In the end, it was about breaking down barriers and building connections.

The debut School Bus eXchange (SBX) last week brought together pupil transportation professionals from all corners of the industry. School bus operators and suppliers representing about 20 states took part in the event.

There were transportation officials who run a few dozen school buses, and others who oversee fleets that number in the thousands.

There were transportation directors, assistant superintendents, school bus contractors, and representatives of school bus manufacturers and equipment suppliers.

With attendees hailing from all over the nation, we heard that many of them are facing the same types of challenges in pupil transportation: replacing aging school buses, dealing with driver shortage, keeping up with technology, etc. And that’s why an event like this is so valuable — it enabled a diverse group of attendees to network and share solutions.

Mike Martin, executive director of the National Association for Pupil Transportation and the emcee for SBX, used a term that I thought was quite fitting. He described the group of attendees as a “cohort,” which points to the educational focus of the event and suggests that they will continue to maintain their relationships and share information long afterward.

Supplier input was a recurring theme at SBX. School bus operators were given scheduled times to meet with the school bus manufacturers and equipment suppliers, and those company representatives were encouraged to participate in all of the roundtable discussions — again, helping to break down barriers and share ideas.

With a relatively small group of attendees, scheduled one-on-one consultations and increased supplier participation, SBX was different from other industry conferences. Attendees seemed to appreciate the innovative format.

“One of the things that stood out the most for me was including the vendors in the roundtable discussions,” said Veronica Schmidt, transportation supervisor at Snohomish (Wash.) School District. “It was nice that they were able to give us input, perspective and feedback on some of the topics we were discussing.”

David Koskelowski, program manager for traffic safety and pupil transportation at the Wyoming Department of Education, described SBX as “fast-paced, focused and very well organized. Every attendee had a voice, and I learned I am not the only one having problems. It was an incredible group of professionals and a valuable event to attend.”

Thomas McMahon is executive editor of School Bus Fleet.

About the author
Thomas McMahon

Thomas McMahon

Executive Editor

Thomas had covered the pupil transportation industry with School Bus Fleet since 2002. When he's not writing articles about yellow buses, he enjoys running long distances and making a joyful noise with his guitar.

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