The School Transportation News Garage Star’s feature is centered on recognizing maintenance professionals nominated by their supervisors/ and or peers from across the country, emphasizing the important role technicians play in the greater team to safely transport their part of North Americas’ future. STN magazine created the Garage Star program to recognize individuals in one of the most demanding and challenging roles in the transportation industry.
I was not only honored to help evaluate the over 140 nominations for the 2021 Garage Star recognition but was left so encouraged by the level of respect and appreciation for school bus technicians. Each nomination form provided narratives that described the contributions of mechanics to a school transportation bus garages success.
Following are my takeaways from the review of the many excellent industry nominations.
The People That Keep School Buses Moving
The most recent statistics estimate that there are approximately 500,000 school bus vehicles in operation across North America. These purpose-built vehicles play a major role in transporting children safely from home to school and back in the most diverse conditions. Moving these vehicles every school day is accurately defined by many as a total team effort. While drivers play an important role in getting children from point A to point B, the approximately 20,000 school bus maintenance personnel are also crucial in ensuring school buses perform properly throughout the entirety of their journey.
In addition to considering factors such as community involvement, district team members, vehicle uptime, regulatory compliance, fuel economy, and overall vehicle performance, school bus maintenance technicians are also viewed as a central part of the transportation fleet’s overall safety program. Professional technicians ensure the community that vehicles, drivers and children are able to travel safely—which has always been and will remain the highest priority of anyone associated with student transportation.
No doubt all the nominations presented that without the work of transportation department, maintenance teams the buses would stop running, and drivers would be unable to deliver the students to begin their education day.
Technician Appreciation During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are not lost on school bus maintenance personnel. While many of us were provided the luxury to work from home since earlier last year, the in-person aspects of school bus maintenance and repair has meant that many technicians have continued their work as usual in the face of the pandemic.
This reality is not lost on school bus maintenance teams, despite the enormous logistical and COVID-19 related health challenges. They have carried on enabling proper vehicle performance, driver safety and successful student transport wherever they needed to be.
Garage Stars is Our Opportunity to Say “Thank You”
Professional school bus technicians are unsung heroes. Like a well-oiled machine, they keep school buses moving.
It is also important to acknowledge that maintenance is changing and with that the skills of the technician. The future of how school bus maintenance will be impacted is being shaped by new technologies, new process and procedures, more sophisticated vehicles and higher part and labor costs.
This is only going to intensify the importance of well trained, well supported and well treated technicians in ensuring the school buses of today and tomorrow get where they need to be safely and efficiently. Please keep up the good work.
Editor’s Note: As reprinted in the August 2021 issue of School Transportation News
Robert T. Pudlewski is a member of the National School Transportation Assocation Hall of Fame. He is a retired vice president of fleet operations, maintenance and procurement for Laidlaw.