WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Student Transportation Association (NSTA) held its annual spring meetings and visited lawmakers on Capitol Hill in April.
Events included a Highway and Motor Carrier Risk Assessment Meeting held by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on April 29. Bill Arrington, general manager for the Highway and Motor Carrier Division, reported that TSA has hired contractors BayFirst Solutions and ABS Consulting to conduct the School Bus Security Assessment required by HR 1, the legislation brought about after Sept. 11, 2001. Along with NSTA, members of the National Association for Pupil Transportation and the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services were in attendance.
“We’re going to continue to work to make sure that the TSA produces a threat assessment that is comprehensive,” Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.) said during NSTA’s Hill visits. He has introduced legislation called the School Power to Respond Act, which would make schools eligible for Homeland Security grants for emergency response.
During an opening dinner, FTA Deputy Administrator Sherry Little spoke about the new charter regulations that went into effect April 30. Little worked closely with NSTA and government representatives to negotiate the rule changes, the first in 30 years. She also emphasized FTA’s position on transit encroachment, despite two court rulings sanctioning tripper services.
She also recommended that NSTA members check U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters’ blog (www.fastlane.dot.gov) for upcoming FTA programs.
During the Hill visits on April 30, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) discussed the Commercial Motor Vehicle Advanced Safety Technology Act, an incentive bill he introduced that would provide up to $1,500 in tax credit for private operators who install brake stroke monitoring, lane departure warning, collision warning or vehicle stability systems.
Jimmy Duncan (R-Tenn.), ranking Republican member of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, reported that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is holding hearings in a bid to quickly pass next year’s reauthorization of SAFETEA- LU. He also introduced a resolution on the floor that day calling attention to the safety risks associated with transporting students on 15-passenger vans.
With the rising cost of fuel, climate change and the energy crisis were major discussion topics. NSTA members expressed concern that private operators are not currently able to access federal funding under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) for diesel retrofits and other green technology unless they apply through a non-profit organization. Attendees proposed to lawmakers the possibility of seeking mass transit funds from Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) programs.