Q&A: Jonathan Bentley, Pupil Transportation Safety Institute

For this in-depth Q&A, School BUSRide spoke with Jonathan Bentley, director of the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute (PTSI), a leading provider of resources and training for school bus drivers in support of their goal of the safe, efficient transportation of children.

To learn more about the PTSI and its programs, please visit https://ptsi.org/.

Please introduce yourself and your history in pupil transportation.

I have over 15 years of business management experience. My background in the transportation and education industry is small compared to the school transportation leaders that I work with. The board and development team at PTSI has more than 200 years of combined transportation and education experience.

The Board of Directors are charting a new path for PTSI by bringing me on board. They wanted someone with the business acumen to lead PTSI in the face of current trends in transportation which show strong business oversight in the industry.  As a business leader, I lean on the transportation expertise that we already have on staff. Still with us, Kathy Furneaux, whom many are familiar with, has been a great mentor and serves as our Training and Consultation Manager, leading our development team.

In addition to the support of my staff, I have our Board of Directors who are all specialists with knowledge and expertise in the industry. My knowledge and expertise in management, my ability to apply my skillset to the wide array of services provided by PTSI, combined with the knowledge of our industry leaders that we have on staff, is a great mix to lead PTSI.

What are your roles and responsibilities at PTSI?

First and foremost it is my role to hire the best experts in the transportation industry, give them the necessary tools they need to create excellent training materials to meet the needs of our industry. We have a multitude of New York State contracts, as well as contracts and agreements across the country. My primary role, assisted by the staff, is making sure that we cover all aspects of the pupil transportation industry, identifying business opportunities to serve the transportation industry and ensuring that, we offer curriculum, materials, and training opportunities that meet the DMV and State Education Department guidelines and regulations across the nation. It is my role to ensure that we stay in the forefront of the new trends in the industry, such as electrification of the fleets, and working with state government leaders regarding new laws and regulations where we have agreements. I am tracking it all from a 40,000-foot level to maintain PTSI as an industry leader. 

Please describe the mission of PTSI.

Our mission is to be the world provider of resources to organizations in support of the safe and efficient transportation of passengers and students for schools. Ensuring the safest possible transportation for students to and from school, as well as passengers, anyone riding a bus, a city bus, or the school bus. Providing training, information, and guidance to drivers, dispatchers, and everyone involved in that transportation field.

What is involved in the institute’s myriad courses and training?

Here in New York State, we have a set of regulations known as Article 19A, promulgated by the Department of Motor Vehicles. These regulations provide for a certification titled 19A Certified Examiner. PTSI has created and maintains courses for people to become certified and then refresher courses to maintain their certification every 3 years.

We also offer a course related to the New York State Education Department certification to become a School Bus Driver Instructor (SBDI). 

In addition, we have several contracts and agreements to provide training materials and programs across the country.

We also offer federal driving courses, such as the FMCSA Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT Class B Theory. We offer that curriculum online and it is available in many states.

How can NAPT members become more involved?

Reach out to us, we are open to working with NAPT and their members. We have a link on our website. You can write in and ask questions right there. It comes through to our staff and then we follow up with an answer for curriculum, training, or service questions. We also do consultation work. Some schools have issues with a new direction, or they need better record keeping, more effective child safety, so we make sure they have access to that guidance and those services.

We have a network of consultants focused on the common goal of safety for children riding buses to and from school. Just ask any question and we are there to help.

What is PTSI doing to combat human trafficking?

We partner with Buses on the Lookout (BOTL). We want to share information and guidance to keep schools aware that there are bad people out there unfortunately. The school bus drivers are a first point of contact with students before getting on or off the bus, so it offers a great opportunity for those drivers to see something and say something if they recognize an unsafe situation. It must be at the front of our minds. When they get behind that wheel, using heightened awareness of anything unusual to help protect children. PTSI is proud to be part of that initiative. 

What advice can you offer NAPT as an organization to help your mission?

You help us, we help you. We would love to know how we can better assist and serve NAPT members. What is it that PTSI can do to move and shape NAPT’s mission? How can we help them produce and meet their goals?

We all have the common goal of keeping children safe across the country and better equipped school districts to provide future generations of children with the safest possible transportation. It is a huge goal that we are all passionate about. I have two daughters, and a son, and they ride the bus. I take it to heart. I may not have the transportation experience that some people have, but my heart is in it, and I am strongly motivated to learn all I can, while sharing all I know. Speaking as the director for PTSI, and as a parent, my goal is to assist and partner with NAPT in any way we can, to ensure our common goals are reached.