We have heard it before, and we are likely to hear it many other times in the coming year: “We are in unprecedented times.” Nobody can deny that all aspects of our lives — the way we eat, the way we travel, the choices we make when meeting with people outside of a digital setting — have been affected.
However, there are some opinions that come out of times like these that can be considered, quite frankly, beyond consideration. One of these opinions is a blog recently published at stnonline.com titled, “Time to Rethink the Use of Mass Transit in Student Transportation?”
I wanted to take this time to touch on the points that the author has brought up. First, I understand his intentions. New recommended guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are pressuring our transportation systems to think differently by limiting the number of students per bus and even going as far in many cases as to suggest one student per seat, every other row. It is a tough situation we are facing, and I am sure that transportation directors are looking for ways to potentially increase their fleets on the same — or smaller — budget. But first, I must state the obvious:
Transit buses are not built to the same rigorous safety standards that school buses are.
This fact, and this alone, should make anyone pause at the suggestion that the author is making.
Blue Bird’s buses, in fact, are built to meet and exceed current safety and emissions standards. The manufacturers that make up this industry have invested millions of dollars in research, engineering, crash testing, emissions certification, and so on to provide the very safest means of transporting children to and from school. In fact, the American School Bus Council reports that school buses are 50 times safer than any other method of transporting children.
There is a reason that school buses are built the way they are. There is a reason that parents and students trust a school bus over other methods of transportation. By utilizing a method of transportation that was not built for this application, we are risking the health and safety of our students in a major way. Again, I understand the temptation to consider other options, but not ones that compromise what we have all worked so hard to achieve — and for what likely would at best be a short-term solution.
I urge those who are facing these difficult decisions to listen to the experts. Listen to the groups comprised of transportation directors and those who have been involved in this industry for years. The National Association of Pupil Transportation, National School Transportation Association and National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services have formed a task force that is working to give guidance on addressing these issues we face, without putting student safety at risk.
I understand that we all want to get back to normal, but we require decisions that protect safety rather than expediency when it comes to our students. Let’s continue to work towards getting back to normal in the safest, most effective way possible.
Mark Terry is the chief commercial officer for school bus manufacturer Blue Bird Corporation.