The nation’s third-largest school bus operator takes a minority stake in the technology-based ridesharing service for children.
It was the type of training that you hope you never need to use.
On a cold, foggy morning outside of Kansas City, Mo., hundreds of pupil transportation officials stood transfixed by the scene in front of them: Teenagers lay unconscious or hobbled dazedly below the grisly union of a freight train and a school bus, the latter crumpled and tipped on its side.
Although the disaster scenario was a staged presentation, it was nonetheless troubling, as onlookers could easily picture their own district’s name emblazoned on the side of the fallen bus.
Emergency responders soon entered the picture, moving methodically to assess and treat the injured students. Meanwhile, Battalion Chief Joe Lay of the Independence (Mo.) Fire Department explained to the crowd the intricacies of the emergency response and what they, as school bus officials, would need to do in this type of situation.
Lenny Bernstein, president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) and transportation coordinator for Haverstraw-Stony Point Central School District in Garnerville, N.Y., undoubtedly spoke for the entire gathering as he said after the presentation, “I want to go back and make sure we have a good plan in place.”
Planning for and responding to emergencies was a recurring concept throughout the NAPT’s 32nd Annual Conference and Trade Show, which drew approximately 1,750 attendees and exhibitors from across the U.S., Canada and elsewhere in the world.
Are you prepared?
Mike Powers, a volunteer rescue worker and substitute school bus driver from New York, led a workshop in which he explained the transportation director’s role in a multi-casualty incident involving a school bus. Powers listed information that responding agencies — police, fire, EMS — might need from the pupil transportation operation, such as vehicle make and model, student rosters and driver abstract. Powers stressed the importance of having this information readily available and also of being familiar with the agencies.
“How many of you here know your fire chief’s first name? EMS chief? Sheriff?” Powers asked. “They should know who you are.”
In another session, Nikki Hughes, director of transportation at San Juan Unified School District in North Highlands, Calif., recounted her experience with a fatal accident a few years ago. A veteran bus driver had collided with a small car, which went under the bus, killing the car’s two occupants.
Hughes detailed her response to the accident, pointing out areas in which she should have been better prepared. For instance, she highlighted the need for an effective “accident kit” that can be picked up and taken to the scene to assist in responding. Hughes also described how her department handled the aftermath of the crash — in part by holding a mandatory grief-counseling meeting for all staff — and how she worked with the district’s public relations person to deal with the media.
The LED Initiative
One of the other key components of the event was the unveiling of a program called Leading Every Day (LED), which was designed to foster leadership among NAPT members.
The LED Initiative, created by the NAPT and well-known industry consultant Cal LeMon (president of Executive Enrichment), required participants to attend seven specific sessions on leadership and to attend roundtable and small-group discussions on a wide variety of topics, such as performance evaluation standards, mediation and conflict resolution, guidance to avoid liability and harassment in the workplace, and employee team building.
More than 50 attendees participated in the program, which didn’t end with the conference. LeMon is following up with participants by e-mailing them six “homework assignments” to help them maintain their focus on leadership.
“I have spoken by e-mail to a few of the participants, and each of them was very excited about the possibilities of the LED Initiative,” said Peter Lawrence, transportation director at Fairport (N.Y.) Central School District.
Opportunities, A to Z
But the NAPT meeting addressed far more than just emergency preparedness and leadership. Other topic areas included safety, technology, maintenance, special-needs transportation, pre-trip inspections, security, crisis response and behavior management.
Motivational training was also highlighted. Inspirational speaker Bill Butterworth emphasized the importance of balancing work and life.
“Life is a race, and you need to be able to finish the race,” Butterworth said. “Your goal is endurance, not the sprint. Imbalance is the enemy.”
Butterworth cited three potential roadblocks to a balanced work and home life — the “hazies,” losing sight of long-term goals; the “lazies,” lacking the self-discipline to bring life back into focus; and the “crazies,” allowing life to run out of control.
To overcome these roadblocks, Butterworth said people need to set clear priorities, learn the discipline of endurance and reach the finish line through pacing.
Meanwhile, LeMon provided some guidance for transportation professionals in the use of language in a session called “The Language of Leadership.”
LeMon emphasized that language really does matter. “The power of language allows you the ability to influence a person within 3 to 7 seconds,” he said. “Using the right language can make or break your day at home or at work.”
LeMon said the importance of language can be seen in the longevity of words and phrases coined by leaders such as Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy. He added that tone of voice and body language are also also important in communicating effectively.
This year’s event also featured a celebration of SCHOOL BUS FLEET’s 50th anniversary. The reception, which was held before the NAPT Awards Banquet, feted the contributions to pupil transportation that the magazine has made over the past five decades.
