A tribute to the school bus builders

Thomas McMahon
Posted on September 17, 2013

Pupil transportation is a behind-the-scenes kind of industry.

It’s full of hard-working people who do their jobs not for fame and glory, but for the shared purposes of protecting our nation’s students and contributing to their education. Many in the public have no idea how many dedicated people in different roles are involved in facilitating a safe school transportation system.

We at SBF try to give recognition where it’s due. We’ve written about bus drivers’ and aides’ life-saving efforts in our Heroes in School Transportation series. We’ve shared technicians’ and fleet managers’ successes in our Top Shops profiles. And for decades, we’ve been honoring a worthy Administrator of the Year and Contractor of the Year (see story here).

There’s one segment of the pupil transportation workforce that we haven’t recognized as often as others but that is nevertheless among the most important — without them, there would be no yellow buses. That’s the folks who work in the industry’s school bus manufacturing plants.

Elaborate process
Last year, I visited two bus plants, and I was fascinated and impressed by what I saw. The size and complexity of the assembly lines is a sight to behold — so many people working on specific tasks until, a mile or so down the line, a finished school bus is ready to roll.

But it’s not just what the plant staff members do; it’s how they do it. There seems to be a great sense of pride and fulfillment in their work. Indeed, they’re building one of the safest vehicles on the road — a vehicle that millions of schoolchildren rely on to get to and from school each day.  

We’ve also seen that many school bus plant employees are willing to go beyond their duties to make a difference in the lives of others.

For example, after the devastating tornadoes that struck Oklahoma this spring, the more than 800 employees at IC Bus’ Tulsa facility rallied to collect as many school supplies and other essential care items as possible in a week.

The company donated a Tulsa-built RE Series bus to Moore Public Schools. Plant staff filled the bus with the supplies, which were donated to the Oklahoma City Salvation Army. Also, IC Bus parent Navistar contributed $10,000 to Moore Public Schools to assist in its rebuilding efforts.

Staff members at Blue Bird Corp. also pitched in to help those in need in Oklahoma. The company and its employees donated $10,000 to six Moore school bus drivers whose homes were destroyed by the tornado that struck the city.

Blue Bird had announced to its staff of 1,500 a forthcoming corporate donation, and employees requested to contribute their own money. The combined donation assisted the six drivers with temporary residences while their homes were being rebuilt.

Humbling experience
During the summer after I graduated from high school, I did some temp work at a plant that built another type of large vehicle: motorhomes. It was tough work, and I remember that after a week, I was ready to retire from the manufacturing business.

That experience makes me all the more appreciative of the folks who have made a career out of building yellow buses. Thanks for all you do to provide a safe ride for our students.

Related Topics: Blue Bird Corp., IC Bus

Thomas McMahon Executive Editor
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