On Managing Transportation, Part 2

On Monday, I wrote about this month’s School Transportation News topics.  First, they highlight what challenges Transportation Directors face.  Second, they outline what makes a GREAT Transportation Director.

Monday’s article focused on the challenges.  Today’s post is about how they define a GREAT Transportation Director.  
Here at our company, there is not a single Transportation Director, but a Transportation Crew, including our Superintendent, Joe, Jami, me, and our support staffs.  For the record, I’m including how I think we’re doing at each point.  Feel free to add your comments! 🙂
GREAT Transportation Directors:
    1. Have great communication skills.
      Thumbs up.  We are able to communicate on many levels with many different groups of people, from the students and parents, to the tenth grade driver’s ed students, to our drivers.
    2. Have industry knowledge, studying regulations, best practices, district policies, and more, including knowing how to expertly do a wide range of tasks.
      Another thumbs up.  We work really hard to know the latest information.  Sometimes that information comes from YOU, our drivers and community. We work hard to do more than just maintain buses and plan routes, and  most often the expertise we use is found under our roof.
    3. Focus on safety.
      Thumbs up.  It’s the first thing that motivates every decision we make.
    4. Are dedicated.
      Yup, thumbs up!  We work long and hard hours when we must in order to get the best possible result for the most people.
    5. Have integration skills.
      I wouldn’t give this one a thumbs down, but I’m not going with a thumbs up either.  I think we have trouble during certain seasons creating a good balance between each of the various tasks we do (for example, August labor is highly dedicated exclusively to routing).  That’s why we took apart all the things we do this summer and redesigned how every aspect of our company is managed.  We won’t be able to fully assess the success of our redesign until next summer.  I have high hopes.
    6. Are flexible.
      Thumbs up for our relationship with the school district, staff, parents, and students.  Thumbs down for employee interaction, but I don’t see that changing.  I believe we need to spend more time explaining why we are saying “no” to certain requests or why we insist on certain behaviors, but a fair amount of inflexibility is required to maintain high levels of service.
    7. Focuses on students.
      Thumbs up.  Just remember that we focus on students in general, not specifically.  This is a mass transportation program, so we focus on what – collectively – is best for students.  That’s not the same as focusing individually.
    8. Pays attention to detail.
      Thumbs up.  Some might say obsessively so.  Still, I think we keep the big picture in view as well.
    9. Has problem-solving skills.
      Two thumbs up!  We have solved some humdingers!  And done it within twenty-four hours.  Trust me, there is never a dull moment.
    10. Has clarity.
      Thumbs up.  We focus first on our priorities:  SAFE, EFFICIENT, COST-EFFECTIVE transportation.  Then we strive for excellence.  Finally, we work hard to be kind and caring in our decision-making.
    11. Acts on feedback.
      Thumbs up.  We listen to people who offer feedback.  If it’s good, we share it with those affected.  If it’s bad, we investigate and come up with a solution (see #9).
    12. Is responsible.
      Thumbs up.  Each person listed by name has willing and loudly taken responsibility for mistakes and miscalculations.  What’s more, we take responsibility for the people who share our work with us.  When questioned about a driver’s behavior, my immediate response is first to apologize, and then to explain how we are going to address or fix the problem.
    13. Thinks ahead.
      Thumbs up!  I think most people get afraid when they hear me say, “I have an idea!”  We are always thinking about next week, next month, and next year.  People who visit our office at various times will see our poster boards where we keep notes about “WHAT CAN BE BETTER NEXT YEAR?”  We make new ones every year during the various routing processes, and we look at them before we start those jobs in the subsequent year.  It’s a good, if less than sophisticated, practice.
    14. Has a servant’s heart.
      Two thumbs up!!  We can offer many examples of pure and dedicated service.  But often acts of service are better left between the servant and the served.
    15. Keeps learning.
      Thumbs up.  There are times when I recognize the magnitude of what we do and that the actions we take today can result in the loss of a student’s life tomorrow.  That could be overwhelming.  Rather than wearing the responsibility as a burden, we focus on learning to be better every single day. 
    16. Has an eye for talent.
      Thumbs up.  We can find the right people.  You can tell by looking at the people in key positions in the office, shop, and behind the wheels of the various vehicles.
    17. Leads.
      Thumbs up.  “‘Leadership in this sense is a broad term to encompass integrity, commitment to your people and your mission, and the ability to know your stuff, your people, and yourself,’ says Grant Reppert of Gwinnett County Public Schools in Lawrenceville, Ga.  ‘This is why people are willing to trust and follow the direction and guidance you provide.'”
    18. Knows and uses the Three Cs:  Compassion to listen to others.
    19. Knows and uses the Three Cs:  Confidence to make tough decisions.
    20. Knows and uses the Three Cs:  Courage to stand alone behind the decisions.
      We listen, we make tough decisions, we stand behind them.  I’m not giving the thumbs up just yet.  
    21. Has heart.
      Thumbs up.  Our decisions affect people, and we need to think about the effects. 
    22. Has a thick skin.
      Two thumbs up!  We are cussed, ridiculed, belittled, and bullied.  And it doesn’t matter.  We believe in what we do, and we stand by it.  It helps that we stand as a team and not as a single person.  
    23. Delegates wisely.
      Thumbs up.  We are getting good at using the right person’s talents to achieve the right successes.  
    24. Uses negotiation skills.
      Thumbs up.  
    25. Is dependable.
      Thumbs up.  We have Joe available 24/7, in most cases.  We have checks and balances in place.  We have the right people in the right positions.  Those things create dependability.
    26. Is willing to get down in the trenches.
