DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — About 17 nations were represented last week as Dubai held its first conference aimed at enhancing school transportation.

With the array of recommendations being presented and the inaugural nature of the event, it brought to mind the beginnings of the National Congress on School Transportation (NCST) for those from the U.S.

Being at the Dubai conference had a feeling of “what it was probably like to be at an early Warrensburg conference,” said Alex Robinson, president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), referring to the Missouri town where the NCST gatherings came to be held. “Dubai is coming out with policies and procedures for school transportation, and other emirates are following suit. It was very humbling to be on the ground floor of that.”

The event, billed as the 1st Annual Conference on Shaping Sustainable School Transportation with Policy, Attitude and Action, was developed in a partnership between the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority and NAPT.

The conference, held April 21 to 23, included seven general education sessions with 27 speakers from 11 countries. There were about 280 delegates and 600 visitors, including some high-level dignitaries like the ministers of education from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Dubai’s chief of police and the executive director of operations from the Kuwait Public Transport Co.

There were also four separate training workshops for school bus drivers, school bus supervisors (a variation of what are called bus monitors in the U.S.) and parents, with about 150 people participating.

“I did a driver training for about 65 to 70 current drivers,” Robinson told SBF. “They were all very polite and very by-the-book.”

The trade show brought in 35 local and international exhibitors, including several from the U.S.

Delegates were taken on a citywide tour that explained the various modes of school transportation in Dubai. They also visited a school and its related transportation facility, courtesy of Emirates Transport.

Speakers and delegates at the conference made 11 key recommendations, covering such areas as school transportation safety and security, driver and student training, standards for transporting special-needs students and road layout around schools.

“There was definitely a commitment from the group to move forward with the recommendations,” Robinson said, noting that there was a clear motivation to put them in place soon.

Look for more on the Dubai conference in an upcoming issue of SCHOOL BUS FLEET. To view more photos from the event, see our photo gallery.