CINCINNATI — The annual conference of state pupil transportation directors drew some high-profile speakers from the federal government, and those officials had some encouraging words for the school bus community.

David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), touted the safety and environmental benefits of the “humble yellow school bus,” as he called it. He also expressed support for increasing school bus ridership.

“We need to think about how we can expand busing — how we get more kids on buses,” Strickland said.

He noted that parents who prefer to drive their kids to school rather than putting them on the school bus have to be informed of their choice’s increased safety risk and contribution to traffic congestion.

Also during the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) conference, which ran Friday through Monday in Cincinnati, NHTSA presented its new materials that promote school bus transportation.

In another session, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Deborah Hersman reviewed several of her agency’s recent highway accident investigations and its ensuing recommendations. She also noted the lack of fatal school bus-train crashes in recent years, and she credited state directors and others in the industry for their work in preventing them.

In reviewing NTSB’s recommendations to enhance motorcoach safety, Hersman cited the superior occupant protection of school buses.

“You all have had real compartmentalization since the 1970s,” Hersman said of the school bus industry. Motorcoaches, with features like large windows through which passengers are ejected in some crashes, “are not designed with safety in mind,” she said.

A detailed report on the NASDPTS conference will appear in the January issue of SBF.