LEXINGTON, Ky. — Though delegates at the 53rd Annual Southeastern States Pupil Transportation Conference (SESPTC) came from all over the South, the focus of many of the sessions was on issues concerning school bus operators across the country.
Mike Martin, executive director of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), and Robin Leeds, regulatory liaison for the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), brought up several of these pressing topics in their tag-team "State of the (Transportation) Union" address.
"There are more things going on at the federal level now than at any other time in my memory," said Martin. First on the agenda of discussion was the Energy Policy Act of 2003, also known as "The Energy Bill," which Martin and Leeds explained in its relation to pupil transportation.
A coalition including school bus advocates, environmentalists and the Union of Concerned Scientists lobbied to add the Clean School Bus Pilot Program to the Energy Bill. The coalition agreed on a $450 million grant program for replacement and retrofitting of old school buses, but Leeds said that a few stumbling blocks have surfaced in the Senate. Opposition to the high funding level as well as the proposed contractor access for the funds has slowed the bill’s progress. "Congress hates to give money to the private sector," said Leeds.
Martin and Leeds' session also included a heated discussion of the Carpenter school bus defects that have come to light in the past few months. The magnitude of the problem was brought into perspective when Martin asked who owned Carpenter buses and hands shot up all throughout the audience. Martin advocated a comprehensive inspection of all Carpenter buses — even those not built at the company's Mitchell, Ind., plant. He said that some operators have gone as far as to hire structural engineers to inspect welds on the buses.
Other noteworthy events included a panel of representatives from Blue Bird Corp., IC Corp. and Thomas Built Buses discussing how their new technology will deal with state and national specifications, such as upcoming Environmental Protection Agency requirements.
Another session, led by Jeff Langloss of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), explained FMCSA's "Keeping Kids Safe" program, which seeks to help schools hire safe charter companies.
Langloss suggested several questions to ask vendors regarding topics such as driver hour limits. "Some of these drivers work 95 to 100 hours a week," he said. "That's way too much."
Langloss also recommended visiting www.safersys.org, a Website run by FMCSA, to review a motor carrier's U.S. Department of Transportation record.
The Southeastern States conference drew 225 delegates and approximately 50 exhibitors. Next year’s event is scheduled for July 18-21 in Hot Springs, Ark.
Blue Bird, Caterpillar showcase Vision school bus with C7 engine
FORT VALLEY, Ga. — Blue Bird Corp. and Caterpillar Inc. recently showcased Blue Bird’s Vision™ conventional school bus powered by Cat’s C7 engine with ACERT technology. The July 28 event was co-hosted by Blue Bird President/CEO Jeff Bust and Caterpillar Chairman Glen Barton.
Caterpillar signed a long-term engine supply agreement with Blue Bird late last year to provide the majority of engines used in Blue Bird’s school bus products.
"We examined several options and determined that Caterpillar’s ACERT technology will offer Blue Bird customers reliable engines that meet long-term emissions standards," said Richard Maddox, vice president and general manager of Blue Bird’s school bus division. "We were also impressed with Caterpillar’s financial strength and extensive dealer organization."
"The [ACERT] technology meets stringent EPA emissions standards while delivering the fuel economy, reliability and durability that our customers demand," said Caterpillar’s Barton. "We are proud to be Blue Bird’s primary engine supplier."
The first Vision school bus rolled off the assembly line at Blue Bird’s Brantford, Ontario, facility in June. The bus is the industry’s first purpose-built conventional school bus. The chassis is engineered with a Hendrickson Softek front suspension and features a front axle design that allows for a 50-degree wheel cut.
The Vision also offers advanced features for drivers. The sharply angled hood gives them significantly improved sight lines in front of the bus. And to help the driver see more of the loading area, the Vision has a laminated glass panel with a wide-angle Fresnel lens positioned at the lower right front loading and unloading zone.
The tilting fiberglass hood is easy to open, making life easier for the maintenance staff. In addition, service doors and panels are conveniently located, and the color-coded chassis multiplex wiring system extends the length of the bus for trouble-free inspection.
The Vision has a 100-gallon fuel tank that is positioned at the rear between the frame rails. Multiple floor plans are offered with passenger seating up to 78. Wheelbase options include 189, 217, 238, 252 and 273 inches. The service entrance is 27 inches wide and 78 inches high with double full-view outward-opening doors.
NSTA elects new officers, presents annual awards
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Dale Krapf, president of Krapf Bus Companies in Exton, Pa., was elected president of the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) at the group’s annual convention in New York City. Krapf succeeds Bill Beck, president of Beck Bus Transportation in Mt. Vernon, Ill.
Two other key officers were also elected — John Corr, president of the Trans Group in Spring Valley, N.Y. (president-elect) and Barry Stock, senior vice president of business development, Durham School Services, Newmarket, Ontario (secretary/treasurer).
In other business, the NSTA amended its bylaws to increase the size of its board of directors from 15 to 19 members.
At the New York meeting — the association’s 39th annual convention — several members were honored for their roles as industry leaders.
Nine people received the Golden Merit Award, recognizing excellence in service, safety and outstanding demonstration of community responsibility:
Judy Carroll, George M. Carroll Inc., Newburgh, N.Y.
John Corrado, Suffolk Transportation Service, Bayshore, N.Y.
Brian Higginbotham, Durham School Services, Everett, Wash.
Joanne Ivory, Alltown Bus Service, Skokie, Ill.
Joseph Marshall, J.J. Marshall Bus Co., Port Deposit, Md.
