This 50th anniversary issue of SCHOOL BUS FLEET sparks fond memories. It resurrects familiar names and events in an industry that I have been involved with for more than two decades. It makes me proud to have played a role in the industry’s growth and development. We’ve come a long way in 50 years.
For old-timers like me, it’s great to be reminded of the accomplishments of SBF’s award-winning administrators and contractors (see “A Look Back at SBF Award Winners”). It’s inspiring to read about guys like Dr. Ernest Farmer, the retired state pupil transportation director in Tennessee who did so much to promote school bus safety, and Lyle Stephens, the contractor who took up the cause for safer transport of wheelchairs on school buses. Nearly 70 other industry stalwarts are mentioned in this article, which I’m sure will bring back fond memories for you too.
But this issue is filled with more than just nostalgia. The articles contained in these pages create context for what we’re doing today by marking the evolution of the industry. The past 50 years have generated many historical highlights (see “Decade by Decade”), as well as innovations (See “50 Years of Change”). And, with an eye toward the future, our readers speculate in the article “Will School Buses Still Be Around in 2056?”.
Many challenges remain
As I mentioned earlier, we’ve come a long way in five decades, but we’ve got plenty of challenges ahead. Funding, or rather the lack of it, will continue to plague us. Local and state governments are becoming more and more reluctant to open their wallets wide enough for us to grab enough cash to meet our needs.
It’s becoming imperative that we redouble our efforts to obtain adequate funding. We’ve talked for years, decades actually, about gaining access to federal funds. We watch with envy as our counterparts at transit systems enjoy the bounty of billions of dollars each year through the Federal Transit Administration.
Certainly, we need to be more aggressive in our pursuit of funding, starting with local, regional and state sources. We need to educate parents, teachers, administrators and school boards of the value of every dollar spent on school transportation. And we need to be good stewards of the money that we’re allotted.
In addition, we need to continue to pound on the doors of our representatives in Washington, D.C., to make our case for federal funding, especially as our costs rise due to government mandates such as tightened emissions standards. A coordinated lobbying effort is our best hope. We need to support the national pupil transportation associations as they plead our case on Capitol Hill.
Tell the story, again and again
If we continue to tell the story of our success in safely and efficiently transporting 25 million American schoolchildren each school day, people will listen. But they not only need to listen, but also to understand that what we do so well costs money. It’s true that many of the best things in life are free, but school bus transportation isn’t one of them. It’s not free, but it’s worth the price.
Keep up the good work. We look forward to being around for another 50 years.