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September 25, 2012  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

State directors: Why we do it this way

State pupil transportation directors discuss their states’ school bus specs and procedures that stand out, from fluorescent driver seat belts to buffer zones at the back of the bus.

by Thomas McMahon - Also by this author


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Not just “red lights” in Iowa
One component in directing motorists to stop for school buses is wording on the back door. Iowa has a subtle but significant variation from many other states in that text.

Instead of “UNLAWFUL TO PASS WHEN RED LIGHTS FLASH,” the back door of Iowa school buses leaves out “RED” to read “UNLAWFUL TO PASS WHEN LIGHTS FLASH.”

State director Max Christensen explains the wording specification: “This is due to the fact that it is illegal to pass from behind when either our amber or red lights flash.”

Fla.’s drug testing contract
Since the federal Omnibus Transportation Employees Testing Act (OTETA) of 1991 required drug and alcohol testing of all commercial drivers, including school bus drivers, Florida has administered a state contract for that testing and related services.

State director Charlie Hood says that the contract “provides a turnkey means by which  local school districts and charter schools can comply with OTETA.”

The contract is now administered by the Florida Department of Transportation. It was previously administered by the state Department of Education.

Hood says that a third-party provider handles the many aspects of the program, which include generating lists of employees subject to immediate random testing, collecting samples, providing the medical review officer services, and performing the testing and custody of the samples.  

“It should be noted that this contract, while it is widely used by many of Florida’s school districts, is neither exclusive nor required,” Hood says. “Districts are free to use other providers, and some do.”

North Carolina prioritizes and funds thereplacement of school buses operated by public districts.
<p>North Carolina prioritizes and funds the<br />replacement of school buses operated by public districts.</p>

N.C.’s own routing software
North Carolina has a statewide license for school bus routing and scheduling software, which was established in the mid-1980s with funds from the state energy office because of the potential for fuel savings.

State director Derek Graham says that offices at the North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte provide support to the state’s school districts in their use of the software.

“School districts call our offices for assistance with optimization, mapping or general software support,” Graham explains. “This supports our state funding model, which rewards efficiency.”

More interesting practices in North Carolina: the state Division of Motor Vehicles trains and certifies all school bus drivers, so school districts don’t hire their own driver trainers. Also, the state prioritizes and funds the replacement of school buses operated by public districts.

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