Adam Mayo, transportation director for Maine School Administrative District No. 75 (MSAD 75) and president of the Maine Association for Pupil Transportation (MAPT), developed a love for the yellow bus at a young age. He cut his teeth on industry knowledge from school transportation trade publications (one of which, we are proud to say, was School Bus Fleet), and began driving during the summer while working full time. Later, he jumped at the opportunity to become the transportation director at the very same school district he attended.
In addition to facing the typical industry challenges of tight budgets and driver shortage, Mayo has also started working with state lawmakers to stiffen penalties on stop-arm runners and use cameras as part of the crackdown process.
In this interview with SBF, Mayo discusses driver shortage, getting involved in the legislation process, and heading up the MAPT.
1. How did you get your start in pupil transportation?
I have always had a love for school buses and school transportation. When I was in middle school, I had my parents sign me up for subscriptions to School Bus Fleet and School Transportation News. As soon as I could, I got my school bus endorsements and started driving trips during the summer for a recreation department, while continuing to work full time in the corrections and security fields. In 2014, the director of transportation position opened in my home district, MSAD 75 (where I graduated from.) I got the position, and have been there ever since.
2. How have you dealt with ongoing obstacles, like tight budgets and driver shortage, at your school district?
We have had to take a serious look at the services we currently provide and ways to continue providing them safely and at a high level of quality, but with less funding, resources, and drivers. When those are missing, as the transportation director, you have to get creative, problem-solve, and work with all areas of the district.
We continue to face a driver shortage in my district, despite great efforts in recruitment, sign-on bonuses, paid and free training, route consolidation, and more. If there was an easy solution to this problem, I am sure transportation departments across the nation would be using it now. However, as the unemployment rate remains at an all-time low, there is an abundance of jobs out there, and school transportation is not always high on the list of careers folks are interested in due to the challenge of driving a large commercial vehicle with 50-plus students aboard.
3. You have been active at the state level recently, working on a bill that cracks down on illegal passing. How did you get involved in the legislative side of things?
As the president-elect, I had taken an active role with the MAPT Legislative Committee early in the year, when numerous bills affecting transportation were proposed. [That included] three proposed bills to crack down on the illegal passing of a stopped school bus. (One of those bills, LD 166, ended up being revised and signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills in June.) This has become a huge concern not only of mine but of transportation directors across Maine. We see almost daily an increase in stopped school buses being passed.
I took an active role in these bills, providing testimony in support of making tougher laws and proposed changes to allow for the use of cameras in catching violators.
4. Many districts are about to begin a new school year. Are there any new developments in student transportation planned this year at your district?
When we begin a new academic year in August, we will start with a two-day training session for the transportation team. That includes law and rule updates and any policy and procedure changes. We also try to bring in folks within the industry to provide another level of training. This year, we will continue to focus on workplace culture and respect, emergency planning, and student management. Another area of focus will be on stop-arm violations and ways we as a district can combat this growing problem. I will rely on our transportation safety team to look at educational methods. In addition, each year we try to build upon the routing software we currently use to better serve students.
5. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve found so far in your work with MAPT?
In addition to the amount of work it takes to fill the position [of president-elect], the pride and professionalism that I have experienced from transportation professionals statewide is overwhelming. Before being elected, my focus was on my own district. This position has allowed me to see how departments operate across Maine and work with them to better our school transportation system. With all of the hard work of the association and its members, it has been a great honor to serve as president-elect and now as president of the MAPT.