Some might say the business of yellow transportation is very predictable year to year and just marches on, striving to provide good, reliable and safe service as it has for generations.
The reality is things change constantly, and complacency is never the right default. As transportation/education professionals, we must constantly learn from the past and engage enthusiastically in new thinking to position ourselves and our profession to best advantage.
Indeed, this is one of the primary reasons for NAPT: to anticipate problems and opportunities; provide you with factual information to help you in your job; advocate for you nationally on the political and regulatory scene; and create training opportunities.
Critical to accomplishing this is developing a public policy agenda that takes measure of the realities we face and encourages your thoughtful engagement locally.
So, as we begin a new year, we want you to have a snapshot of the issues we consider front and center for our industry. Some are “evergreens” you know well already; others are new. Some need more attention than others.
Here is the NAPT public policy radar screen:
1. The yellow school bus is the safest, most economical, most energy-responsive and most environmentally friendly way to transport our children to and from school each day.
2. There is an important link between the yellow school bus and the performance of our children in the classroom; ensuring access to the school bus helps to ensure access to educational services and ultimately educational attainment.
3. The color of a school bus is an integral attribute of its unique design, and the industry must ensure that the color of a school bus continues to meet its objective as a safety factor.
4. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has stated that its best advice on the matter of seat belts in large school buses — superseding all other guidance — is contained in a single document: the Aug. 25, 2011, denial of a petition requesting that NHTSA mandate seat belts in large school buses. We encourage everyone to read the entire petition denial notice carefully.
5. School transportation administrators should engage in continuous professional education and should be certified in industry practices and knowledge.
6. Illegal passing of stopped school buses exposes our children to the risk of injury and death. It must be eliminated through standardized penalties, simpler enforcement and greater public education efforts.
7. Bullying has no place on the school bus, and school districts should have clear and well-considered policies for handling such events and behaviors.
8. All school bus drivers and attendants should receive relevant and appropriate training in transporting all students, but particularly in the transportation of students with disabilities and special needs.
9. It is preferable that all children ride on yellow school buses, but in those areas where this is not possible, children should be provided with the safest possible transit systems or safely constructed and well-equipped infrastructure to get them to school.
10. Leaving children unattended on school buses must not be condoned in any way because it exposes our children to risk, is a frightening experience for the children, and erodes public confidence in the safety and security of the yellow school bus.
11. School transportation operators should utilize computer-based routing and scheduling systems to attain maximum efficiency in their operations and safety for students.
12. Taxpayers are entitled to know that school bus operations are conducted according to benchmarked standards and quality measures.
13. School bus drivers should not engage in text messaging or similar activities while operating a school bus.
14. School bus drivers should always utilize their lap-shoulder seat restraints on the school bus.
15. The federal government should appropriate full funding of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and special-education services, including costs related to transportation.
16. The federal and state governments should invest appropriately in improving our highways and bridges to help ensure safer passage of the nation’s school buses and the children we carry on them.
Please keep these messages in mind as you engage professionally in your communities. When a reporter comes to you with questions, or when there are budget or other school bus-related discussions, these straightforward statements should help you communicate.