It's the same old training and skills competition but with a decidedly different twist.
The 11th annual America's Best School Bus Inspector and Technician Training and Skills Competition presented by the National Association for Pupil Transportation will take place in Kansas City this fall to offer participants the opportunity to attend the NAPT Summit Trade Show.
The previous 10 America's Best events were held at various locations across the country, and last September at Federal Way Public Schools outside of Seattle. But America's Best decided to join the NAPT Summit for event planning, scheduling and sponsorship challenges, said Marshall Casey, a co-founder of the event and a student transportation consultant based in Columbia, South Carolina.
"We wanted to make the program bigger and stronger," he told STN. "We thought it was a good fit for us to try this."
Holding America's Best during the NAPT Summit also allows participants to attend the trade show on Nov. 11 to supplement their training by meeting face to face with vendors. Casey said the move also benefits vendors who want to support America's Best but were unable to previously.
Casey added that he and other event organizers hope to see increased participation in November, as America's Best has leveled out at about 20 technicians and a dozen inspectors for several years.
Another change that could affect this was a decision to open up the training and skills competition to additional participants other than those who win a state qualifier. Casey explained that first and second place at the state level can be separated by only a point or two. So the new rules allow more quality entrants to compete. Additionally, new this year are two new pilot programs for driver trainers and special needs transportation personnel.
Casey also said America's Best signed Michelin Truck Tires as a long-term platinum sponsor to provide funding and workstations for training, joining Zonar Systems.
"They hosted America's Best for us in 2009 (in Greenville, S.C.). It was kind of a one-year deal at that point, but we had conversations over the last couple of years and just worked things out to make it become a continuing partnership."
Casey noted the competition winners will be announced during an NAPT event the evening of Nov. 9.