NAPT will roll out a new format for next year’s Summit that will bring together programs for transportation directors, maintenance personnel and special-needs transporters — all in a shorter time frame.

In an interview with SBF, NAPT Executive Director Mike Martin explained the changes for the 2014 Summit, which will be held in Kansas City, Mo.

The schedule will be streamlined to four days — Saturday to Tuesday. Martin said that this is more in line with the time frame of the conference up until 2003, when the addition of pre- and post-conference days inflated the schedule to six days.

“This change reflects feedback from our members,” Martin said. “People just don’t have time to be out of the office for more than three or four days anymore.”

The trade show will be shortened from two days to one. That shift stems from feedback that NAPT has been collecting from vendors. The plan is to hold the trade show for about five hours on Tuesday and to include lunch. Entrance to the trade show will continue to be free for all NAPT members (as well as for state pupil transportation directors and National School Transportation Association board members).

Another major change: NAPT’s America’s Best event for technicians and inspectors will be held at the same time and place as the Summit. Techs and inspectors will take part in the annual skills competition and educational workshops.

Also, America’s Best will be expanded with three new events to test small vehicle handling, equipment handling and interpersonal communication.

Drivers will demonstrate their skills at the wheel of Type A school buses. Equipment handlers will be tested on such operational essentials as the proper use of wheelchair lifts and the proper installation of booster seats. The communication competition will replicate the real-world challenges of transporting students safely.

“We expect these new events to be particularly attractive to people involved in the transportation of students with special needs,” Martin said, “because we will give contestants in these events credit for completing our SNT 103 training requirement, which is an essential component of our new certification program for people involved in the transportation of students with disabilities and other special needs.”

After a full day of freely choosing from the expanded educational options, conference delegates will all come together each night for a dinner and networking event. “This is a critical component of every successful conference,” Martin said, noting that the evening events will be restructured to make sure delegates and vendors feel comfortable interacting with each other, regardless of their affiliation.

“Our members tell us they highly value any time they can get together and exchange ideas,” Martin said.

All the groups will also convene on Tuesday for a morning general session, the trade show and then the awards banquet, where the competition winners and other award recipients will be honored.