NAPT speakers discuss vehicle developments, managing challenges

Posted on November 1, 2010


PORTLAND, Ore. Monday's presentations and sessions during the National Association for Pupil Transportation's (NAPT) Summit here were engaging and they touched on a variety of topics.

The day began with a general session and keynote presentation featuring Martin Daum, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA); he provided an outlook on the future of commercial vehicles.

DTNA focuses on safety technology and "green" technology when it comes to the products that its subsidiaries including Thomas Built Buses manufacture. More specifically, Daum said that the company has been working on investing in automatic emergency braking, attention assist technology (to notify drivers if they are drifting from their lane) and adaptive headlights, and he believes that some, if not all, of this technology will be integrated into trucks and buses in the future.

In regard to green technology and green efforts, DTNA has been successful in integrating it into Thomas Built school buses. Daum reported that more than 300 Saf-T-Liner HDX units powered by compressed natural gas have been sold in 2010 thus far and more than 65 Saf-T-Liner C2e hybrid school buses have been sold this year. The company is working on a propane solution for 2012, and DTNA has also worked with officials in Washington, D.C., on standards for reducing fuel consumption and carbon dioxide output by school buses and vocational vehicles by 10 percent.

Finally, Daum discussed school buses of the future saying, among other things, that he believes seat belts will be standard, airbags for bus drivers will be standard and that use of GPS will be standard. 

In an inspiring presentation during the second half of the general session, Matt Roloff of the television series Little People, Big World shared how he overcame the challenges imposed on him by diastrophic dysplasia, a rare form of dwarfism, to become a successful entrepreneur.

Roloff said that the ability to be resilient in the face of tragic or challenging situations is built into many opportunities in life and it was his ability to be resilient in the face of the obstacles he faced that enabled him to become the person he is today. As an example, he revealed that when he was a boy, he wanted a paper route, so he built a small motorized vehicle with a wagon attached to the back to help him transport the papers, as well as an automatic paper-folding machine out of his mother's old sewing machine. When he got in trouble for riding his "motorized wagon" on the sidewalk, he met with his town's chief of police and convinced him to let him continue with his route.   

Roloff noted that his school bus driver and riding the school bus were also instrumental in his growth as an individual. Roloff spent much of his childhood in and out of hospitals and, therefore, missed a lot of school. He said that encouragement from his bus driver (and his parents), as well as riding the bus helped him keep up with his friends socially and it helped him academically because he had a guaranteed mode of transportation to and from school.

Roloff left attendees with the following advice: Craft your thoughts to become your words. Craft your words to become your actions. And craft your actions to become your habits because your habits become your character and your character becomes your destiny.


Later on Monday, Kathy Furneaux, executive director of the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute in Syracuse, N.Y., discussed behavioral disorders and how pupil transporters can effectively diffuse problematic situations that stem from these behavioral disorders in "Exploring the Peaks and Valleys of Emotional Disturbance."

Behavioral disorders include hyperactivity, aggression, immaturity and learning difficulties. Furneaux said that students' emotional problems can create emotional pressure that, in turn, forms tension. Students can release that tension either verbally or behaviorally (e.g., shouting at someone or hitting someone). She emphasized that when pupil transporters see students acting out, it is a symptom of their emotional problems or pressure it is not the cause of their emotional problems. In acting out, they are attempting to stop whatever is upsetting them emotionally.   

To handle students' emotional disorders, Furneaux recommended that transportation professionals turn to parents to find out the root/cause of their children's behavior problems. She also said that it's important for managers to trust their drivers' instincts and observations about students and their actions.

"Students with behavior problems will look to someone they can trust, like a bus driver, to intervene and help them acting out is a cry for help," Furneaux explained. 

To this end, she also said that establishing a behavioral intervention plan (i.e., ways to manage/control unsafe behaviors that stem from emotional disorders) is important, and she provided several intervention strategies for drivers. They include keeping students' interest, use planned ignoring when students exhibit undesirable behavior as well as positive reinforcement for desired behaviors, and use humor to reduce tension.  

Managers also have a responsibility in helping to address students' behavioral disorders, Furneaux said. She recommended that managers know which students have behavioral disorders, that they regularly monitor students' behavior through video surveillance cameras on board their operation's buses and that they work to get as much information on the topic (through training, attending IEP meetings, etc.) for their drivers and share that information with them.               


Related Topics: behavior management, conferences, GPS, IEP, NAPT, Thomas Built Buses

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