This week, members of the 16th National Congress on School Transportation (NCST) converged on Des Moines, Iowa, and held spirited discussions on critical industry topics ranging from security practices to proper job titles to equipment placement.

NCST, which is held every five years, evolved from the first national standards conference for school transportation at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York, organized by Dr. Frank Cyr in 1939.

Approximately 300 state delegates, alternate state delegates and other attendees gathered from May 17 to 20 at a new conference center attached to the Holiday Inn, located directly across the street from the Des Moines International Airport. This is the first time the congress has been hosted by Des Moines; NCST had previously been held at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg from 1980 to 2010.

Forty-six states were represented by delegates who reviewed, discussed and adopted updates to the National School Transportation Specifications and Procedures document. The specifications and procedures in the document include formal recommendations designed to provide guidance on vehicles, equipment and operational practices for optimal safety and efficiency.

After the general session kicked off the congress on Sunday evening, members of committees that were created to research topics such as special-needs operations, inspections and vehicle specifications, brought proposed changes to the delegates to discuss Monday through Wednesday. Key points of discussion and debate covered requirements for crossing control arms on school buses, security practices, alternative fuels, job titles and descriptions, verbiage used on the rear of buses, and placement of equipment such as fans and mirrors.

Members of the congress also developed resolutions for topics of research and discussion for 2020, which included draggings and vehicle equipment; standard equipment for the bus driver compartment; video cameras and visibility; and promoting more gender and cultural diversity. Additionally, the congress approved a funding action to be sent to the U.S. Department of Education to underscore the critical need for student transportation.

An awards ceremony held on Tuesday evening honored the late Don Carnahan for his extensive devotion to NCST, and for serving as chair in 1990 and 1995; Bill Loshbough, who served as NCST chair in 1980 and 1985; and Charlie Hood, the NCST chair in 2000 and 2005; as well as many others who help make NCST possible, such as coordinators and committee members, Terry Voy, the congress on-site chair, and Murrell Martin, the chair of the steering committee.

More detailed coverage of the congress will appear in the July issue.

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