The American School Bus Council today asked members of the school transportation industry to contact their federal representatives asking them to support a two-year, $5 million federal initiative to increase school bus ridership through a public education campaign.
In December, NASDPTS Executive Director Bob Riley and NASDPTS President Charlie Hood joined Becky Weber of the lobbyist Prime Policy Group in meeting with U.S. House and Senate members in an attempt to garner support of promoting the safety, environmental, economic, energy and academic benefits of the yellow school bus. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) responded by drafting a “Dear Colleague” letter and forwarding it to fellow members of Congress that asks Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to use discretionary U.S. Department of Transportation funds to promote the benefits of school buses.
The letter to LaHood highlights the safety record of the yellow school bus in transporting half of the nation’s school children, namely that 20 fatalities occur each year with the school bus, mostly outside during loading and unloading, compared to 800 student fatalities that occur each year in other passenger vehicles. School buses are 44 times safer for children then riding to and from school in a vehicle driven by a teen. Increasing the safety of teen driving, particularly in regard to the texting phenomenon, has been a major objective of the U.S. DOT over the past year.
The awareness campaign also focuses on energy savings. The letter writes that the typical school bus replaces an average of 36 cars on the road that would each travel about 3,600 miles per year transporting children to and from school. This could remove 17.3 million cars off roads surrounding schools each morning and afternoon. At this rate, 4,800 gallons of fuel per bus and an annual national savings of 2.3 billion gallons of fuel could be saved. The letter points out that new EPA diesel engine standards make today’s buses 98 percent cleaner than buses manufactured two decades ago, and thousands of older buses nationwide have been modified with high tech filters and catalysts to reduce emissions by up to 90 percent, producing $13 in health benefits for every dollar in cost.
While no supporting figures are given, the letter also states that increased school bus ridership can create jobs.
Prime Policy Group requested that all ASBC members and others affiliated with the school transportation industry contact their own congressional representatives as soon as possible and ask him or her to sign the letter from Congress addressed to LaHood.