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February 11, 2014  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Rising costs, security and bus eligibility cuts are key issues

Having held a variety of leadership roles in the industry, Don Carnahan brings diverse insight to his second term as president of NAPT. Here, he shares his perspectives on changes and challenges in pupil transportation.

by Thomas McMahon - Also by this author

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The other thing that has really impacted the industry was the 9/11 experience. That kind of upset the whole apple cart in terms of what you need to be concerned about to just be safe in general, and the different things that you need to do for security and safety, and the different kinds of things that you need to be looking out for. [The Department of] Homeland Security has done a pretty good job of offering programs that try to make people more alert about things that are going on. But it doesn’t look like crazy activities are ever going to stop. Whether it’s somebody that wants to hijack a school bus and take hostages to make a point, or whether it’s coming from terrorist activity or some idiot, it has become a more prevalent problem that we as an industry need to be aware of and deal with, and we’re planning on doing that.

The safety and security committee that NAPT has fired up is alive and well, and we’re trying to figure out what kind of protocols need to be put together for best practices in dealing with [security issues]. That’s definitely different than it was back when I was president before.

You’re probably one of the few NAPT presidents who has been a state director and worked on the contracting side as well. Do you see that kind of broad experience as giving you an advantage in leading the association?
I do think it helps. One of the things that everybody’s guilty of is this “us and them” and “they do what they do and we do what we do” [mentality].  I think that from my experience, I can see all of the common elements, and when you look at all the common elements, there are more similarities than there are differences. I have an appreciation for what it’s like to be in the shoes of a state director and how state directors need to think about different things that NAPT needs to be talking about. And the same thing for the contractors.

If there is ever any kind of an attitude to form an opinion about what other people might think about an issue, I think I probably have a better perspective about what the other groups’ opinions would be on it. And that’s why I made the point that I did before about how it’s important that we get all of the players together on as many things as we can, for the survival of the industry.

You’ve expressed concerns about cuts in student eligibility for riding the school bus. Is that still a big issue?
Yes, it is. We’re going to do as much as we can to get the word out so that the eligibility to ride a school bus isn’t something that is eliminated lightly by [school] boards.

I certainly hope that we can influence our own people that are responsible for running the program to cherish that student eligibility as something that is important to their mission, rather than it be their first stroke of a brush in trying to save money.

It’s still a problem. Hopefully we can figure out a way to turn it around. I don’t know if we can do that or not, but I’m sure that some of the people that have made those decisions have made it in a crisis mode. I’m optimistic that things aren’t going to stay in a crisis all the time. It should be on everybody’s mind that they need to increase the eligibility for the school bus to provide the safest way to and from school that can be provided. And I think that should be one of our goals and our mission.

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