CALGARY, Alberta — Key topics addressed at this year’s National School Transportation Association (NSTA) annual meeting and convention included safety and security, regulatory updates and action plans for improving business for contractors.
The association added a new event to this year’s conference — a Safety & Security Summit that took place ahead of the main convention events and covered such topics as preventing children from being left unattended on the bus, hours-of-service compliance and special-needs transportation.
In a general session, representatives from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Transportation Security Administration were on hand to provide updates from each agency. NSTA also updated members on the progress of its strategic plan, which was unveiled at last year’s meeting and was to focus on business development.
To that end, during the Government Relations Committee meeting, members discussed “Save Our Business” action plans, with topics including anti-privatization, labor, transit, fuel tax exemption and clean diesel. Becky Weber, NSTA lobbyist, provided an update on legislative activity, and Robin Leeds, NSTA’s industry specialist, informed members on regulatory issues. “We spent a great deal of time discussing transit issues, which we see as the most important challenge to the school bus industry in several years,” Leeds said.
In May, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) released a Notice of Proposed Policy Statement regarding its intention to revise its “tripper service” policy and limit the incursion of public transit into school transportation.
In response to a wave of opposing comments from the transit industry, NSTA mounted an aggressive campaign asking members to post comments supporting the proposed policy on the public docket. “Since our meeting, we’ve had an overwhelming response, even after the deadline passed,” Leeds said. “The docket now contains more positive comments than negative.”
The FTA has notified the association that it will consider the additional comments under an extended deadline.
New to the conference this year was the development of the Go Yellow, Go Green Award, created to recognize initiative and commitment in pursuing environmental issues. In tandem, NSTA’s Clean Diesel School Bus Task Force recommended the creation of a school bus operator “NSTA Green Certification” program available to all NSTA members. During the conference, NSTA’s Manufacturer, Supplier and Technology Committee met to begin developing the certification criteria and process.
The following awards were handed out at the conference:
Golden Merit Award
Hall of Fame Award
Distinguished Service Award
Outstanding Driver Service Award
Go Yellow, Go Green Award
Larry Pierce of Pierce Coach Line in Roslyn, N.Y., was named SCHOOL BUS FLEET’s Contractor of the Year.
NSTA also recognized the winners of its International Driver Competition at the conference:
Small Bus Class
The NSTA Mid-Winter Meeting will be held Jan. 25-28, 2009, in Orlando, Fla.