SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. — Key challenges facing the school transportation industry and successes over the past year were discussed at the 42nd annual convention of the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), held July 23-26 along the shores of Lake Tahoe near the Nevada-California border.
Presided over by NSTA President John Corr (president of The Trans Group in New York), the meeting brought together contractors from across the U.S. and Canada to share ideas on topics such as the new emissions standards for 2007 diesel engines, industry association collaboration and lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., including the passage of a House resolution that embraces the goals and ideals of School Bus Safety Week.
Corr opened the general session by reviewing the past year and citing the accomplishments of the association. He also set the goals for the coming year. The session continued with legislative and regulatory updates from NSTA lobbyist Becky Weber and Robin Leeds, the association’s governmental liaison.
One of the major accomplishments on the legislative front was the passage of House Resolution 498, honoring the goals and ideals of School Bus Safety Week. The resolution passed the House by a vote of 424-0 on July 18. There were 63 co-sponsors to the bill.
NSTA Marketing Manager Ann Henley provided information about two new benefits to association members — an insurance program through Keystone Insurance and a tire purchase program.
The insurance program offers broad coverage of fundamental insurance protection of buildings, contents, fleet exposures and general business operations, as well as coverage for year-round non-school related activities and broad commercial auto coverage.
Robert Pudlewski of Laidlaw Education Services said the tire purchase program offers special pricing on Michelin tires.
The general session continued with a panel discussion about recent privatization successes. NSTA President-Elect Barry Stock (senior vice president with National Express Corp.) moderated the session. The panel was made up of Brendan Clifford of Huntington Coach in New York, Blake Krapf of Krapf Bus Companies in Pennsylvania and Carina Noble of Durham School Services in Illinois.
Pudlewski provided association members with an update on the new federal emissions standards for 2007 diesel engines. These tightened standards will require engine manufacturers to reduce tailpipe emissions of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter by 90 percent. Engines manufactured after Jan. 1 will be more expensive than their predecessors and will require ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, which should be available in most parts of the country this fall.
A new slate of directors and officers was elected during the meeting. The new slate includes Blake Krapf, the newest at-large director, taking the place of Phil Paige of Paige Bus Enterprises in Riverdale, Ill. Corr thanked Paige for his excellent work as chair of the Awards Committee, as well as for his dedication to the NSTA and his role as an at-large delegate of the board.
The NSTA has agreed to work on a new project under the direction of Habitat for Humanity. The organization is working on building and rebuilding homes in New Orleans. The event is scheduled for Jan. 16, 2007. Specific location and details on how to get involved will be available in October.
It was also announced that NSTA is now the administrator of the national School Bus Watch Program and will manage enrollment.
Corr closed the annual meeting by expressing his appreciation to the membership, committees, staff and board of directors for all of their support and continued efforts in helping better the association.
Corr said his goals continue to be to increase the membership base, increase member benefits, increase synergy of the three national associations and increase public awareness as it pertains to safety in school transportation.
One of the highlights of the meeting was the annual awards ceremony, which honored nearly a dozen individuals who have contributed significantly to the improvement of the pupil transportation industry.
During the awards ceremony, Donald Fowler of Fowler Bus Co. in Richmond, Mo., was presented with SCHOOL BUS FLEET’s Contractor of the Year award for his contributions to the industry on the local, state and national levels. SBF Publisher Frank Di Giacomo cited Fowler’s unwavering support at the state and national levels, including serving on the NSTA’s board of directors for more than 10 years.
The Hall of Fame Award was presented to John Elliott, president of Durham School Services, and Kevin Clifford, owner and CEO of Huntington Coach Corp. in Huntington Station, N.Y.
Elliott was honored for his long-term efforts on behalf of pupil transportation. He has been involved in education for 34 years, beginning as an English and history teacher in Kankakee, Ill. He began his transportation career in 1972 by joining KAL Leasing. He became a member of Ryder Transportation when KAL was acquired. He is the former president of First Student Inc., formerly Ryder Transportation.
Clifford has been in the school bus contracting business for more than 50 years. Under his leadership, his business has grown from 100 vehicles to more than 775 vehicles. He has facilitated the acquisition of three school bus contractors and has successfully converted school districts to privatized operations.
The Distinguished Service Award went to Lyle Stephens of Special Transportation Inc. in Punta Gorda, Fla. Stephens is known for his activism in the area of special-needs transportation. He lobbied to require the federal government to develop guidelines for the safe transportation of children in wheelchairs.
Peter Grandolfo, a highly regarded expert in school transportation, was the posthumous winner of the NSTA’s first Oustanding School Transportation Administrator Award. Grandolfo, who died in January at the age of 59, was director of student transportation at Chicago Public Schools for 30 years and most recently was employed at the Northside Learning Center, a school that serves students with cognitive disabilities. Grandolfo’s wife, Linda, accepted the award and shared some stories about him with the attendees.
Four people received the Golden Merit Award, recognizing excellence in service, safety and outstanding demonstration of community responsibility: Tim Gunn of Durham School Services in Oakland, Calif.; Cal Hull of First Student Inc. in Vancouver, Wash.; Beatrice Kunde of First Student Inc. in Danville, Ill.; and Chloe Williams of B.R. Williams Inc. in Woodstown, N.J.
The Thomas Built Buses Continuing Education and Professional Growth Grant was awarded to Robert Nelson of Dousman Transport Co. in Dousman, Wis. He is the president and general manager of Dousman Transport and is actively involved with the NSTA, the Wisconsin School Bus Contractors Association and the Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials.
The Outstanding Driver Service Award was presented to Elizabeth Bamberger of Huntington Coach Corp. She has worked at Huntington for 26 years and is committed to helping disadvantaged children and raising the awareness of her coworkers of the importance of helping others.
The NSTA’s midwinter meeting is scheduled Jan. 28-31, 2007, in Tucson, Ariz. Next year’s annual meeting and convention is scheduled July 14-18 in Boston. For more information about the NSTA, call (800) 222-NSTA or visit www.yellowbuses.org.