“We’re proud to have been part of the pupil transportation industry for the past 50 years and plan to continue our involvement for at least another 50 years,” said SBF Publisher Frank Di Giacomo, who has been with the magazine’s parent company, Bobit Business Media, for the past 25 years.
Trade show highlights
The two-day trade show featured more than 150 exhibitors, many of whom displayed their new offerings or, in a few cases, concept products.
One of the most talked-about concept products was IC Corporation’s low-floor school bus. The bus, a derivative of the BE 200 small bus, features a highly accessible door, kneeling suspension and curbside ramp, allowing students who use wheelchairs to roll aboard the bus rather than be raised into the vehicle using a wheelchair lift.
“Whether the ramp is engaged or students use the one-step entry, the low-floor design provides students with a much easier way to ride to and from school,” said Michael Cancelliere, vice president and general manager of IC Corporation. “Students with wheelchairs or other mobility aid devices can all enter the bus through the same easy-access door.”
The use of a wheelchair-accessible, ramp-enabled service door would also speed up the boarding and exiting process.
Cancelliere said no decision has been made on the future of the vehicle. “With feedback from attendees at the NAPT show, we will further evaluate if there is enough interest in this concept bus to begin production,” he said.
Meanwhile, Blue Bird Corp. unveiled its propane-powered Vision school bus. Company officials said that the vehicle is intended to provide maximum performance and economic flexibility in meeting the 2007 EPA engine emission requirements. The offering is also part of a wider strategy focusing on alternative fuels.
Blue Bird selected CleanFUEL USA’s certified Liquid Propane Injection System (LPI) to power the bus. The LPI system replaces the gasoline injectors in the GM 8.1L Vortec engine with propane injectors, delivering propane to the cylinders in liquid form. Company officials said that the process results in more complete combustion, lower emissions and improved fuel economy and performance.
Elsewhere on the trade show floor, Thomas Built Buses and Detroit Diesel Corp. dissected an MBE 900 engine that had logged 1.6 million miles and was still performing essentially as well as it had when new, in terms of horsepower, boost pressure and fuel consumption. Attendees were shown the still-superb condition of the engine’s various parts.
Thomas Built also announced that it now offers a universal connector for global positioning systems (GPS) with telematics technology, allowing customers to select the hardware/software provider of their choice. The universal connector can be ordered as a factory option on all Thomas Built Type A, C and D buses.
Start planning now
The 2007 NAPT Conference and Trade Show will be held Oct. 28 to Nov. 1 in Grand Rapids, Mich. For more info, call (800) 989-NAPT or visit www.napt.org.
A three-year public relations campaign designed to raise awareness about the merits of pupil transportation among parents, school districts and lawmakers was introduced at the NAPT conference in Kansas City, Mo.
The new organization is called the American School Bus Council (ASBC) and was formed by the three major industry associations — the NAPT, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services and the National School Transportation Association — and the three major large-bus manufacturers — Blue Bird Corp., IC Corporation and Thomas Built Buses.
Pete Japikse, state pupil transportation director in Ohio, and Donald Tudor, South Carolina’s state pupil transportation director, are co-directors of the ASBC.
Japikse said the program has three goals: to increase awareness among parents of the safety and efficiency of school bus transportation, to increase ridership and to lobby for federal funding of pupil transportation. “We need to sell our story,” he said, adding that local school bus operators can help the cause by talking with parents. “We will give you the words and the message,” he said.
Tudor said parents have “mixed feelings” about school bus transportation, based on the results of focus group interviews. On one hand, they cite the convenience and social development opportunities of the school bus; on the other, they generally don’t trust the drivers. “Most don’t even know the driver’s name,” he said. Overall, he said, the positive associations can be leveraged by the ASBC.
“The ASBC is the last, best chance for school bus transportation,” added Ken Hedgecock, vice president of sales and marketing at Thomas Built Buses. “If we don’t take our stories to the moms and dads of this country, our industry faces a significant threat to what it is today.”
The public relations firm of Burson-Marsteller is providing strategic planning and implementation of the campaign. Burson-Marsteller can be contacted at [email protected]. For more information, visit the ASBC Website, www.americanschoolbuscouncil.org.
NAPT Distinguished Service Award
NAPT Hall of Fame
NAPT Speech Contest Winner
Blue Bird Heroism Award
IC Corporation Driver Training/Safety Award
SCHOOL BUS FLEET Magazine Administrator of the Year Award
Sure-Lok Special-Needs Award
Thomas Built Buses Continuing Education Award
Zonar Systems/Bus Parts Warehouse “America’s Best” Awards
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