We recently sat down with Diana Hollander, the state director of student transportation at the Nevada Department of Education and the sitting president of NASDPTS. We talked about lap-shoulder belts, technology, the driver shortage and more that will be the center of conversations during the Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio.
STN: Of all the issues NASDPTS sees affecting student transporters nationwide, is there one that stands out above the rest as especially challenging?
Diana Hollander: There are three things I think are especially challenging: 1) The national driver shortage and the lack of adequate pay for drivers; 2) Limited and frequent reductions in allocated funds to districts, and; 3) The fast-paced growth of charter schools and voucher programs that take precious funding from school districts.
STN: What went into the planning of the opening session on lap-shoulder belts? Was it a labor of love?
Hollander: Can you believe this is the headliner session for the NASDPTS Conference? This would never have happened 20 years ago. With the rapid shift in attitudes and a recent crash test I witnessed, the time was right to have the conversation. Plus, we have some awesome presenters who agreed to participate and a never-before-seen crash test to preview. What’s not exciting about that?
STN: In terms of the school bus driver shortage affecting many states and local school districts, what’s the NASDPTS perspective on how the controversial lap-shoulder seat belts can make a difference?
Hollander: I know some people believe that lap-shoulder belts will help recruit drivers, but I’m not sure that will be the case. We know that student management is easier, allowing the driver to focus on driving. Some districts have implemented “intervention” programs that help struggling trainees get the extra help they need to be successful. But until school bus driver’s get paid a decent wage that includes health benefits, it will probably continue to be an issue.
STN: What’s the scuttlebutt among NASDPTS members on how driver assistance systems will most likely be implemented into school buses? What role is NASDPTS or the Supplier Council taking to influence that evolution?
Hollander: Driver assistance systems can be useful tools to drivers, who have the potential to be distracted by students. NASDPTS’ role is to introduce new and innovate ideas, to think outside of the box and bring those ideas to our membership. Our Supplier Council members are the innovators who bring new ideas to life. They are knowledgeable about what they do and bring their expertise to the table.
STN: What are you looking forward to most in Columbus?
Hollander: Seeing all my school bus friends…of course!
STN: Thank you.