School Bus Contractors

NSTA takes on business strategies, government relations

Posted on September 1, 2009
The annual NSTA meeting included educational sessions, committee meetings and the International School Bus Driver Safety Competition.
The annual NSTA meeting included educational sessions, committee meetings and the International School Bus Driver Safety Competition.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Business development and keeping the interests of the school bus industry at the forefront in government relations were among the key topics discussed at the National School Transportation Association’s (NSTA) 45th Annual Meeting & Convention, held here July 19-22.

NSTA’s Government Relations Committee convened during the event. “[The committee] is very much concerned about the highway reauthorization bill and whether and how that’s going to go forward,” said Robin Leeds, industry expert for NSTA. “A lot of what we’re working on is in limbo right now.” Some agencies, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, are awaiting the nomination of an administrator.

However, one federal agency moving forward is the EPA, which awarded $2.5 million in Recovery Act funds for the replacement and retrofitting of school buses in four NSTA member fleets (see story on pg. 16).

In a joint effort of the Business Development and Government Relations committees, Leeds conducted surveys and focus groups over the course of a year with attendees at the trade shows held by the Association of School Business Officials, American Association of School Administrators and the National School Boards Association.

“What we were looking for was to see what school districts know and think about outsourced school transportation, and what are the catalysts and barriers in that process,” Leeds said. She presented an analysis of the results at the NSTA conference, with recommendations on lessons learned and what the association and individual members can do going forward. “I think that in the past two or three years [schools] have become much more open to [outsourcing], and it’s all a matter of budget cuts,” Leeds said. “They’re looking for ways to deliver the service more economically and efficiently.”

The conference’s program director, Tim Flood of The Trans Group, said Leeds’ presentation was interesting in that it provided the varying perspectives school officials hold in regard to contracted pupil transportation services. “They all had various needs and concerns,” he said. “So that’s certainly important to us as contractors when we’re speaking to a school board or a business official — what are the items that are key for them?”

Safety and security were also a focus at this year’s meeting. On hand were Paul Plitzer of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Highway and Motor Carrier division and Charlie Hall of HMS Company, operator of the national First Observer program.

Both trainers and drivers attending the International School Bus Driver Safety Competition were able to receive First Observer training. Also tied in to NSTA’s events was a TSA-run tabletop exercise, which was attended by NSTA members and transportation officials from the surrounding area. Flood said TSA plans to hold additional exercises around the country, including one to be held in conjunction with the National Association for Pupil Transportation conference in Louisville, Ky., in October.

NSTA also inducted Donald Fowler as the new president of the association. Immediate Past-President Barry Stock passed the gavel to Fowler, who is the president of Fowler Bus Company.

Four new members of the NSTA Board of Directors were also introduced at the conference: Linda Bell of First Student, Kellie Dean of Dean Transportation, David Duke of First Student and Robert Nelson of Dousman Transport.

The following awards were handed out at the conference:

Golden Merit

  • Paula Heinowski, Dousman Transport
  • Helen Schwabacher, Chestnut Ridge Transportation
  • Brian Shuldberg, Durham School Services
  • Mark Thompson, Durham School Services


    Hall of Fame

  • Carey Paster, FirstGroup America


    Distinguished Service

  • George W. (Bill) Beck, Beck Bus/ Petermann


    Meritorious Service Award

  • Frank DiGiacomo, SCHOOL BUS FLEET


    Thomas Built Buses Continuing Education Award

  • Stephanie Paquette, Durham School Services


As previously announced, Tim Flood was named SCHOOL BUS FLEET’s Contractor of the Year. The 2010 NSTA Midwinter Meeting will be held Jan. 16-20 in La Jolla, Calif., and the 2010 Annual Meeting & Convention will be held July 24-28 in St. Louis.


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