Generating Conversation at the Nation’s Capital



he 51st annual National As- sociation of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) conference held last

month in Washington, D.C., discussed a little of everything in terms of industry hot topics. Leading the discussion were electric vehicles and emerging technol- ogy, illegal passing, the entry-level driver training rule (ELDT), the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, lap/shoulder seatbelts and fire suppression systems.

THE FUTURE OF MANUFACTURING? Electric school buses are becoming in-

creasingly popular among the school bus OEMs, school districts, private contrac- tors and local public utility companies, not only to improve student health by reducing emissions but also by creat- ing a sustainable electric grid. The topic formally opened the conference on Oct. 14, as each school bus OEM discussed its goal for the future. The OEMs said they are pushing for

wider market acceptance of their electric vehicles. Trish Reed, general manager of IC Bus, projected that by 2035, 50 percent of bus sales will be electric. However, she said that it could happen sooner. Only eight years ago, Reed reported that school buses were mostly fueled by diesel. Reed also discussed how the Millennial

generation has become the largest demo- graphic in the industry. With this devel- opment, more student transporters have become concerned about the impact of pollution on the environment. Reed not- ed that IC Bus is monitoring the changing industry. Last year, IC Bus made elec- tronic stability control (ESC) and active collision mitigation technology standard on all of its buses. Next year, it will begin deploying a production EV option as well. Blue Bird also discussed alternative

fuel options going forward. Marc Riccio, alternative fuels manager at Blue Bird, said the company had deployed 15,000 pro- pane buses across North America. He also announced a continued partnership with Roush CleanTech until 2025.

10 THE SHOW REPORTER • NOV 2-5, 2019 Ken Hedgecock, the retiring vice

president of marketing, sales and service for Thomas Built Buses, upped the ante on electric. He said he believes that 50 percent of all new school buses sold by 2028 will be electric. While acknowledging that the industry is continually changing, Hedgecock added that autonomous tech- nology will be available for school buses in the near future, for all who want it. But instead of focusing on autonomous school buses, Hedgecock explained that Thomas Built is expanding development of its pedestrian detection system, which was unveiled last year. Instead of the system taking over the vehicle, a camera will notify the bus driver if a student is detected in the “Danger Zone” around the vehicle. These notifications will be in the form of audio and visual alerts, as well as a “butt-tickler” in the seat, as Hedgecock called it. Richard Lee, director of eastern U.S. school bus sales for the Lion Electric Company, reiterated that electric is the future of manufacturing. In fact, the Que- bec-based company launched the first large all-electric school bus in 2016 and currently has over 200 in service across North America. Lee said that zero emissions at the

tailpipe of EVs help children’s health by lowering the chances of cancer, reduc- ing cases of asthma and improving child lung development. Electric school buses also feature a quieter school bus ride and less noise pollution. Lee added that one all-electric school bus removes the emis- sions of five cars from the air.


Meanwhile, the Kansas Department of

Education released its 49th annual Na- tional School Bus Loading and Unloading Survey for the 2018-2019 school year. Nationally, seven of the eight students who died, were struck and killed by a motorist who illegally passed the school bus with its red lights flashing and/or stop arm deployed.

Bruce Landsberg, vice chairman of the

U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, estimated that 83,944 illegal passing vio- lations occur every day. That total breaks down to about 21,000 every hour and 87 violations every minute that school buses are operating across the U.S.

Ken Hedgecock, Thomas Built Buses vice president of sales, marketing and service, predicted at the NASDPTS conference that half of all school buses sold in the next nine years will be powered by electricity. Hedgecock retires on Dec. 31 after more than 40 years with the school bus OEM.

Many states are taking measures to

combat this issue, but some state direc- tors in the audience said those efforts aren’t working. Kansas is looking to install stop-arm cameras, which have proven to be very productive so far in Maryland. A Maryland attendee said the state had issued 112,000 tickets to date and had seen only a 6 percent rate of repeat offender violations. Several states have policies for school

bus drivers to report illegal passing in- cidents. But once they are turned over to law enforcement, the state directors asserted that often nothing happens. In Colorado, for example, school bus

drivers can fill out an online form after they witness a motorist illegally passing their school bus. The form is then auto- matically sent to the local law enforce- ment agency, which in turn issues a citation. Oregon forwards a similar form to local police.

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