A few dozen people sat around tables in a large conference room, talking and writing on paper table cloths with multicolored markers. There was spirited discourse, laughter, drinking of caffeinated beverages, and a lot of sharing of information.
It was one of the memorable scenes from the 2016 School Bus eXchange (SBX), a gathering of pupil transportation leaders that took place near Denver last week. It was also an illustration of how the event emphasizes collaboration.
The roomful of school bus folks were engaging in roundtable discussions on timely topics. Among them: stop-arm violations, school bus driver shortage, fuel choices, and budget management. These are common issues for people who work in pupil transportation, but what was clear at SBX was that hearing someone else’s perspective is often enlightening.
School transportation directors from around the country brought their own experiences to the table and shared them with colleagues. The result was large sheets of paper full of ideas and observations on some of the most prominent issues facing the school bus industry. It was a dynamic display of collaboration in a setting that was uniquely conducive to the task.
SBX also fosters collaboration between school transportation directors (or operators) and school bus industry suppliers. The operators had scheduled times to meet individually with suppliers to discuss the specific needs of the operators and the specific solutions that the suppliers offer.
As I talked with school bus operators about their experiences at the event, I consistently heard that they appreciated the one-on-one time with the suppliers. Some said it was an effective and focused way to learn about new products and technologies that they might want to make use of in their fleets.
On another level, SBX itself is a product of collaboration, between the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) and School Bus Fleet. Over many months of meetings, conference calls, and email exchanges, our teams have been working together to pull off an event that is relatively intimate in scale but requires a lot of complex logistical planning.
This having been the second edition of SBX (with a third coming next year), the partnership between NAPT and SBF has proven fruitful. On a lighter note, I also got to take part in a fun, spur-of-the-moment collaboration at SBX. In chatting with attendee Doug Becker, director of transportation for Frisco (Texas) Independent School District, he mentioned that he plays guitar and sings at the annual Texas Association for Pupil Transportation conference.
I was planning to play a few songs during a pre-dinner reception at SBX that night, so I asked Doug if he would join me for a song. He graciously accepted the offer.
So, as SBX operators and suppliers gathered in the hotel atrium to unwind after an intensive day of meetings and presentations, I called Doug up to the stage, and I accompanied him on guitar as he sang John Denver’s classic “Take Me Home, Country Roads” — to a surprised and excited crowd.
It was a lighthearted moment, but it also neatly represented the spirit of collaboration at SBX.