Karam, the director of transportation at Bethlehem Central School District in Delmar, N.Y., has long utilized key performance indicators at his operation, which have led to increased efficiency and a reduction in costs. The department saved about $900,000 for the 2012-13 school year.
At Bethlehem Central School District (BCSD) in Delmar, N.Y., Director of Transportation Alfred Karam is known as the “Numbers Man,” according to Cindy Jurewicz, who is assistant director of transportation.
“We call Al the ‘Numbers Man’ because of his penchant for wanting to learn and to improve every aspect of our department … by embracing and utilizing KPIs [key performance indicators],” she explains.
This businesslike approach to pupil transportation, while also focusing on safe student transportation, has paid off: The transportation department has reportedly come in under budget for the past five years, and the team was able to reduce its overall transportation budget by about $900,000 for the 2012-13 school year.
Karam says he has tracked close to 20 KPIs since he became director of transportation in 2002 (he was previously the assistant director of transportation). The KPIs cover everything from out-of-service rates to the cost per bus, per student and per mile, to labor hours from year to year.
This internal benchmarking enables the team to see how the department is doing, and they can then take steps for any necessary improvements.
Jurewicz and Karam say that in terms of routing, they keep daily data on planned versus actual ridership, and in analyzing the data annually, they can determine if they can put more students on buses. They have been able to consolidate their routes from 111 to 86. This also led to a reduction in labor by about 137 hours.
Karam and Assistant Director of Transportation Cindy Jurewicz say they keep daily data on planned versus actual ridership, and in analyzing the data annually, they can determine if they can put more students on buses.
In addition, the department has gone from having more than 19% of its buses out of service in 2000 to just 1% for the 2012-13 school year.
Karam has brought his knowledge on KPIs and other topics to his colleagues within New York as well as nationally as a member of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) and the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT). He has served on NAPT’s subcommittee on KPIs.
Peter Mannella, executive director of NYAPT, says that Karam has led the charge on KPIs since he started in the industry, and that Karam was working on collecting data associated with KPIs before many other pupil transportation officials in the state.
“He’s been an advocate for creating efficiencies without compromising safety, and I think that’s a balance he’s struck,” Mannella says. “He’s very detail oriented and disciplined about it.”
In teaching classes on KPIs for NYAPT, Karam says he tries to make the information easy for attendees to understand.
“Most of our colleagues may be afraid to delve into that game [utilizing KPIs] because they think it’s too complicated, so I try to make a connection between KPIs and what they do on a daily basis,” he says.
For his contributions at the local, state and national levels, SCHOOL BUS FLEET named Karam its 2013 Administrator of the Year. He became the 40th pupil transportation leader to receive the award, which was presented to him at the NAPT awards banquet in Grand Rapids, Mich., in October.