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Good to Great – What’s Preventing Your System from Being Great?

In his book “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t,” James Collins states that “Good is the enemy of great.” How can that be?

He goes on to explain that we don’t have great companies, great schools, great organizations because we settle for good companies, schools and organizations. And for many people, good is good enough.

For instance, how do you define good? Is a 99% on-time arrival on campus defined as good in your operation? If you transport 10,000 students per day, that means 100 students are late. Is that acceptable? Probably not to parents, principals and teachers that have students walking into class late on a daily basis.

Do you aspire to be a great system? And what does being a great system even entail?

Here are some parameters that you might use to judge whether you are a good or great system. Take time to review these questions throughout your organization and develop not only your shortcomings but also where the organization excels.

How do you handle driver replenishment?
Drivers leave. Regardless of your pay structure, fringe benefits or employer-provided incentives, drivers still choose to move on. Many drivers turn to higher paying jobs with truck lines or charter bus companies, leaving the school bus industry completely. What is your timeline for replacing that driver? Is it seamless so that students, parents and schools never know the difference? Do you have enough subs or additional state-certified drivers that can carry the load until a new driver is recruited, vetted, trained and ready to go? Or can you rearrange routes to cover the stops with existing drivers and equipment?

How do you handle employee absenteeism and the need to cover routes?
Are subs available, willing and trained well enough to jump right in? If there is a scheduled disruption, is there a parent and school notification system in place?

Is your driver recruitment and training program sufficient to keep up with driver turnover?
Do you recruit only in the summer or is it ongoing all year? How quickly are new applicants trained? How quickly can they be licensed? Is the holdup on your end or at the state licensing bureau?

Is your driver salary schedule competitive?
Is overtime paid pursuant to federal labor laws? Do drivers and aides receive paychecks accurately and on time? Are time records verified?

Do you have a vehicle replacement program?
Are you keeping up with it? Is it adequate to get you through a growth spurt in new student enrollment?

How is student discipline on your buses?
Are students being transported safely or are they in the aisles, too loud and uncooperative? Are drivers trained in dealing with these issues? Do school administrators handle bus discipline reports with the same urgency and due process as classroom or playground discipline?

Is your shop adequate in size and equipment for your fleet?
Are mechanics and technicians current on training and certifications? Are buses adequately fueled and pre-tripped daily?

By answering these questions within your organization, then addressing any deficiencies you may find, you can be on the way to making your good system a great one.


John Haynie

John Haynie is a 35-year veteran of the transportation industry. In 2015, he retired from the North Little Rock School District as director of transportation. He was a member of the Arkansas Association of Pupil Transportation, for which he served as host of the annual conference for four years. The association awarded him the President’s Star in 2014. 

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