School BUSRide spoke with Lee Livingston, transportation director for Prince George County Public Schools in Prince George, Virginia. Livingston talked about his district’s most pressing challenges, his advice to other NAPT members, and how he views the organization’s strengths in 2023.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your district.
My name is Lee Livingston and I have been in the student transportation industry for 32 years. I am the director of Transportation here at Prince George County Public Schools and I have been with this district for about a year and a half. We have a total enrollment of about 6,200 students. Our daily average ridership is about 5,000, with about 73 bus runs and of course that fluctuates depending on what special needs is calling for. Even the special needs runs are a double-tiered run. We run a two-tier system here.
One hundred percent of our students are eligible for transportation because of the rural area that we live in and the location of the schools. Other than by bus, there is no safe way for the students to get to school.
What is the most pressing challenge for your district’s transportation department and how are you seeking to solve this challenge?
Keeping enough drivers in the seats, which I’m sure you probably hear from just about anybody you talk to. We have done very well with keeping up with our salary increases and incentives for our drivers, attendance incentives, safe driving incentives. We currently do not offer any sign-on bonuses for employees, although we do offer incentives for our current employees who would recommend a prospective employee.
As a seasoned professional, what advice can you offer other NAPT members?
I feel that being an active member of NAPT benefits anybody, but from a collaborative point of view and professional development, my advice to anybody in the student transportation industry, not just directors or supervisors, but down to your driver trainers and even drivers – learn as much about the industry as you can. Take every opportunity you can to build your knowledge about your job or maybe another job in the industry that you might find interesting.
Personally, I like to promote folks that I supervise to get them interested in staying in the business. I think education is a good way of building an employee’s trust in not only the management but as well as the industry itself. Growing our younger employees, keeping them interested.
Industry-wide, a vast majority of the drivers want to come in, drive their morning route, go home, come back a bit later, drive their afternoon route and go home. Which is absolutely fine. We need those people. However, we also need people that start out driving a bus, move into being a trainer or a safety person, a dispatch person, and then later into an upper-level management position. I see that as an industry issue. Keeping folks that really know the industry, have experience sitting behind the wheel of a bus, in the upper-level management positions in the school districts or the companies that they work for, I think is very important to the success of the operation.
What can the NAPT organization do to best help you?
I think NAPT does an exceptional job, and I am excited with the new leadership of the organization and some of the vision that is coming forward. NAPT does a great job of providing collaborative abilities within the organization. I think this boils down to the current membership, but we could do a better job increasing the membership of NAPT and selling the brand. The more people we have, the more people we can lean on, I think it helps everybody in the organization.
And NAPT did an excellent job during the pandemic shutdown, keeping things together, making collaborative opportunities when we were basically locked down and had to stay at home. NAPT did an excellent job of providing those opportunities to the members. And going forward, I see nothing but positive traits, so I am excited about it.