Keith Henry is president of NAPT and director of transportation at Lee's Summit (Mo.) R-7 School District.

Keith Henry is president of NAPT and director of transportation at Lee's Summit (Mo.) R-7 School District.

Love the Bus is a month-long public education and awareness project sponsored by the American School Bus Council (ASBC) every February to underscore the importance of yellow school buses to our education system and community life.

It’s also a way to recognize the work of the thousands of men and women coast-to-coast who make the yellow bus system extremely safe, efficient and an asset that fosters learning.

There are many similar awareness months, weeks and days on the public calendar calling attention to other industries and causes. We strive not to merely join that conga line, but reinforce our stake as a core community asset that may sometimes suffer from meeting expectations routinely.

Dr. Joyce Brothers once remarked, “Being taken for granted can be a compliment. It means that you’ve become a comfortable, trusted element in another person’s life.”

That’s certainly our goal! And we understand that complacency is the enemy of trust and comfort. So, Love the Bus is about continuously re-forging the important relationships between our industry and the students, families and schools — the customers — we serve.

It’s what authors and business relationship experts Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske refer to in their insightful book, The Human Brand, as two critical and primitive perceptions by which individually we judge all things: warmth and competence.

They point out that customers “handsomely reward companies and brands that exercise [the] simple but powerful application of warmth and competence insights, through something called the principle of worthy intentions. When a company goes above and beyond normal expectations to express worthy intentions, it turns loyal customers into passionate advocates.”

Simply stated, Love the Bus is about earning respect, trust and passion the old fashioned way: maintaining our strong safety and performance record (competence), but also demonstrating a passion for putting our customers first (warmth).

We appreciate U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx helping us tell our story. He dedicated a day out of his very busy schedule last year to participate in a Love the Bus event at Oak Hill Elementary School in High Point, N.C., where he rode a school bus and spent the day “talking yellow” with students, teachers, federal and local political leaders, and others.

“As both a parent and secretary of transportation, I know the importance of providing safe transportation to our nation’s children as they go to school each day,” Foxx said. “For millions of America’s children and teens, that means the familiar yellow school bus. …

“The data on school transportation are clear — the safest way to get our most precious cargo to school and home each day is on a large school bus with a well-trained driver.

“According to data from our National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, students are about 50 times more likely to arrive at school alive if they ride the bus than if they drive themselves or ride with friends. Students are also about 20 times more likely to arrive to school alive if they ride the bus than if driven by a parent. Of the school-aged children killed in crashes during school hours, just 1% are in school buses.”

Secretary Foxx also highlighted the importance of the school bus to the learning day and saluted school bus industry employees.

“Those workers are doing more than just carting passengers; they are connecting America’s children with all of the great opportunities that come from the chance to learn, grow and succeed at school. That’s right, succeed. Because research indicates that a good day at school begins with a positive experience getting to school. And for many families, the school bus is the only reliable way their children can get to and from the schoolhouse door.”

Thank you, Secretary Foxx, for taking the time to Love the Bus in a way that signals to every American parent that the safety of their children and connecting them to their education is job one with our industry.