WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Insights on alternative fuels, practical ideas for Wi-Fi on school buses, and an inspiring Olympian were among the standouts at this year’s Canadian Pupil Transportation Conference (CPTC).
Manitoba was the host for the 2016 edition of CPTC, which is held every two years. The event took place last week at the Victoria Inn Hotel and Convention Centre in Winnipeg.
CPTC’s co-chairs for 2016 — Ken Bergen, supervisor of operations at Garden Valley School Division in Winkler, Manitoba, and Ken Krulicki, a retired transportation supervisor — spoke with SBF about the highlights of the conference.
Krulicki said that CPTC’s breakout sessions covered timely issues that “satisfied the curiosity of those who attended,” and the keynote speakers delivered uplifting and thought-provoking addresses.
The opening keynote speaker was Jon Montgomery, an Olympic gold medal-winning skeleton racer and host of “The Amazing Race Canada.”
Bergen said that Montgomery gave an inspiring presentation about his rural upbringing, his move to the city, and his quest for Olympic gold, which he achieved at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“It was very motivating and a great kickoff to our conference,” Bergen said, adding that Montgomery signed autographs, took pictures with attendees, and even let them wear his gold medal. Another keynote speaker, Matt Federoff, chief information officer for Vail (Ariz.) School District, discussed the benefits of providing Wi-Fi on school buses.
“He did a wonderful job explaining what it is, how expensive it would be — and it’s not that expensive at all — and what the net benefits would be,” Krulicki said. “We didn’t know how it was going to go over, but I think everybody in the room was impressed.”
Bergen said that one of the surprising insights from Federoff’s presentation was how Wi-Fi on school buses can serve not only students, but the community. For example, Wi-Fi-equipped buses can be parked in underprivileged areas to provide free Internet access for residents who couldn’t afford to pay for it.
Federoff also pointed to the benefits of Wi-Fi on sports trips. When student athletes have to leave school early to travel to competitions, they can use the Internet access on the bus ride home to get caught up on their school work.
“It sounds too good to be true, but apparently kids are actually doing it,” Bergen said.
One of the general sessions informed CPTC attendees on the 2016 updates of the Canadian Standards Association D250 standards for school bus construction. This tenth edition of D250 goes into effect for vehicles manufactured on or after Nov. 1 of this year.
The updates to D250 cover such areas as alternative fuels, alternator output, exterior lighting, emergency exits, and windows. (See sidebar for more details.) Another notable topic that was discussed during the conference was fuel choices. There were two breakout sessions that focused on alternative fuels, one with presentations by school bus OEM representatives and another by Ron Harkness, supervisor of transportation at Brandon (Manitoba) School Division.
Krulicki said that diesel emission regulations have led to maintenance problems with engine emission systems. This has prompted many school bus managers to assess their options for fuel type.
“What is going to be the best fuel to use: diesel, natural gas, or propane, or even gasoline? That was an underlying issue, and we did address it in a couple of sessions," Krulicki said.
Another topic of discussion among delegates was illegal passing of school buses, which remains a top pupil transportation safety issue in Canada, as it is in the U.S.
Nearly 200 delegates from across Canada attended the 2016 CPTC, and about 45 vendor companies displayed school buses and related products in the trade show.
Also, Thomas Built Buses held the first Canadian edition of its Thomas Built Institute Service Training during CPTC, in a hotel across the street. The school bus maintenance professionals who attended the Thomas Built event also got to experience the CPTC trade show. “The vendors really appreciated having the mechanics come through — they ask questions from a different perspective,” Krulicki said. “For the trade show, we had close to 300 strong in the room.”
Bergen, Krulicki, and other CPTC organizers spent nearly two years planning the conference. The co-chairs said they were pleased that everything came together and ran smoothly.
“We spent a lot of time and effort making sure all of the little details were looked after, and making sure people felt welcome,” Krulicki said. “We had a lot of positive comments from the people that attended. It was more than what they had expected when they came in.”
Krulicki added that more than one attendee said the CPTC hosts reflected the slogan on the province’s license plates: “Friendly Manitoba.”
Bergen added that the goals for the event were to “learn, participate, have some fun, and feel it was a worthwhile effort. And I think we accomplished that on all of those marks.”
The next CPTC will be held in Ontario in 2018.