-  Image: Canva

Image: Canva

I just came back home from Pentagon City, Va., where I delivered a brief presentation for NSTA at the National Association of State Directors of Student Transportation (NASDPTS) Annual Conference. For the first time since 2019, NASDPTS held their Annual Meeting with an in-person format. It was good to see so many familiar faces, and I also met some new student transportation professionals. While it always seems difficult to pull away from our offices these days, my time at NASDPTS was well worth the effort.

The hotel where the convention was located had an influx of marathon runners that weekend – as the area played host to the Annual Marine Corps Marathon. I thought about how appropriate it was that student transportation was sharing the platform with marathoners that weekend, especially because of the similarities that we share. Qualities like focus, endurance, inspiration, and inspiration, quickly come to mind.

These common characteristics inspired me to choose student transportation as my vocation, and the theme of my remarks centered on the fact that industry has been and will continue to be “stronger together." For me, this phrase is not just a catchy slogan, I truly believe it.

On Saturday morning, I enjoyed sharing time with my co-presenters Lexi Higgins from Busing on the Lookout (BOTL) and Rick Grisham, president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT).

Attendees also heard presentations from a variety of panelists and speakers, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), and the U.S. Department of Education. There was an engaging and informative Electric School Bus (ESB) panel – with remarks by OEM partners from across North America.

Additionally, there were panel sessions on Alternative Student Transportation, as well Automated Vehicles and Autonomous Technology, and I am sure that I left other sessions out of this summary.  And the reason I mention all these programs is for the simple fact that most, if not all, of the organizations that represent the interests of student transportation are facing the same varied and complex issues.

I marvel at the collective experience and wisdom of those professionals who attend this conference, or the NSTA or NAPT conventions for that matter. I cannot overstate the amount of respect I have for folks who have dedicated their lives to make pupil transportation what it is – the safest way to get nearly 25 million schoolchildren to-and-from school safely each and every day.

I was fortunate enough to spend a bus ride to their Friday dinner event seated next to Ken Hedgecock, an industry veteran who represents so much good in student transportation. Ken and I enjoyed catching up on key issues and sharing updates on other dedicated professionals and friends. 

Because of these myriad issues that the industry faces in this “post-pandemic” environment, quite simply, we are going to have to be stronger together, so that we can meet these challenges and formulate creative, efficient, and effective solutions to the demands that come our way. I am optimistic that with so many intelligent and committed professionals – we can overcome any obstacle in front of us.

Congratulations to NASDPTS for putting together a great conference, and I look forward to remaining “stronger together.”

Lastly, I want to give a quick shout out to Jennifer Bruce, who recently announced her retirement after many years of tireless work in our industry. Jenn, we will miss those school bus sneakers!

My best wishes to everyone for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.