As student transportation professionals, we know change is the norm. New legislation, updated safety regulations, and technological advancements are just some of the areas professionals in this industry must learn about and adapt to – and that doesn’t even include the mandated skill updates regularly required of school bus drivers.
It’s continuing education and professional development that make the student transportation industry so dynamic and interesting, and it takes a dedicated professional to stay ahead of the curve.
In this post, we’ll delve into the importance of continuing education in student transportation and explore how it can help build your career while fostering safer, more efficient school transportation programs.
Completing mandated skill assessments
It’s important to recognize that school bus drivers possess a unique skill set, and that earning the necessary certifications to transport our “precious cargo” is an ongoing process. While each state has its own specific rules and regulations governing recertification, we’ll use Pennsylvania as an example, since it’s the home of our partner contractor, Krise Transportation.
In Pennsylvania, PennDOT mandates recertification of school bus drivers every four years, to ensure safe practices and necessary skills over time. The recertification process requires current school bus drivers to1:
- Complete a minimum of 10 hours of refresher training, which includes seven hours of classroom instruction and three hours of in-bus training.
- Pass the school bus endorsement knowledge examination.
- Pass a skills evaluation in a school bus that is representative of the class of school bus the driver is licensed to operate.
The recertification process is arguably the most crucial aspect of continuing education in our industry since drivers are truly the HEROES of our organization.
Adapting to technological advancements
While the traditional yellow school bus is still the heart of student transportation, the industry has come a long way, especially in terms of technology. With the integration of GPS tracking, route optimization software, EVs, and more, student transportation contractors are embracing technology to enhance safety and efficiency. However, for these technological tools to be used effectively, student transportation professionals must know how to get the most from them.
Whether formal or informal, onsite with the team or online at home, continuing education offers the chance to master new technology, making drivers, dispatchers, technicians, and managers more effective in their respective roles. From learning how to interpret real-time traffic data to understanding how to troubleshoot technical glitches, ongoing learning empowers professionals to leverage technology to its fullest potential.
Enhancing safety protocols
Safety is paramount in the student transportation industry. Every day, parents trust that their children will be transported to and from school securely, so it should be every industry professional’s primary goal to know and adopt the latest safety protocols and best practices.
Continuing education – often in the form of team training – provides a chance for professionals to refresh their knowledge of safety guidelines, emergency response procedures, and student behavior management techniques. Workshops and courses can cover topics such as defensive driving, inclement weather response, and conflict resolution strategies, ensuring that school bus drivers and other student transportation professionals are prepared for any situation that may arise.
Innovation is the driving force behind progress in any industry. In student transportation, innovation not only improves operational efficiency but also enhances the overall experience for students, parents, and employees. By participating in professional development opportunities, industry professionals can explore emerging trends, learn about sustainable transportation solutions, and brainstorm innovative ways to streamline processes.
For example, online or in-person workshops on electric buses, alternative fuels, and eco-friendly transportation solutions can help school bus contractors prepare for a transition to low- or zero-emission vehicles.
As another example, training or workshops on customer service and communication skills can help student transportation teams build more positive relationships with parents and students, ultimately strengthening your organization’s relationship with districts and the broader community.
Cultivating career growth
Continuing education and professional development also play a pivotal role in personal career growth. Professionals who actively seek out learning opportunities demonstrate their commitment to excellence and adaptability. This dedication can pave the way for career advancement and possibly even specialization in areas like fleet management, logistics, or compliance.
Opportunities for growth
So, where should student transportation professionals look for training resources and opportunities? Start with your employer, who likely has regular safety meetings and other periodic training sessions already in place. If there’s a training topic you’re interested in, approach your manager and ask about it. It might even open up an opportunity for you to lead the discussion with your team.
Some other possible resources for professional growth and continuing education include:
- Online resources like Krise Transportation’s HEROES videos.
- Conferences and workshops like the Student Transportation News Transportation Director Summit.
- State resources like fact sheets and FAQs from your state DOT.
- Federal resources like the NHTSA’s School Bus Driver In-Service Curriculum.
If you want to help drive the future of student transportation, get in touch!
American Student Transportation Partners (ASTP) is a national network of reliable student transportation providers. We’re driving the future of student transportation by providing access to education through safe, dependable student transportation programs. Exceptional bus operators choose ASTP because of our innovative approach to partnership, as well as the resources we provide to help “future-proof” their operations.
To learn more about partnering with ASTP, contact Tod Eskra, President, at [email protected] or call (314) 560-5946.