In this new series, we pose five pertinent questions to a notable person in pupil transportation. Our second discussion is with Diana Hollander, Nevada’s state director of pupil transportation and president of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS).
1. NASDPTS has been spearheading a national stop-arm violation count for six years now. What have been some of the results of those efforts?
The illegal passing survey and the six years of data clearly illustrate a big problem with vehicles passing stopped school buses. With an average of only 20% of school bus drivers reporting on a single day, an average of 80,895 vehicles passed stopped school buses with their flashing reds and stop arms activated. This number has been consistent over the years. Based on this information, it is estimated that there are over 13 million violations per year. Because of this data, NASDPTS, NSTA [National School Transportation Association], and NAPT [National Association for Pupil Transportation] attended the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Thinking Outside the Bus” meeting on Dec. 1, and all three associations were united in their call for a national stop-arm campaign. Without data, the serious issue of stop-arm violators would not have gotten the national attention needed to bring a national campaign to increase awareness about the dangers of passing school buses that have stopped to load and unload students. I hope that more states and bus drivers will participate in the 2017 illegal passing survey.
2. What do you see as some of the top issues for school transportation in 2017?
It will be an interesting couple of years with the shift in Washington, D.C., and I expect to see delays in the implementation of recent Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration final rules, which was recently done with entry-level driver training. There has also been a significant jump in states considering school bus seat belt legislation this year. With the recent tragedy in Chattanooga [Tennessee], expect recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board regarding cameras, seat belts on school buses, electronic stability control, student detection systems, and driver recruitment and training. But the top issues in my state are driver shortages and the continual cutting of school districts’ budgets.
“An average of 80,895 vehicles passed stopped school buses with their flashing reds and stop arms activated.”
3. The school bus seat belt issue has drawn much attention recently. What are your thoughts on where this is headed?
There sure has been a national shift on restraint systems in school buses. It was strongly opposed for many years, but I think that three-point restraint systems will become standard equipment on school buses in the future. I don’t expect a federal mandate on installing three-point restraint systems on new school buses any time soon. The national shift has led to several states introducing seat belt legislation, but with state and district budgets taking cuts still, I don’t expect to see many states mandate three-point restraint systems in school buses anytime soon.
4. Quite a few longtime state directors have retired recently. How is that impacting NASDPTS?
Over the past several years, NASDPTS has seen the departure of several long-standing state directors, many who have served in leadership positions within NASDPTS. They take with them many years of knowledge and experience. Each one of them taught me something, and [the loss of] their leadership, dedication, and enthusiasm will leave a big void in the industry. Over the next three to five years, NASDPTS will see the next wave of long-standing state directors retiring. The job of the NASDPTS board is to guide our newest members to become our next leaders.
5. What do you like most about working in pupil transportation?
What I like most about working in pupil transportation are the people. [They] are some of the most dedicated people I’ve ever worked with. A job in school transportation was not what I had in mind after spending 10 years in college, but I am so thankful that my path at the Nevada Department of Education led me to school transportation. It is truly a great job where I feel I make a difference in the lives of children every day when I come to work.
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