A key development in the school bus world last year was the heightened level of contact between the U.S. industry and those involved in pupil transportation in foreign nations.
Perhaps most notable among those connections was in Dubai, whose Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) tapped the expertise of our National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) to promote school bus safety in the Emirate and beyond.
One of the fruits of that partnership will be a school transportation conference in Dubai this spring. The event, which will be held April 21 to 23, will consist of seven workshops, each of which will cover a pertinent pupil transportation topic and will aim to foster in-depth dialogue among attendees.
There will also be an intentionally small and focused trade show, with about two-dozen vendors. And it will all take place in what’s said to be a premier convention venue, the Dubai World Trade Centre.
It seems clear why the RTA would connect with NAPT for assistance. NAPT has several decades of experience supporting the U.S. pupil transportation industry, and its own annual conference and trade show will be in its 39th edition this year.
NAPT Executive Director Mike Martin traveled to Dubai in December to work on conference plans, and he said that it was the cleanest, most modern city he’s ever been to and that the people there dedicate considerable effort to being top-notch in all that they do.
Hearing that, it’s no surprise that Dubai would want to make sure that the transportation of its students is on par with the best practices of successful school bus systems like those in North America.
“They absolutely want to improve their school transportation across the board,” Martin said. “They’re definitely looking to us for support and some guidance. But they also have ideas of their own. They don’t need our help — they want our help.”
By the same token, there’s an opportunity here for U.S. pupil transportation officials to learn from their counterparts in Dubai.
“It would be naïve for anyone to think we can’t learn as much from them as they can learn from us,” Martin said. “They strive to be world-class in everything they do.”
In particular, he noted that the level of customer service on display in Dubai is a sight to behold. In contrast to how, in the U.S., we tend to automate whatever we can, it’s almost the opposite in Dubai.
“They focus on customer service as much as anything there,” Martin said. “It will be an interesting opportunity for people in our industry to see that.”
The Dubai culture in general will be another educational aspect for anyone here who ventures overseas for the school transportation conference.
“The culture is so different,” Martin said. “It’s an educational experience just going there.”