Great gets greater

Thomas McMahon, Senior Editor
Posted on October 1, 2005

Maybe some of you didn’t realize it was gone. But we know that many of you did.

“Great Fleets Across America,” our venerable showcase for top pupil transportation programs, sat on the sidelines last year while another special feature (“75 Great Ways to Improve Your Operation”) took its place.

When we announced in the October 2003 issue that “Great Fleets” wouldn’t return the following year, readers wrote to us to express their dismay.

Recognizing the popularity of the article, which began in 1999, as well as the value it provides, we proudly present the return of the “Great Fleets” (version 2005).

The same, yet different
Rather than compiling short profiles on 50 school bus operations — one from each state — we at SCHOOL BUS FLEET decided to give a full two-page display to 10.

The result is a more thorough and engaging look at how these districts and contractors work, and how they do it so successfully.

You may also notice that one of this year’s “Great Fleets” is from Canada. So when we say “… Across America,” we mean North America, not just those 50 United States.

Not only is this merited by the presence of many exemplary pupil transporters across the Great White North, it also provides us with a wealth of additional candidates to choose from. Not that we were running out, mind you.

As you read about this year’s “Great Fleets,” perhaps you’ll pick up a few ideas to try out at your own operation. Perhaps you’ll see reflections of your own operation in theirs.

Different, yet the same
In writing our profiles of the “Great Fleets,” we editors realized something: They’re all so similar.

Sure, the names and places are different. And they all have their own innovations for bolstering safety and cutting costs. And they run different types of buses.

OK — so they’re not the same. But the core principles are there in all of them: high morale, efficiency, rigorous training, exhaustive maintenance, dedication to protecting their precious passengers, etc.

After all, a key element in the success of American-style pupil transportation is uniformity.

We see it in the pages of each updated version of National School Transportation Specifications and Procedures.

We see it in the myriad Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Regulations and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s numerous rules.

We see it in the yellow paint that coats each of our school buses.

Sharing greatness
As I talk with transportation officials at conferences and during visits to their facilities, I almost always hear how much they like to read in our magazine about what’s going on at other operations.

Perhaps this has to do with, as I mentioned before, the tips and techniques that are shared in the process. It might have to do with an interest to see what types of equipment others are using. Also, there’s the comfort in knowing that you’re not the only one dealing with certain challenges, such as driver shortages or budget shortfalls.

We feel that “Great Fleets” is an excellent way to connect pupil transporters, and we hope you’ll feel that way as well.

These fleets have definitely earned the recognition, and we know there are plenty more out there that deserve the same. So have a look at the new batch of “Great” pages, and do let us know what you think.

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