As the 16th National Congress on School Transportation (NCST) recently reached the milestone of being in existence for over 75 years, we look hack to the origins of pupil transportation. In the first document produced in 1939, the importance of pupil transportation was identified as follows:
“The safe and economical transportation of nearly 4,000,000 children to and from school every day of the school year is a matter of first importance to millions of parents and thousands of school board members in all parts of the nation. In 1938, [there were] 86,099 school buses in operation.”
Today, 76 years later, the pupil transportation industry is providing safe, effective, efficient and healthy transportation for more than 25 million school children who ride more than 480,000 school buses each day. In addition, millions of school children ride school buses to and from activities and field trips each year.
Pupil transportation services provide a great reduction in transportation costs, a great reduction in traffic congestion and pollution, and access to education for countless students. These services continue to provide the safest way to and from school.
The 2015 National Congress on School Transportation was the latest in a series beginning in 1939 and continuing in 1945, 1948, 1951, 1954,1959, 1964, 1970, 1980,1985,1990, 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010. All congresses (referred to as “conferences” before 2005) have been made up of official representatives of state departments of education, public safety, motor vehicles, and police or other state agencies having state-wide responsibilities for the administration of student transportation; local school district personnel; contract operators; advisors from industry and representatives from other interested professional organizations and groups. Each conference has resulted in one or more publications that contain the recommendations of the respective conference.
The recommendations of specifications and procedures for school buses and their operation has been a major purpose of all conferences. The 1939 Conference was called for this sole purpose and formulated a set of recommended standards for school buses of 20 or more passengers. The 1945 Conference revised the 1939 recommendations and added standards for small vehicles with capacities of 10 to 18 passengers. Both standards were further revised by the 1948 Conference. There were additional revisions in 1959, and the 1964 Conference added standards for school buses to be used in transporting students with disabilities. In addition to revising standards for larger vehicles, the 1970 Conference refined the standards for school buses designed to transport fewer than 24 passengers.
Other major issues in student transportation have received attention at these national conferences. On several occasions, recommendations concerned primarily with other vehicles overtaking and passing school buses were transmitted to the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances for consideration in connection with revisions of the Uniform Vehicle Code. The 1948 Conference made recommendations on uniform records and reports for student transportation. The major purpose of
the 1948 Conference was the formulation of recommendations related to standards and training programs for school bus drivers. These recommendations were revised by the 1959 Conference, and a new publication on the topic was issued. The 1954 Conference gave considerable time to the discussion of the extended use of school
buses in the school program. The 1970 Conference also adopted standards for school bus operation (issued in a separate report).
The 1980 Conference updated the standards for school bus chassis and bodies, rewrote the complete standards for the specially equipped school bus, and included definitions for Types A, B, C and D buses. One of the major tasks of the 1980 Conference was to revise the standards to remove any conflicts with superseding federal regulations, many of which were mandated by sections of the Motor Vehicle and School Bus Safety Amendments of 1974 (Public Law 93-492).