Oh, School Bus…How Do We Love Thee?

In 1850, Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote Sonnet #43, which we know today by its endearing opening line: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”  

As we exit February and move past America’s Valentines’ Day, I thought it would be appropriate to think about the many ways we love the school bus.

It was 2006 when the three national school transportation associations partnered with the three principal school bus manufacturers to form the American School Bus Council (ASBC). The basic purpose of the ASBC was to advance the safety of the yellow school bus and encourage increased ridership because school buses are safer for our children.

One of the very first initiatives that ASBC launched was the “Love the Bus” program, which continues in many forms through today.  Your operation may have held “Love the Bus” events or activities over the course of this past month.

We can answer the question, “Oh School Bus, How Do We Love Thee?” in many ways.  Here are just a few for your thoughts:

We really love that morning ride when the kids are waiting by the side of the road eager to board the bus and get to school to learn and to have fun with their friends.  What a great mission for us to start the day!


 We really love that school bus driver who brings a smile to the face of a child by remembering her birthday or the driver who comforts a child in need.


 We love that just about every night on our evening news, scenes from our hometown feature those familiar yellow school buses traversing city streets and town highways as a backdrop for the news stories.


And we love that each morning, so many weather-persons intone “it’s pretty cold at the bus stop this morning, so bundle up the kids!”  How great is that?


 We love that we are part of a legacy that was begun in 1939 when, at the initiative of New Yorker Frank W. Cyr, some very smart people gathered for the first time to decide on school bus guidelines and determined that for visibility and safety purposes, all school buses would be National Chrome Yellow.


 We love that, for 25 years, kids have learned about life and science and history through the animated and entertaining “MAGIC SCHOOL BUS” television show and book series. That’s just cool.


 We love that bus drivers know and care enough to report to their supervisors when they see signs of abuse in the eyes of a young child who is afraid to leave the bus.  Those drivers are showing a special kind of love for those students.


 We really do love the fact that the school bus enables children who are differently abled get to their schools and to special programs they need to advance their own educations. 


And how can we not love a vehicle that saves our nation millions of gallons of fossil fuels and helps to keep our environment clean by keeping thousands of cars off our roads each morning and afternoon?


 We love that the yellow school bus makes it possible for kids in our inner cities to get to school safely as well as our kids in distant and rural areas to get to school safely as well.


 Everybody loves a school bus that is bright and shiny and showing off its Chrome Yellow color that keeps kids safe.


 And there are those lights that we love — flashing yellow or red, that let other motorists know a school bus is coming to a stop and that children will be moving about as they load or depart the bus. Can’t not see those lights! 


Speaking of that equipment, how much do we love those technicians and service personnel who keep the school bus road-worthy, in tip-top condition and clean and shiny for the children? 


 One has to love a school bus industry that is finding new ways to power school buses with electricity and to even turn back some of that generated electricity to public and private power grids.


 And it is also something to love our school bus manufacturers for finding ways over the years to clean up the emissions from diesel school buses, making them remarkably cleaner than ever before.


And don’t we all love the scene when a school bus pulls to a stop and a half dozen children bound down the stairs and are greeted by their parents or grandparents and are all happy to be home safely?

The American school bus, in all its yellow splendor, is truly an icon.  There is so much to love about the bus itself and so much to love about the people who make it run safely and efficiently.  And, of course, we hold a special love for the 25 million children who ride our yellow buses each and every day.

As we all work through the obstacles of weather and traffic and staffing shortages and COVID precautions, let’s take a moment or two to share our love for the school bus with the public and with our school colleagues.

Peter Mannella (pfman5@gmail.com) is chair of the NAPT Public Policy Committee.