Good morning, everyone. Thank you, Donnie [Fowler, president of NSTA], for that wonderful introduction and for your outstanding leadership at the National School Transportation Association. Thank you, everyone, for the warm welcome -- and the invitation to participate today. But thank you -- most of all -- for the essential service that you deliver in communities across the country. You're not just bringing passengers from one place to another. You're connecting America's children with all of the great opportunities that come from the chance to learn, grow, and succeed at school.
Earlier this year, the American School Bus Council invited me to Takoma Park Elementary School -- here in Maryland -- where I met with students, their parents, their teachers, and their bus drivers. Now, students sometimes ask me some interesting questions. Not long ago, I visited the classroom of a young educator from Teach for America -- and one of the kids asked if the secretary of transportation is the president's driver. But at this elementary in Takoma Park, the students' questions were spot-on.
One young person asked "Are buses really the safest way to get to school?" Another asked "How do you make sure the school buses are safe?" The answers, of course, are, "Yes, getting to school by big yellow bus is the single safest way for children to get to school. Bar none. Period." And "At the Department of Transportation, we make sure that each and every bus is equipped with stop signs and safety arms; with special seats and windows; with a protective steel structure; with an emergency exit; and, most importantly of all, with a well-trained driver."
But my message for you this morning is that we at the Department of Transportation understand the full spectrum of benefits your buses provide -- and we want to be your partners in spreading the gospel. We get it.
One -- School buses provide environmental benefits: New diesel engine standards make today's buses 98 percent cleaner than buses manufactured two decades ago. What's more, thousands of older buses have been modified with high tech filters and catalysts, which reduce their emissions by up to 90 percent.
Two -- Buses also provide congestion-relief benefits: They keep 17.2 million cars off the road each morning and afternoon. In fact, the average school bus replaces 36 cars that would each travel about 3600 miles per year. This translates into a savings of 4,800 gallons of gas, per bus, per year -- or an annual savings of 2.3 billion gallons of fuel.
And, three -- Most significantly, yellow school buses get young people to school on time so they can achieve more -- without regard to their parents' annual income. For many families, school buses are the only reliable way for children to get to and from the schoolhouse door. They are a great leveler in American society -- a touchstone of the idea that every boy and girl should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and become educated participants in our democracy.
So, for all these reasons, I want to express my gratitude -- and to offer our hand in collaboration. The work you do couldn't be more crucial. We're eager to roll up our sleeves with you -- and to work through the handful of regulatory issues you have before us. So, with that, we'll be happy to take your questions. Thank you all very much.