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January 01, 2007  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Great Fleets Across America 2007

To further recognize the invaluable service provided by the nation’s pupil transportation programs, we present the seventh installment of our “Great Fleets” series. Find out how this year’s 10 outstanding operations have raised the bar in safety, efficiency, maintenance and other areas.


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The transportation team at Jefferson County Public Schools works hard to keep more than 1,000 buses running a total of 86,000 miles per day.

 

Reliable Service — Rain or Shine

Jefferson County Public Schools
Louisville, Ky.

Many think of Kentucky as a little bit of heaven on earth. Yet those driving buses for Jefferson County Public Schools know there are times when the conditions don’t quite seem divine.

“Temperatures range from 100 to zero,” says Rick Caple, director of transportation. “We get 45 inches of rain and average 15 inches of snow per year. We get a lot of ice and snow combinations and some closed streets due to high water.”

The service area ranges from metro to rural, and geography consists mainly of rolling hills with some steep areas.

Fortunately, regardless of the weather — or traffic level — driver vigilance makes a crucial difference in safety. New drivers get 70 hours of training before they start transporting students. Because of this vigilance, only one out of four bus incidents are blamed on the bus drivers.

The district’s buses put in 86,000 miles and 47,000 stops a day. Those numbers show why they have an accident review board that considers each driver error incidence. Drivers may be dismissed if student injury results or if they begin building up a history of minor accidents.

Caple has 15 years of experience in school transportation, with 10 of those for Jefferson County, and he is a past president of the Kentucky Association for Pupil Transportation. He has earned considerable praise for his dedication to the job, as district Superintendent Stephen Daeschner points out: “When it comes to transportation, I absolutely depend on Rick Caple.”

But Caple himself will tell you that credit should go to the drivers and the maintenance staff. For instance, he says that Ike Pinkston, who is director of vehicle maintenance and has 23 years of hands-on experience, has been instrumental in extending the life of the department’s buses, which are replaced on a 15-year schedule. “Ninety percent make that schedule,” Caple says.

High morale among employees helps keep the buses running. “Some drivers have been driving for 50 years,” Caple says. Each of the district’s 13 bus compounds hosts a Thanksgiving feast and a Christmas party for all members of that compound. Other morale boosters include excellent pay rates, benefits, working conditions and training.

Additionally, drivers enjoy and do well in bus roadeo competitions. “Twice in the last three years, Jefferson County drivers have won the Kentucky State Roadeo,” Caple says.

The department’s challenges include transporting 3- and 4-year-olds on a daily basis and supplying air conditioning for buses carrying special-needs students. “We work really hard to meet all challenges,” Caple says. “We spend a lot of time with communities and parents, making sure we are meeting their transportation needs.”

Raising money for a local charity plays a role in parent satisfaction, especially when considering that in the past 15 years, the district’s transportation department has raised and donated $500,000 into the community.

Thanks to those involved in transporting students, no matter the weather, Jefferson County is indeed a little bit of heaven on earth.

— LYNN TILTON

Fleet Facts
Buses: 1,051
Students transported daily: 60,000
Schools served: 152
Total students in district: 98,000
Transportation staff: 1,100
Area of service: 367 square miles
Average driver wage: $17.50/hour


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