Last week's NSTA annual Spring Meeting and the newly christened "Bus-In" that included members of the American School Bus Council allowed school bus contractor members to schedule more than 130 congressional meetings on Capitol Hill.
The Bus-In was organized by Prime Policy Group, NSTA's D.C. lobbying firm. The event included member committee meetings, a panel on the 2012 Presidential race, and a series of presentations from our country’s top transportation and environmental experts, including House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-FL).
"You are here this week to exercise your first amendment right," Prime Policy Group's Becky Weber told NSTA members at the start of the Bus-In on April 24. "This is one of the most important things you can do as an American citizen."
Other conversations centered on concerns about the FMCSA's desire to pass regulations that would require testing of commercial drivers for sleep apnea. Contractors are questioning if individual companies would be responsible for paying associated costs. Additionally, there were concerns expressed for any private school bus drivers who are diagnosed with sleep apnea and who lose their CDL priviledges until they receive treatment and are approved by certified medical examiners to return to work. John Benish, COO of Cook-Illinois Corp. in Chicago was in attendance and told School Transportation News that NSTA members questioned who would also shoulder the cost of related sleep apnea equipment for drivers, costs that can range into the thousands of dollars.
The group heard about the long-term vitality of Diesel Emissions Reduction Program, for which the EPA opened a RFP period last month for $20 million in national competition funds for 2012. The group also discussed the federal school bus fuel tax exemption and the need for Congress not to cut federal highway and transportation funding.
In other news, NASDPTS members used the visit as an opportunity to visit with representatives from TSA, which recently renamed the Corporate Security Review (CSR) program that evaluates the risk of transportation fleets to "HWY Base." The renamed program stands for Baseline Assessment and Security Enhancement, and TSA said it is reaching out to school bus stakeholders nationwide including private operators to help rewrite, refocus and refine the questions being asked by federal inspectors.