California postpones restraint requirement
SACRAMENTO - The implementation of a California law that requires school buses manufactured after Jan. 1, 2002, to be equipped with pelvic-upper torso restraint systems has been postponed. On Oct. 5, California Gov. Gray Davis signed Senate Bill 568, a measure that delays implementation of the law until mid-2004 for small buses (capacity of 16 or fewer) and mid-2005 for larger buses. SB 568 was sponsored by the California Association of School Transportation Officials (CASTO), which applauded the decision by state lawmakers. “We’re pleased,” said Doug Snyder, a former CASTO president and director of transportation services at Kern County Superintendent of Schools in Bakersfield, Calif. “We sponsored the legislation because most school bus manufacturers could not meet the Jan. 1, 2002, implementation date.” That complication, Snyder said, could have impeded school districts and contractors from purchasing or leasing new buses. “We did not want to find ourselves in that situation,” he said. State lawmakers are content to wait until the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) completes its long-awaited study of occupant protection on school buses, due later this year or early next year. NHTSA is studying several possible modifications to school buses, including the addition of lap-shoulder restraint systems, arm rests and padded walls and ceilings. The study, which was announced in October 1998, was scheduled to be completed in July 2000. NHTSA officials say the delay is partially due to difficulties in obtaining restraint systems for testing. Snyder said the new implementation dates, in 2004 and 2005, “will allow NHTSA and school bus manufacturers ample time to develop, test, construct and install these new seating systems on school buses sold or leased here in California.”
Contractor fleet responds to Sept. 11 attacks in NYC
NEW YORK - Charles Butera, general manager of Atlantic Express’ Amboy division in New York City, had his work cut out for him on Sept. 11, when the attacks on the World Trade Center struck so close to home. On that morning, most of the routes had been completed and the school buses had cleared what was to become ground zero. Four of Butera’s vehicles, however, became trapped in the frozen zone, and one bus doing runs for a private adult school was trapped in the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. None of the vehicles was damaged, but the occupants of the bus trapped in the tunnel were forced to exit the vehicle and walk to safety. The New York City Board of Education, says Butera, kept everyone on schedule, closing only those schools affected in Manhattan. Drivers remained on call to transport children in and out of Manhattan. “At the end of the day, we picked up all of the children in the rest of the boroughs. We had four to six buses in upper Manhattan and delivered the children home from those schools,” said Butera. “The other children in the lower part of Manhattan were taken home by parents or public transportation, depending on their age.” Butera designed special routes outside of Manhattan to bring children back into the city. These students, who attended schools outside of Manhattan, were kept in school until later that night, when a convoy of buses transported them into the city under police and Board of Education escort. “The convoy started around 8:30 and we got the last child home around 9:30 or 10:00,” said Butera. By early October, the transportation schedule was getting back to normal, with the exception of service to lower Manhattan, Butera said. Atlantic Express’ contracts include seven general-education routes and two special-education routes below Canal Street, where some areas were still unaccessible. “What we’ve done with the Board of Education is set up alternate stops where we pick up these children and take them to school,” Butera explained. Shuttles have also been set up to transport children from schools that are not yet open in the area to those that are. Butera says that buses are experiencing delays due to traffic congestion coming into the city via different routes. But Butera has made route alterations to accommodate the increased traffic and drivers are taking the delays in stride. “We’ve started our drivers out much earlier in the morning, plus [they] take different routes,” said Butera.
Driver suspended for displaying U.S. flag in bus' side window
GRESHAM, Ore. - Paul Heeley, a school bus driver for First Student Inc., was suspended for a day for displaying an American flag on a school bus, an action that directly violates state regulations. Heeley taped the flag to a side window and then confronted his manager when he saw that it was removed from the school bus. Oregon state law prohibits school districts from pinning flags, ribbons and signs to school buses because they pose a potential safety risk to students. According to the Portland Oregonian, Heeley vented his anger over the suspension to another bus driver, who was also punished, although not formally suspended, for not removing a flag from his bus. “I want to show support for my country,” Heeley told reporters. “I’d hate to have lost my job for something as petty as this, but this is what I believe in.”
