do on a daily basis, they have a better understanding of the department as a whole and the entire team is strengthened, Derchowski said.
Plus, efficiency is improved when team members can easily cover for someone who is out sick, on vacation or has a family emergency. In addition, employees who are trained in several skill sets bring greater value to the organization and retention rates are improved.