Should transportation directors have experience as bus drivers?

Posted on February 1, 2000

Yes, it helped me as a director
I have been a transportation director for five years and was a bus driver for 20 years before that. I have worked in almost every aspect of pupil transportation. I drove a regular route and a kindergarten route at noon. I drove activity trips of all kinds. I have been a driver trainer, safety director, CPR and first aid instructor and driver improvement teacher. The only thing I hadn’t done was be a substitute driver and I have done that since becoming the director. I now have a whole new respect for substitute drivers. I do not think you can be as effective a transportation director unless you have been in the driver’s seat as a bus driver. Only then can you fully understand the problems they experience. I also feel your drivers will respect you more and you will have better communication with them if you have bus-driving experience.
Lana Grayum
Carey Valley School District #436
Carey, Kan.

No, attitude is key to director’s job
I used to think that in order to be an effective transportation supervisor, time spent in the driver’s seat was important — and still do. However, I have met some extremely effective and respected managers who do not hold a license to drive a school bus. As with many aspects of management, attitude is key. Managers who have respect for the job that their drivers do, and who take the time to ride the routes to gain understanding of the challenges that we face can be just as successful as someone who has had the actual experience of driving a bus. As a matter of fact, I would think that a person riding a route, who has never had to handle such a large vehicle with all of its “bells and whistles,” while trying to maintain good student management, could only gain respect for our profession by riding along. I have also seen supervisors who have risen through the ranks with poor, “power trip,” attitudes. Good managers are willing to learn, have respect for those they supervise and know how to treat their people.
Bonnie MacCartney
Pupil Transportation Safety Institute
Syracuse, N.Y.

Yes, director must know the ropes
I believe that one should not become a transportation director unless he/she has had five years experience as a school bus driver. The director should then spend some time in the shop, in dispatch and on the phones. Experience in payroll is also good. The transportation director is responsible for all of these areas of operation, and should have a good knowledge of what happens in each realm of the business — the more exposure, the better the leader. I cannot tell you how many drivers have said the phrase, “I’m only the bus driver..” They believe that somehow they are unimportant. The general public has often tried to convince them of this fact. A person who has lived through this experience and moved past it is considerably better prepared to lead those who might otherwise believe they have some lower worth to society. Oh, and by the way, the director should drive a route at least twice a month to stay humble.
Sandi Kurtz
Providence Catholic High School
New Lenox, Ill.

No, not if they’re strong managers
I have been the director of transportation at a 6,000-plus-student district for over five years. I do not hold a CDL, but I routinely do ride-alongs. I usually do them on the “problem” routes. I have been in the passenger seat many times and do see what drivers do on a daily basis. I have told my drivers that God makes special people to drive a school bus and I am not one of those people. I do not have the temperament, patience or fortitude to do their job. I have strongly supported my drivers in any situation in which I feel they are right — so much so that I have jeopardized my position in the district. I rely on them daily to give me their opinion on stop locations and routing. They are in the driver’s seat, I am not. I have recently checked into certification classes and am planning to go through the training so that I have a better knowledge of all that is involved in the driver’s job. I will not, however, be driving a school bus. I have computer skills, personnel skills, public relation skills and so on. I do not have the skills to drive a school bus with 60 little people sitting behind me. Does not driving a bus make me any less capable of doing my job? No. I’m very good at what I do. I know my district, my drivers, my administrators and my parents. I know what works and what doesn’t work. I also know how special my drivers are and I let them know it on a daily basis. I know about their spouses, children and in-laws. I know about their illnesses and new grandchildren. I’ve attended the funerals of their children and other family members. I’ve helped them find other jobs when necessary and encouraged them to return to school. In return they respect me and let me do my part of the job of transporting students.
Susan C. Kelshaw
Penn Manor School District
Millersville, Pa.

No, but ride-alongs help
I have been a bus driver for 16 years. I also have six years of experience as a driver trainer and three years of experience as a third-party tester for CDL licensing. I don’t feel transportation directors should be required to have experience driving a bus, but if they could take the time to do an occasional ride-along it would give them more insight into what actually takes place on a daily basis.
Betty Renner
Frederick County Public Schools
Winchester, Va.

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