Question of the Month
What is the most unreasonable parent request you received last year and how did you deal with it? From the Forum at schoolbusfleet.com Please babysit my children until I get home from work
I think the most unreasonable request for me was when a mother asked me to take her child to my house until she got off work, so he wouldn’t be alone - the child was 12 years old and quite a menace. I told her that I had to go out of town and wasn’t going home that afternoon. She got mad and told me I had a responsibility to the students on my bus to ensure that they were safe and that a parent was home when I dropped them off. I told her politely that my job as a driver did require me to make sure her child was safe while on my bus. And if a child is pre-K, I would have to make sure a parent was present before dropping that student off. If the child isn’t pre-K, I take him/her back to school to wait for a parent. If one has not picked up that child by 5 p.m., the student is taken to the local police force until a parent arrives. I assume that, if it comes to that, there will be legal matters involved. After hearing this explanation, the mother left my bus door in a huff.
Lauria Freeman, Driver/Trainer
Cook County Board of Education
Adel, Ga. Assign my daughter her own bus stop
The most unreasonable request I have heard was a mother wanting three other students at her daughter’s bus stop to use another stop, even though they were not doing anything wrong. The stop had been set up specifically for her daughter for special-education purposes, but it was closer to the other students than their stop had been the previous year. Her daughter did not use any special equipment to get on the bus; she boarded like all of the other students. There was no good reason the other students couldn’t use the stop, but the mother insisted that it was her daughter’s private stop. The mother was told that there was no reason they should be moved to another stop. I directed the matter to the bus company, and they addressed the concerned mother. Any further matters would have been directed to school administration.
Liza Leonard, Driver/Trainer
First Student Inc.
Grand Ridge, Ill. Wait for my son at the curb
When I got my route back in January, I was familiar with the roads, but not the kids. About the third or fourth day, on my way out of a subdivision, a dad was waiting for me on the side of the road with his son. When I stopped to let the child on, the dad asked me why I had passed them up for three days in a row. I asked him whether his son had been out at the end of his driveway. He said that his son was only 7 years old. I pointed out that the rules say that students should be at their stop five to six minutes before I arrive. I was nice, but pointed out that I was new on the route, and was unfamiliar with the stops and that our route sheets are often obsolete because of students moving in and out. I said that I was sorry and I would stop there the next morning. When I stopped the next day, the dad waved me on because his son was not going to ride.
Brian D. Lovall, Driver
Hall County (Ga.) Schools
Detroit's high inspection failure rate blamed on large number of older buses
DETROIT - Two hundred thirty-nine of Detroit Public Schools’ 311 buses failed state inspections, which were conducted in April, May and June. According to wire service reports, 203 of the buses were red-tagged for safety deficiencies and taken off the road. Thirty-six others with less serious problems were yellow-tagged and allowed to continue operating. Dale Goby, executive director of student transportation for Detroit Public Schools, said that the inspection results are a little misleading because they do not cover 206 school buses that were purchased by the district this year. Still, he said the high failure rate was not surprising because many of the buses inspected were at least 16 or 17 years old. “What happened is that the new buses were not counted in the inspections, so the results don’t look favorable. However, next year’s inspection will be the one where the proof will really come to the forefront,” he said. With help from nine private contractors and an influx of new buses, the district was able to compensate for the bus shortage without much trouble. Additionally, because the inspections were completed between the end of the school year and the start of summer school, there was enough time to do a considerable number of repairs. “It wasn’t like this all happened immediately,” said Goby. “It was a bit of a hassle, but that is what inspections will do to you when you have an extremely old fleet. It was very hectic in terms of our own operation internally, but it was relatively seamless on the part of our customers.” Meanwhile, of Michigan’s 18,500 school buses inspected from Aug. 31, 2000, through Sept. 1, 2001, 83 percent passed. Michigan State Police officials said approximately 83 percent of the state’s school buses passed last year also.
