The New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA) paid tribute to industry professionals in October, especially those who proved pivotal in alleviating school bus driver shortages while maintaining safety standards.
"We had no shortage of champions to celebrate at this year's annual convention" in Schenectady, N.Y., said Nick Vallone, NYSBCA president. "The driver shortage was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic that required swift action on multiple fronts. All of our honorees played a crucial role in getting more drivers behind the wheel without sacrificing an ounce of safety. Most importantly, we recognize New York's school bus drivers, monitors, and mechanics who continue to provide safe transportation to millions of students every single day."
NYSBCA awards and recipients included:
- Roger Weeks Contractor of the Year Award: Patrick Kinane, president of Golden Sun Bus Service, a third-generation, family owned and operated transportation company in Granby, N.Y. Kinane also received a $1,000 scholarship that can be granted to the winner's school district of choice.
- Legislator of the Year Award: U.S. Rep. Joseph Morelle, who advocated waiving the required commercial driver's license under-the-hood vehicle inspection requirement and continues to push for a school bus-only CDL to counter the nationwide shortage of school bus drivers, and New York State Sen. James Skoufis, who provided immediate relief to the driver shortage by supporting and guiding the state's adoption of third-party testing.
- Distinguished Service Award: Michael Mongiardo with the state's Department of Motor Vehicles for helping to implement the third-party CDL testing program and for his efforts in making the process smooth for contractors to serve as third-party testers, and elected officials who have shown their commitment to assisting with the driver shortage and with navigating New York's electric school bus mandate, including Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, Assemblyman William B. Magnarelli, State Sen. Mike Martucci, and State Sen. Shelley B. Mayer.
- Honorary Lifetime Member Award: Paul Quinn Mori with Huntington Coach Corp. for several decades of continued association support and relentless advocacy efforts that keep making a difference in the school transportation industry.
- Heart of the Industry Award "On-Road": Ellen Eckes with WE Transport, Inc., who has 34 years of service with the company and worked her way up the company ladder while inspiring others to do the same. According to a news release, her "passion and dedication to sharing her knowledge with her spunky, positive vibes make every employee feel important."
- Heart of the Industry Award "Off-Road": Sarah Beth Corbin with Rolling V Bus Corp., who has filled roles in the family organization from upstate to New York City over the years. She was nominated by Vallone, company owner and NYSBCA president.