Tucked away in the much-publicized Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is lesser-known school bus language than the five-year, $5 billion Clean School Bus Program that has grabbed so much industry attention. Synopsized into five sentences, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is charged with reviewing, evaluating and reporting on school bus safety technology used at student bus stops nationwide. Alongside illegal passing counteraction, the provision includes looking at how school buses are illuminated to oncoming motorists and how artificial intelligence is being used to improve safety for school-children.
In a nutshell, that is what this industry is about, continuously reviewing, evaluating and reporting on what is working and what needs some adjustment to realize a more efficient way of getting students from point A to point B while also removing risk. And this task ultimately falls on the men and women who have made this their career. The industry doesn’t need NHTSA to tell it what is working and what isn’t when it comes to school bus safety. But the provision does call attention to school bus stop safety, and it includes a public outreach campaign.
That’s not a bad thing. It got me thinking. What is School Transportation News doing to publicize not only the latest and greatest in school bus safety but also the people who help build the record of the school bus being the safest way students get to and from school each day?
For a reminder, I looked no further than this month’s edition. Returning for the seventh consecutive year, the Garage Stars profiles shine a light on the brightest mechanics and technicians who are charged with one of the most overlooked aspects of school bus safety, at least in the eye of the general public. As the article starting on page 32 notes, we could easily have featured all 182 nominees.
That’s in a perfect world, but we all know the reality of that statement.One of the main objectives at STN is to shine a light on school bus safety. It’s our job to know the issues, or at least know when to ask the right questions, and who to ask. It’s also our job to tell the stories of the good men and women who toil day in and day out to lead operations at school district and bus companies, the folks who schedule the bus routes and drive the children.
The pastor who tends to his parishoners as kindly as he does to his fleet of buses. The woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer and obtained her technician certification.It’s a challenging journalistic balance to provide timely and nuanced reports on current events while also focusing on human interest stories and having the paper and ink to accomplish both. (Don’t get me started on how inflation has affected printer and related transportation costs.) Thankfully, the internet has revolutionized the publishing world. But be it a print article or one posted at stnonline.com, the exercise is never one of futility, especially when it focuses on those who are making a positive difference in the lives of children, no matter how far removed others might think they are.
So back to the question of just how can School Transportation News adequately cover all the fine stories and people that make the industry tick each day? The short answer is we can’t. At least not perfectly by our fine but small staff of writers. After all, there are 14,000-plus, public school districts out there that employ hundreds of thousands of professionals from school bus mechanics to drivers, dispatchers and routers, trainers to directors. Then factor in all the support personnel at manufacturers and suppliers.
But we can always get better. We can try. And that requires the continued assistance of you, our reader, as well. It’s a symbiotic relationship. The number of responses to our nomination call for Garage Stars, or October’s Rising Stars for that matter, rarely disappoint. Keep them coming. What we don’t want to do is disappoint you, however.
I am pledging right here and right now to do a better job of trumpeting the successes of student transporters whose stories you take the time to send to us. Perhaps you want to suggest a new spotlight for us to shine. Stay tuned to the pages of the magazine and stnonline.com for more stories that interweave personalities with the issues they are solving for the betterment of the students they transport. Help us shine a light on the professionals that make your team a success and as a result set up the nation’s students to realize theirs.
Editor’s Note: As reprinted in the August 2022 issue of School Transportation News.
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