International relocates HQ
WARRENVILLE, Ill. - International Truck and Engine Corp. has relocated its headquarters from Chicago and surrounding suburbs to Warrenville, a western suburb of the city. The new 250,000-square-foot building is part of a 26-acre site in a development park called Cantera. It houses all corporate, vehicle centers, parts, service, warranties and information technology functions of the company. Groundbreaking for the facility took place in March 1999. The company completed the move of 1,250 employees by October 2001. Correspondence should be sent to P.O. Box 1488, Warrenville, IL 60555. Anyone wishing to reach International’s Bus Vehicle Center by e-mail can send one through the Website at internationaldelivers.com
Retrospective: 25 years ago in SCHOOL BUS FLEET
Without doubt, the school transportation industry has evolved tremendously in the past 25 years. But in many ways, it’s still confronting many of the same issues. We thought it would be interesting for our readers to see what types of stories ran in our Oct/Nov 1976 issue. Following is a quick look at the content and cover. Bus Rider Supervision - A Major Responsibility: Learning to be firm but reasonable is no easy task. Understanding the principles of pupil psychology enables a driver to avoid trouble before it begins. Taking a Sound Approach to Transportation Safety: A suggestion for reducing accidents outside the school bus. New, highly effective sound systems offer increased protection for the students. NAPT Meets in St. Louis: More exhibits, special education sessions highlighted. National Association for Pupil Transportation meets November 14-18 at Stouffer’s Riverfront Towers. Fuel Conditioner Update Shows Successful Results: Operators report fuel savings and extended engine life. Chestnut Hill Bus Company’s fleet of 200 buses enjoys fuel savings and increased engine life after using Upgrade and The Improver, gasoline and diesel fuel conditioners. School Buses for Aiding Public Transit Service?: Minnesota study suggests pupil movers could be people movers in fuel emergency. Proper Lubrication for School Bus Fleets: An expert offers some tips designed to spare you costly problems, including steps to help avoid under- and over-lubrication. Wheelchair Lifts and Steps: Urban Transportation Development Corp. designed lift to be manufactured in U.S. by Sheller-Globe. New bus entrance functions interchangeably as a wheelchair lift and as conventional step access. School Buses NSC Topic: The 63rd annual National Safety Congress and Exposition sponsored by the National Safety Council held Oct. 18-21 in Chicago.
A Great Fleet by any other name...
Due to an editing error, the Taylor Independent School District was misidentified in our Great Fleets issue (Oct. 2001). Here’s the way the profile should have run.
Taylor Independent School District Taylor, Texas - Building a transportation program from the remains of a contractor-provided service was the challenge that Taylor Independent School District faced in May 2000, when the school board decided to end its contract with Durham Transportation. Jim Brogan, a former Durham site supervisor, agreed to take up the challenge as the district’s transportation director, but admits that it hasn’t been easy. “We basically had to start from scratch,” he says. “And morale wasn’t too good at the end of that school year.” Now, with a full school year under its belt, the district’s transportation program is beginning to click. “The first thing we had to do was build morale,” Brogan says, explaining that approximately 95 percent of the staff was absorbed from Durham. “We did everything we could to make the transition as easy as possible.” They must have done something right. Over the summer, the district lost only two of its 33 drivers. “There is no better place to work,” says Elaine Roberts, operations clerk and driver trainer. “Mr. Brogan has pulled this district up by its boot straps.” Determination was the key factor. Although Brogan adopted many of Durham’s training practices and operational procedures, he wanted to implement a program that was tailored to Taylor’s specific needs. “We picked a direction and a goal and started working toward that,” he says. “We want to create the safest and most efficient model in the state of Texas.” The driver training program is an example of a Durham model that is being modified to suit Taylor’s needs. Last summer, Brogan sent Roberts to a train-the-trainer program offered by the Texas Engineering Extension class at Texas A&M. She is using her training to “tweak” the existing training system, including the addition of a mentor program that pairs an experienced driver with a trainee for 90 days. The transportation program is a work-in-progress, Brogan concedes. For example, the bus garage is still addressing glitches that have made it difficult to implement a computerized preventive maintenance program. But, overall, the department’s performance has justified the board’s decision. “We’ve pretty much alleviated any fears they had,” Brogan says.
Driver fired for DUI, blames NyQuil
CARMEL, Ind. - A bus driver for Carmel Clay Schools was fired after registering between 0.07 and 0.08 on a breathalyzer test administered before her afternoon route. By Indiana state law, a driver is considered legally drunk with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher. The driver claims that the BAC was skewed because she took a dose of NyQuil before coming to work. Though the results of a urinalysis are still pending, the district terminated her for having exercised poor judgement in taking risky medication before driving. “To the best of my knowledge, she is not appealing the decision,” said Ron Farrand, director of facilities and transportation for the district. The labels on bottles of NyQuil and similar medications warn against operating heavy machinery after taking the medicine, which contains alcohol. “What heavier machine, what more precious cargo could you have than a school bus full of children?” noted Darcy Hopko, Carmel’s assistant superintendent for human resources. An Indiana University toxicology professor stated that the amount of NyQuil it would take to cause a blood-alcohol level that high would likely induce sleep and/or damage to the body’s organs before a person could even attempt to get behind the wheel. The driver had been with the district since February and had a clean driving record. The incident that resulted in her termination was brought to the district’s attention by an anonymous caller who claimed the driver was too impaired to begin her afternoon route. Nonetheless, Farrand says that the district will not change its drug and alcohol testing procedures based on this incident. “There aren’t too many different things we can do at this stage other than what we already do - short of testing everyone every day,” he said. “And that’s not quite feasible.”