It’s been a challenging year for school districts and transportation departments across the country. From the pandemic forcing schools to implement at-home learning with no preparation to the uncertainty of the current school year, it’s been crucial for those working in the school bus industry to use effective communication.
It’s easy to see the effects — both positive or negative — that communication has in your workplace. For school bus transportation directors and fleet managers, communication can serve as a superpower, if used correctly and strategically.
Just as with any fleet, those managing a district’s school buses are overseeing a lot of moving parts. Good communication is not only necessary so buses keep running, but also for safety.
With good, intentional communication, transportation managers can:
- Empower employees to take action. If goals, guidelines and instructions are delivered clearly, team members will be able to see a well-defined path to get things done.
- Motivate people and turbo-boost productivity. If you want team members who are excited to go to work and have a positive attitude, communication is a key place to start. Just like students, employees desire structure and want to know what is happening so they can complete their role. Set your team up for success.
- Reward team members. Everyone wants to feel valued and supported, and employees in your department are no different. Communication is one of the best ways to let them know that they are appreciated for their work and their skills.
Harnessing Your Superpower
Effective communication is more than just conveying a message to your audience. It also requires:
- Listening. Think about the messages you send when you’re not listening to your team. How do you react when others are speaking? Are you paying attention? Implement active listening by acknowledging what a person says, repeating back the other person’s concerns, and engaging in the conversation.
- Giving praise and gratitude. If someone does their job well or went above and beyond on a routine task, let them know. This act of communication shows your employees you care and you’re paying attention. It also enforces repeat positive behaviors. And who doesn’t like to receive some extra appreciation?
- Accepting new ideas. Part of creating an open, communicative environment requires that everyone be comfortable sharing their ideas and feedback. When managers let their teams know they are open to new ideas and constructive feedback, it allows all voices to be heard and creates effective, two-way communication between managers and employees.
- Being transparent. No one wants to work in an environment where they don’t know what is going on behind closed doors or how managers made certain decisions. People want to be in the loop so give your teams some insight into how you make decisions and what makes specific tasks important. We all respect honesty and explanation.
Communication on the Bus
For the 1.2 million students who ride propane school buses to school, improved communication is easier due to the fuel type.
“In addition to reducing emissions, propane school buses are much quieter. That means the driver can hear and communicate better with the students on board,” said Chris Walls, director of transportation for Kansas City Public Schools.
When the school district runs normally, KCPS uses 155 Blue Bird Vision Propane school buses for its routes. Walls adds, “The local neighborhood will no longer have to deal with our former noisy diesel bus warm-ups at 4 a.m.”
Propane buses reduce noise levels by producing sound 11 decibels lower than diesel-fueled buses, resulting in about 50 percent less noise and allowing drivers to focus more on the road and communicate with students.
As you continue your work week, observe and reflect on how you and your team communicate and harness that superpower.