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August 04, 2011  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Time to Update Your Route Hazards Inventory?

As evidenced by the infamous Fox River Grove crash, documenting school bus route hazards is critical. Detailed, accurate route descriptions are essential, and drivers must be involved in the documenting process.

by Derek Graham


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In the 1995 Fox River Grove accident, the back of the school bus extended into the path of a trainwhile the bus waited at a traffi c signal. The diagram is from an NTSB report on the deadly crash.
<p>In the 1995 Fox River Grove accident, the back of the school bus extended into the path of a train<br />while the bus waited at a traffi c signal. The diagram is from an NTSB report on the deadly crash.</p>

Loading the data
Software can significantly help providers to manage their route hazard inventory and pass along relevant cautions to drivers. But there is still the task of gathering that inventory to start with.

There is no doubt that drivers are the front line. They need to understand the importance of documenting hazardous situations, and they must be included in the process.

Kyle Martin of consulting group TransPar reported an experience in creating an initial (paper) map in the driver’s room so that drivers could identify blind corners, railroad crossings, etc.

“The result was heightened safety awareness,” Martin says. “Every driver felt obligated to share as much information as possible. I believe the activity is probably more valuable than the final product.”

A call for renewed attention
It’s been nearly 16 years since the Fox River Grove crash. Is that too long for us to remember the lessons learned? Have we been so vigilant that no accidents or injuries have resulted because a driver didn’t have complete information about the route he or she was driving?

Tim Ammon of Management Partnership Services suggests that it is critical for school districts to place more emphasis on establishing policies and procedures related to both hazard definition and evaluation. Beyond hazard identification, Ammon emphasizes the importance of setting procedures for how the department will assess each situation, including regular review and reassessment.

The technology is here to help us — now more than ever. But documenting the hazards, updating our computer systems and educating drivers are ongoing processes that must be part of mainstream route planning and maintenance.

They say knowledge is power, so let’s empower our drivers to provide the safest transportation possible.

Derek Graham, an SBF editorial advisory board member, has been the state pupil transportation director in North Carolina for 16 years. He is a past president of NASDPTS.

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