On Feb. 3, I was honored to be part of an American School Bus Council (ASBC) delegation that traveled to Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) in central Florida to kick off “Love the Bus” activities.
For those of you who are not familiar, ASBC is comprised of the three major student transportation organizations: National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), and my organization — National School Transportation Association (NSTA). In addition, the major original equipment manufacturers — Blue Bird, IC Bus, and Thomas Built Buses — are major supporters of this effort. The main purposes of ASBC are to highlight the iconic yellow school bus and increase ridership, and Love the Bus remains a major part of the organization’s effort.
Although it is usually difficult to fit in travel during this time of year, the trip was time incredibly well spent. On the first day, after we handled some ASBC business, our contingent took a tour of the new Pine Hills bus depot that OCPS recently opened in Apopka. Here we engaged with transportation staff: administrators, dispatchers, mechanics, and, of course, drivers. That gave me an opportunity to take a look at the operation, talks with folks involved in the often-underpublicized area of repair and maintenance, and compare and contrast my operations against what these professionals were doing, 1,200 miles away from my home base. (Truthfully, there were a few takeaways that I brought back to my operation — Cook-Illinois Corp. — but in several cases, the visit reinforced procedures that we utilize.)
I thought about how impactful Love the Bus month is, and how we should take steps to highlight the iconic yellow bus, our drivers, … and anyone else who makes sure that our children make it to school safely, efficiently, and on time.
I was convinced that the tour would be the highlight of my trip, but the very next day, we launched our Love the Bus activities at Rock Springs Elementary School. The school cafeteria was alive as the students were clearly hyped to support their bus drivers. Pastor A.L. Reeves gave an energetic speech designed to get the youngsters to think about safety. Those who know Pastor Reeves understand that he can make any topic entertaining, but he engaged the students and created incredible energy around the yellow bus. Yet he also got the important message about safety across to these young students in an understandable way. It was a great way to start the day, and there was more to come.
After our school visit, our delegation journeyed back to the transportation compound, where we represented the industry by riding the yellow bus. Even as adults, the bus trip was an enjoyable experience, as we traded stories and engaged in a little bit of shop talk. (When we get a group of folks together who all bleed yellow, you can’t expect us not to talk about what we love to do.)
And it didn’t end there. Back at the transportation center, we again heard from Pastor Reeves, who inspired a large contingent of wonderful bus drivers by highlighting the importance of the yellow bus and its drivers in the education process. He emphasized that a child’s school day starts every morning with their bus driver greeting them. Every bus driver has the ability to brighten a child’s day with a simple smile and hello, and we appreciate them for doing that. A special thanks to Kim Frye and Bill Wen from OCPS for handling all the details, and making this a truly special event.
Overall, the trip left me invigorated and inspired. As I headed back home to Illinois, I thought about how impactful Love the Bus month is, and how we should take steps to highlight the iconic yellow bus, our drivers, aides, administrators, mechanics, dispatchers, and anyone else who makes sure that our children make it to school safely, efficiently, and on time. This is no small task, and it often amazes me how seamless the process can be because of the committed professionals working in our proud industry.