      Thumbs up.  We drive, ride, clean the toilets…  There is no job that we leave unfinished because of a job title or status.  
    27. Has business acumen.
      Thumbs up.  All of us have learned so much about business while going through some tough times!  And during those tough times, we’ve learned to trust and rely on each other and support staff.  So, our business will continue to grow and we will keep it healthy, even when it requires tough decision-making.
    28. Embraces challenges.
      Thumbs up.  We get overwhelmed, but we don’t stop working.  In fact, we laugh more the harder things get.  We’ve learned the best way to get through the toughest challenges is to share them with each other and look at the problem from more than one direction and with different sets of eyes and points of view.
    29. Thinks about the “Big Picture.”
      Thumbs up.  
    30. Is determined.
      Thumbs up.  We are determined to be prepared at all times for even the most unexpected events.  We are determined that our staff will be kind, caring, and excellent.  We are determined to get the job done every day.
    31. Networks.
      Thumbs up.  We belong to local networking organizations like the Monticello Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce.  We attend community events and relevant industry events.  We talk to people and listen to their stories.  
    32. Follows-up.
      Thumbs up.  We have a rule that emails and voice mails need to be answered within hours, and, for the most part, everyone follows the rule.
    33. Follows-through.
      Thumbs up.  We follow-through by communicating with drivers and letting parents know what’s going on.  Sometimes, our best-laid plans for some of the non-route training and scheduling go awry because we are so very short-staffed.  We’re working on a plan designed to keep our training schedule on schedule.  
    34. Is accessible.
      Thumbs up, most of the time.  We try to always have at least one person available to both employees and customers, but it’s a bigger challenge in late August and early September.  
    35. Gets the facts.
      I think we are better at fact-collecting than ever before, and I’m tempted to give us the thumbs up.  I think we could be better at making sure we get the facts from all sides of an issue before reacting.  I’m glad this was part of the list; it gives us a new goal!
    36. Is organized.
      Thumbs up!  Says Colleen Murphy (in STN), “Everything has its place, and either at the beginning or end of each day… you need to straighten up the piles and put what you can away.  We deal with so many items that are time- and safety-sensitive that not keeping good records will destroy your entire operation.”  And, that, my friends, is why we have developed our Very Important Paper Box, which is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we did to reorganize our company this summer.
    37. Empowers employees.
      Thumbs almost up.  I would have thought we had this one nailed, until an incident occurred on a bus that scared another employee who was riding along.  Had I been riding and a driver made an error that was a near-miss, I would have removed him from the seat, and driven the bus myself.  Every professional driver here should feel the same way.  It’s about our students’ safety and not at all about whose toes get trampled.  We’re going to work on this.
    38. Has a calm demeanor.
      Thumbs down overall.  We tend to get excited, and there is always the buzz of excited energy traveling the corridors of this building.  I think, though, that most often in serious circumstances we have more than a calm demeanor.  We have an innate sense of confidence in what we do that lends itself to professionally handling tense or emergency situations.  We’re going to work on this one too.
    39. Is patient.
      For everyone, that’s a big thumbs up.  For me, it’s a big thumbs down.  I really admire patience in people since it’s a quality I rarely bring forth.  
    40. Is fair.
      Two thumbs up!  We work really hard to be consistent and in most cases are successful.  We aren’t perfect, and our decisions are subject to approval from a variety of sources, but we do try to always err on the side of consistency.
    41. Gives credit.
      Thumbs up.
    42. Is decisive.
      Thumbs up.  Says Michael Dallessandro of Niagara Wheatfield CSD in Niagra Falls, NY, “Often a decision has to be made, and there is not much time to do it since our buses are often ‘moving’ while they are awaiting an answer.”
    43. Is visible.
      Thumbs up.  You see us throughout the day, at the various school sites, and – sometimes – on the streets observing.  
    44. Is creative.
      Thumbs up.  We do really cool and creative stuff to make things work for people.  
    45. Is consistent.
      Thumbs up up up!  See #40.
    46. Is positive.
      Thumbs up, most of the time.  We need a plan to keep things positive when we’re feeling the burden of the workload.  We have some ideas to put into play next year…
    47. Has a sense of direction.
      Thumbs up.  We know where things are and know where to look when we don’t.  And we don’t just trust a map to tell us where things are;  we go look.
    48. Is honest.
      Thumbs up.  We’ve shared hard things with our employees and our school administration.  It’s always been the right choice to be forthright.  
    49. Has high ethical standards.
      Thumbs up.  We work really hard to do the right things all the time for the most people, and we never try to circumvent a regulation, law, rule, or policy.  And we have earned trust and respect for those efforts.  We will maintain high ethical standards as long as we stay in business.
    50. Is involved in the community.
      We try to do as much as we can for kids.  Through our membership in the Chamber of Commerce, we plan to participate in more events we didn’t even know about prior to joining (what a great resource!).  We’re looking forward to those new and exciting events in our very own community. 

After this article posts, bus drivers will have an assignment to read and comment on the article.  We won’t hide any posts, so check back to see what the people who work here think about the article and our self-assessment.

    Safe driving!

    0 thoughts on “On Managing Transportation, Part 2”

    1. very interesting to hear about our teams responsibility. sounds kind of overwhelming but you all do a good job thanks for all your hard work.

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