Donna Nelson, Dousman Transport Co., Hartland, Wis.
Donald Pedersen, Laidlaw Education Services, West Allis, Wis.
David Schultz, Durham School Services, Wichita, Kan.
Susan Allen-Tapp, Beck Bus Transportation, Taylorville, Ill.
The 2003 Hall of Fame Award was presented to Dallas Krapf of George Krapf & Sons in Exton, Pa. The award recognizes excellence in long-term efforts on behalf of pupil transportation.
The 2003 Distinguished Service Award, recognizing recent special contributions to school bus contracting, was presented to Corr of The Trans Group.
A new award was presented this year, the Outstanding Driver Service Award. It was given to Stan Werling of Petermann LLC in Cincinnati.
Keeping it light in the bus yard
CAVE CREEK, Ariz. — Every workplace has one (and if it doesn’t, it should), and so does every transportation department; I’m talking about a jokester. You know, the one person who makes work a fun place to come to five days a week. At Cave Creek Unified School District’s transportation department, the jokester is Tom Bledsoe.
Tom generates laughter wherever he goes, in whatever he’s doing and with whomever he’s around. His pranks and craziness keep everyone on their toes. Tom has been known to call the dispatcher from his cell phone to say that he’s in the men’s bathroom and is out of toilet paper or to open the emergency windows on a bus that has just been pre-tripped and watch the driver go crazy trying to figure out where the buzzing is coming from.
Once, when a driver was having trouble finding her bus-parking stall, she spray-painted a smiley face on one end of it so she could find it more easily. Just to confuse her, Tom painted smiley faces on the ends of two stalls on both sides of the one she painted.
Tom’s always up to something, but he is never malicious or destructive nor does he ever do anything to jeopardize anyone’s safety.
Of course, what goes around comes around. Tom has got staff members trying to out-do his silliness. On April Fool’s Day last year, half-a-dozen staff members came to the bus yard on a Sunday to fill the interior of his bus with popcorn and then shrink-wrapped his whole bus.
This year I got in on the action by suggesting that we fill his bus with balloons on the last day of school. During lunch breaks and after work for four days before the last day of school, we blew up balloons. Since Tom only works mornings, he was unaware of our activity. More than 650 balloons were inflated and hidden in the women’s bathroom until it was time to load the bus. While 650-plus balloons fell short of filling the vehicle, it was quite an impressive sight. Tom was truly tickled to have generated so much activity and fun. He even called his parents to bring his 5-year-old son to the transportation yard to show him and to share in the fun of popping all those balloons.
Cave Creek is a fun place to work. As long as we have staff members who love what they do, they’ll never work another day in their lives.
— CATHY ERWIN, transportation director
2003 NAPT show takes on the Great Salt Lake
SALT LAKE CITY — The National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) will assemble its nationwide body of constituents Nov. 9-13 in Salt Lake City for its 29th Annual Conference and Trade Show. There will be no shortage of things to talk about at the five-day meeting, which has 54 workshops on the agenda and countless activities planned in the picturesque mountain city.
To be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center, the events will kick off with the National School Bus Safety Speech Contest, the NAPT Awards Banquet and presentations from several well-known speakers. The lineup of professional speakers includes renowned performing artist Eric Wahl and singer/songwriter and former NBA basketball player Thurl Bailey. With more than 150 companies at last year’s event, the trade show is the school transportation industry’s largest.
The conference has tentatively scheduled workshops and discussions on the following subjects:
Forecasting and operating under state budgets
Inspecting Carpenter school buses
Working with the Homeland Security Administration
Ways to improve employee morale
No Child Left Behind
The Clean School Bus USA program
Student behavior management
The NAPT is also providing exciting opportunities to visit a number of the area’s unique attractions. These include a tour of Salt Lake City and its many monuments and a scenic visit to the surrounding Rocky Mountains and select 2002 Winter Olympics venues. A two-hour tour of the Great Salt Lake is another option on the schedule of activities.
"Combine all of these unique and important educational opportunities with the industry’s premier trade show and mix in the fun of our signature theme nights and it’s easy to see that we’re going all out to bring you the best the industry has to offer," said Donald Paull, president of the NAPT, in a letter to members.
For more information about the conference, call (800) 989-NAPT or visit www.napt.org.
Top drivers honored at international roadeo
NEW YORK CITY — Nearly 100 school bus drivers from the United States and Canada competed for top honors at the 33rd International School Bus Drivers Safety Competition, held July 19-20 in conjunction with the National School Transportation Association’s annual convention.
In all, 99 bus drivers from 34 states and two provinces competed. Each driver must have been a winner in a state or provincial competition. Champions in three classes were crowned (see below).
The competition includes a written exam, a vehicle inspection test and a driving competition involving a 10-station course. The written exam tests the competitors' familiarity with school bus laws, rules and regulations.
Conventional bus category
1. Mark Coker, USD 450 in Tecumseh, Kan.
2. Ed Lipsey, Orange County Public Schools, Orlando, Fla.
3. Sandra Rowe, Goffstown Truck Center, Goffstown, N.H.
Transit-style bus category
1. Brent Carman, Morgan Hill (Calif.) Unified School District
2. Dana Opp, Carman-Ainsworth, Flint, Mich.
3. Jack Bleyl, Orange City Schools, Pepper Pike, Ohio
Small bus category
1. Bob Hutson, Durham School Services, Wichita, Kan.
2. Mary Marchese, Laidlaw Transit Ltd., Mississauga, Ontario
3. Joseph Jackson, Hays (Kan.) Public Schools, USD 489