The Importance of Building Trust In the Transportation Department

Written By David Volz T

rust is a critical element for the success of any organization, as it is a foundation for building strong and solid relationships. This is especially true for those who are running school bus or-

ganizations. Student transporters must work hard to build trust among parents and members of the community. Parents want to entrust their children to their bus driver. They want to know the driver ensures they reach school and home, again, safe and on time. The bus driver is often a teacher, a grandparent, and an aunt or uncle, all in one. Building strong and solid relationships are also vital elements of implementing a successful team of bus driv- ers, technicians and support staff. Although leaders work hard to build trust among their organizations, it takes time, commitment and a willingness to listen to others. It often comes down to caring about and supporting the team, as well as being fair and consistent. Drivers spend a lot of time together between routes, and they get to know each other well. They also talk. This is especially important in the management of a school bus operation. All bus drivers need to be well trained. But more importantly, they should grow to be- lieve that they will be properly supported when, not if, an issue arises. Keith Paulson, who is transportation director for the

Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota, said it is important to cultivate a sense of team and to focus on the mission. Paulson said he works to create a culture of camaraderie and caring among staff members. He en- courages them to spend time between assignments and get to know each other. “For me, the number one focus is always on the safety

of the students. Nothing else really matters if you don’t focus on this,” Paulson said “It doesn’t matter how effi- cient, clean or nice a facility is, unless people know the system is safe.” Paulson added, “We want to make sure our bus drivers

are well trained. We try to cultivate a sense of team and focus on the mission, which is providing good service to the students. Bus companies work hard to meet their goals every day. We are taking kids to school, and athlet- ic and activity events.” As is the case in transportation departments nation-

wide, new driver applicants at Anoka-Hennepin receive basic training on how to drive a school bus and must pass a written test to obtain a CDL. They also learn about

20 School Transportation News • JULY 2019

student management, and how to connect effectively with young people. Paulson suggested that the staff members who su- pervise bus drivers get to know them and what their interests are. “It is about connecting with them and their family. Find out what is going on in their lives and their families. Taking a personal interest in people goes a long way. Money is a factor when people want to drive a bus,” he said. “The time of day when a bus driver works is also important. People want to feel valued.” It is important that bus drivers feel supported at work. They are trained on what to do when children misbehave. The buses have video documentation, so senior staff can see what actually occurred. “We know a lot of things can happen on a bus. If there is an incident, we will interview the students. We want to be fair with everybody. Driving a bus can be a hard job and safety is the number one priori- ty,” Paulson said. Drivers also learn how to interact with special needs

students. Drivers are encouraged to discuss any and all concerns they may have. “I worked with a bus organi- zation where we had a team of drivers who met once a month. We talked about what was going on with our buses and discussed various issues. It is important to have mentors to help newer bus drivers improve,” said Paulson. “We want to help them become better drivers.” Mike Sawyer, the executive director of transportation

for the San Marcos Unified School District in Califor- nia, agreed that team-building activities are important. He treats his employees to an occasional San Diego Padres baseball game or a meal. “Drivers like to eat,” he

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