As luck would have it, the National Conference on School Transportation (NCST) celebrates its 65th anniversary this year, a milestone for many Americans, especially those on the verge of retirement.
Unlike many Americans, however, the NCST is no closer to retirement than it was back in 1939, when it first convened for the purpose of producing safety standards for school transportation.
Which is a good thing. The document created in the intensive meetings at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Mo., is an invaluable guide for school transportation managers, contractors, state education administrators, law enforcement officials and anyone else interested in safe and efficient pupil transportation. A few states even adopt the specifications wholesale into their regulatory code.
A wealth of information
The document focuses on school bus body and chassis specifications as well as operations and includes several interesting appendices and resolutions. The major categories are broken into short, digestible sections that provide intricate yet not frivolous detail.
For example, did you know that exterior door hinges that do not have stainless steel, brass or non-metallic hinge pins or other designs that prevent corrosion “shall be designed to allow lubrication to be channeled to the center 75 percent of each hinge loop without disassembly”? That’s from pg. 31 of the 2000 National School Transportation Specifications and Procedures in the bus body specifications section.
It’s amazing how much you can learn about buses and operations by reading the book produced in Warrensburg. (For information on ordering a copy of the 2000 publication, visit www.14thncst.org .)
Cobbling together the different elements of the book is an arduous process. Writing committees do the preliminary work, taking the previous document and updating it accordingly. In some cases, there’s not much that needs to be changed. In others, the sections are radically revised to better represent innovations in technology or regulatory changes.
That’s when the democratic process takes over. All states are invited, and this year 49 states and a representative from the U.S. territory of Guam have committed to attend. Since 1980, when the NCST began consistently meeting every five years, more than 300 school transportation professionals have been traveling to the Missouri university. They have voting power and take their charge seriously. At the end of the conference, every word that appears in the final document has been scrutinized, deliberated and approved.
Years of hard work involved
Charlie Hood, Florida’s state pupil transportation director, has chaired the steering committee of this 14th conference. Preparing for a five-year meeting on school transportation is akin to preparing for the Olympics, which takes place every four years. OK, it’s not quite that big an undertaking. But I’m sure Charlie will tell you that it’s an extraordinary challenge of organization, logistics and communication.
This year’s meeting is May 15 to 19. When the curtain drops on the last day, the majority of the work is done. But there’s still a lot of enterprise that goes into preparing the final document, which won’t be available for several months after the meeting.
Then there’s the task of preparing for the 2010 meeting. Like I said, this conference will not soon be retiring. The industry can be thankful for that and for the people, like Charlie, who spend so much time and energy on this incredible undertaking.