Aren’t we excited about the upcoming Summer Olympic Games? Sure, we see many of the same things every time there is an Olympic event – we see amazing feats of athleticism, bitter disappointments, and there is always that one underdog we all cheer. Still, the Olympics always feel new, fresh, and exciting.
Here at Hoglund Transportation, we get the same feeling about our own version of the the Summer Games.
Don’t get me wrong: there is very little about what we do that we take as lightly as a “game” and we don’t joke about student safety. While keeping safety and efficiency uppermost in our minds, we think it’s important to approach our work with a spirit of excitement and fun in honor of the people we work hardest to protect: our students.
So it is during the summer that we renew our commitment to providing safe and efficient rides for all our students, clean and organize every space in our offices, develop new and better driver training tools, and generally plan the year to come. This year we’re making an extra effort to get things ready for the fall, and we’re doing it now, in June.
Here’s what’s happening:
- We have a new routing software upgrade that offers a better, digitalized map. Jami and I are taking the time to review EVERY SINGLE BUS STOP in our District, and configuring our map so we know we are meeting very specific needs. Some of the things the routing software can help us remember include medically required accommodations for our most vulnerable students, right-side (crossing) restrictions in those places where a student should never cross the road to board or deboard the bus, and how roads are configured in terms of passing and turning lanes, speed zones, and other specific information. Routing software is amazing and, when it is properly implemented, makes what we used to do painstakingly by hand so much more simple and so much more beautifully produced. Let me tell you, this is the most fun we’ve had in a few years!
- We have summer school routing to prepare and present to drivers. We should be finished with next week’s routing plan by Thursday, so parents can expect to get a call by 2 pm Thursday.
- We have Kindergarten students to plot and separate into AM and PM groups. It’s not as simple as it seems. We first plot every half-day Kindergartener on our map. Once they’re there, we color-code them so we can see what preferences their families have for AM or PM designation. Then we start playing the “what-if” game: “What if we drive this way? Can we meet every single request by a parent? If we can meet every single request, are there equal numbers of boys and girls in each division? Have we met the needs of the families with shared custody? Does this work for the greatest number of people? If it does, have we met every single safety criteria?” Surprisingly enough, once we hit on the right solutions for routing, it almost inevitably follows that we have met our safety criteria and we have divided the students the right way. It’s almost like magic when it works out that neatly and precisely accurate. Considering we cannot ask parents to produce their children in a geographically organized fashion, routing half-day Kindergarteners can be a challenge. It’s one we greatly enjoy!
- We have student records to update. We’ve been receiving updates from parents by the armful! We sure appreciate those who have sent them already. The sooner we know who is riding and where they are, the sooner we can finish routes for the 2012-2013 school year.
- We have routes to dissemble and reassemble. Did you know that it is a failure by a transportation organization to leave routes unchanged from year to year? The world changes every year – new vegetation appears or gets bigger, road configurations change, student populations age and new pockets of younger students appear. We need to look at every single thing we do every single year (in fact, multiple times during the year) to make sure we are creating the safest program we possibly can. The time to do that is not the middle of winter! It’s now.
- We have driver training programs and health initiatives we are planning. Basically, each year we offer a new health initiative aimed at having the most healthy drivers we can behind the wheels of our vehicles. THIS IS CRITICAL!!!! Healthy drivers who come to work every day are the greatest safety feature we can offer our students. We also present our drivers with the opportunity to accumulate a minimum of eight hours of safety training each school year. They need to spend only minutes each week on our safety site completing assigned tasks and another handful of minutes reading our weekly newsletter and completing an additional assigned task. They round out their safety training by attending safety and nutrition meetings (one of each every month), and participating in company functions. This year’s health initiatives include continuing our WALKER TRACKER PROGRAM and a new FRUIT AND VEGETABLE program. Should be a colorful year! Our safety focus this year will be HANDLING EMERGENCY SITUATIONS APPROPRIATELY (one of the six competencies the State of Minnesota requires school bus drivers to meet). It’s going to be a busy year for our drivers!
- We have completed organizing half of our storage areas in the office and will finish the second half by the end of the month. Organization is key to our business because of the number of things we offer our community. Knowing where everything is, having everything in its place, and using our space efficiently is part of what makes us best able to serve our customers.
- We have started a new business! After providing transportation in this community for sixty-five years (since 1947), we feel like the local transportation professionals. We expanded our offerings to include rentals cars two decades ago. This year, we’ve added a line of TAXIS, A+ Taxi of Monticello, Inc. This is not your average taxi service, my friends. This is a full service offering. We will unlock your vehicle when your keys are inside it or jump start it when it’s dead. We will deliver packages for you. We will help our elderly with groceries and medical appointments. Eventually, we plan to offer bilingual staff. This new endeavor has infused our staff with energy!