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December 01, 1998  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Dramatic Moments Highlight 1998 NAPT Show

NTSB Chairman Jim Hall challenges the industry to 'commit' to lap-shoulder belts, while CNN's Jim Polk challenges the NAPT.

by Steve Hirano, Executive Editor, and Gary Luster, Senior Editor

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Keys to driver happiness
Student misbehavior, lack of administration support and low wages are the three main reasons why drivers quit, according to Bobby Sheroan, director of transportation for Hardin County Schools in Kentucky. Sheroan and Bobby Gaffney, transportation director at Woodford County (Ky.) Schools, told an audience at the NAPT conference about their techniques in recruiting and retaining drivers. Sheroan said a district's benefit package can be helpful in recruitment and retention, especially if it features attractive medical and dental insurance, flexible work schedules, paid sick days and vacation. In addition, certificates of merit and appreciation were also mentioned as a way to retain drivers. Sheroan cautioned, however, that for the certificate to work, it has to mean something to the driver. "A certificate of evaluation is no good if you don't put any validity into them by reviewing routes and inspecting buses," Sheroan said. Gaffney said it's important to never forget that drivers are the most important people in a school transportation operation. "We give appreciation meals; we make the drivers feel good about themselves; we provide clean, safe buses and make the drivers into a family," Gaffney said. One of the activities that Gaffney said helps his drivers feel more like a family is a poster design contest. Here, drivers are encouraged to express their creative side for judgment later by the other drivers and administrators.

Making highways smarter
Establishing and maintaining an integration of systems and coordination among agencies was the focus of the intelligent transportation systems (ITS) seminar led by Jeff Tsai, program director at the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at North Carolina State University. Because of increasing traffic congestion and worsening air, Tsai said that he would like to encourage transportation engineers to rethink their approaches to these problems. Using ITS, Tsai said engineers can cut the costs of meeting increased demand. By installing crash-avoidance countermeasures in vehicles, they can also field a 17 percent reduction in all accidents, Tsai asserted. But engineers are not the only ones who will be actively involved in ITS. Tsai said drivers can get involved by recording the rate of acceleration, deceleration and braking. Tsai said this leads to a better driver performance evaluation, more successful accident prevention and investigation in the event of a crash. It can also serve to identify the driver's skill level and areas of improvement.

Mile High City in 1999
Next year, the NAPT will hold the conference in Denver, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4. By that time, the NTSB's report on the crashworthiness of buses will have been released, and delegates can expect further discourse on the subject from advocates on all sides of the issue.

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