News from the World of Pupil Transportation

Posted on December 1, 2000

NHTSA critical of Saf-T-Bar system

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A roller coaster–style restraint system that’s being marketed for use in school buses could “reduce the benefits of compartmentalization and otherwise adversely affect safety,” according to Frank Seales Jr., chief counsel for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Seales’ consideration was part of a five-page letter to John Green, California’s state pupil transportation director. Green sought NHTSA’s opinion on the safety compliance of the Safe-T-Bar passenger restraint system manufactured by Majestic Transportation Products Ltd. in San Diego. The device is a heavily padded, U-shaped bar similar to restraint systems found on amusement park rides. Although Seales asserted that the Safe-T-Bar system could adversely affect safety aboard school buses, he stopped short of declaring that the aftermarket installation of the device makes inoperative a bus’ compliance with FMVSS 222, the federal safety standard for seating and crash protection on school buses. Seales did, however, voice reservations. “We are concerned about the continued compliance of a bus with a Safe-T-Bar installed with Standard 222’s seat deflection and head and leg protection requirements,” he wrote. NHTSA’s main concerns about the Safe-T-Bar involve the possibility that, in a frontal crash, the bar could injure a passenger’s abdomen and force his upper torso to rotate, straining the spine and allowing the head of a larger student to strike the top of the seat back in front of him. Seales also expressed concerns that the Safe-T-Bar system “can reduce and otherwise limit the living space between seats. In the event a seat back is loaded and deformed by the students in the rear seat, the students in the forward seat may be sandwiched between their seat back and the restraining device attached to the seat in front of them.” Seales added that NHTSA is conducting a comprehensive study of passenger protection on school buses. He said researchers are studying a three-point belt system as well as the installation of padding on the sidewalls of the bus. In the wake of NHTSA’s letter, John Farr, transportation director at Oceanside (Calif.) Unified School District, said he decided to remove the Safe-T-Bar restraint system from the single bus that had been equipped with it for the past two years. Meanwhile, Majestic announced on Nov. 7 that it will test the Safe-T-Bar system in a full-scale bus crash. In a press release, Steve Rosenthal, president of Majestic Transportation, said he believes the test “will clearly show that the Safe-T-Bar enhances compartmentalization, outperforms lap belts and ultimately makes school buses even safer for our children.” For the full text of Seales’ letter, click on Response to Saf-T-Bar Questions.

Tragedy spurs bus safety video

LAKEVILLE, Minn. — Nothing will bring back Tara, her 7-year-old daughter who was killed in a school bus accident earlier this year, but Tammy Bates of Lakeville, Minn., believes she is helping to prevent other children from being injured or killed in and around the school bus. Two days after her daughter’s death on Feb. 16, 2000, Bates met with her pastor and the school principal and discussed the need for extended training in school bus safety. “Tara received only one day of bus safety training, and that was when she was in kindergarten,” Bates said. “We decided that a safety video would help. It could be shown at the beginning of the school year, again after Christmas break and once more at spring break.” Bates said she put the project on the backburner for a few months, until she learned that one of the children attending Tara’s school was the daughter of a local TV news reporter. “I cornered him at a kindergarten meeting, and he said he would take the idea to Channel 11 and see if there was any interest,” she said. It turned out that the project fit in well with a community services show hosted by teenagers called “Whatever.” With Bates’ input on the script, the show’s producers filmed for two and a half days and put together an eight-minute segment on bus safety. The show aired on the local network affiliate, and Bates was given a copy of the video. “At that point, the TV station’s responsibility ended,” Bates said. But she still wanted to distribute the video to elementary schools throughout Minnesota. She and her husband, Greg, started flipping through the phone book for video duplicating companies. As it turned out, one of the companies was run by one of Greg’s old high school friends, who agreed to duplicate 1,100 tapes at no charge. On Nov. 9, with the help of 30 friends and volunteers, 1,100 copies of the video were packaged and mailed to elementary schools all over Minnesota. Bates said she hopes the video will help to prevent any further incidents like Tara’s accident. The video uses professional graphics and kid-friendly language to emphasize six important tips, including how to safely board and exit a school bus. The video is dedicated to Tara, whom Bates believes might be alive today if she had been exposed to safety training on a regular basis. “It was hard to watch, but it was exactly what I hoped for,” she said. The video can be ordered by calling KARE-TV at (763) 546-1111 and asking for “NewsClips.” Cost is $25 per copy.

Head Start transportation rule nearly finalized

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The long-awaited final rule on Head Start transportation requirements is expected to be issued early next year, according to Amanda Bryans, program analyst for Head Start. “It is in the clearance process [with the Office of Management and Budget], and we’re very hopeful it will be published in the next couple of months,” Bryans told SBF in mid-November. Bryans said the final rule will differ somewhat from the 1995 proposed rulemaking, which sought to require Head Start agencies and their transportation contractors to meet many of the demanding vehicle, driver training and operational requirements that school districts must meet. Bryans indicated that the final rule will reflect many of the concerns expressed about the proposed rulemaking. “We were very responsive to the comments we received,” she said. “We came up with some creative ways of addressing some of their worries.” Also helping to allay concerns about the possible impact of the final rule is the implementation period, which Bryans described as “quite long.” She said people should temper their initial reaction until they read the section on implementation. “They’re going to be happy about that.” Bryans said about 53 percent of the 840,000 children who attend Head Start receive some type of transportation service. That translates into 445,200 children.

Minnesotan claims 3rd win in poster contest

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The winners of the 2000 National School Bus Safety Week Committee Poster Contest were announced at the National Association for Pupil Transportation’s (NAPT’s) 26th Annual Conference and Trade Show in Buffalo, N.Y. The contest, which promoted the theme of “school bus safety show and tell,” is sponsored by the NAPT, the National School Transportation Association, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, the National Safety Council and school bus manufacturers and suppliers. This year’s top prize of a $1,000 U.S. savings bond went to Scott Woizeschke of Windom, Minn. The eighth-grader brought home the top honor for the third time. The following is a list of the top finishers in each division. First-place winners received a $500 savings bond; second place, $250; third place, $100. In the CAD (computer-aided design) and international divisions, the winners each received $50 bonds.

1st Place
Matthew Hauck
Hilton Elementary School
Zillah, Wash.
2nd Place
Warren Hardin
Union Elementary School
Union, Miss.
3rd Place
Cade Dougherty
Des Moines Elementary School
Folsom, N.M.
1st Place
Dylan Horne
Bostian Elementary School
China Grove, N.C.
2nd Place
David Jaffe
Greenfield Schools
3rd Place
Amaris Newkirk
Des Moines Elementary School
Folsom, N.M.
Breanne Templeton
Belton Intermediate School
Belton, Texas
1st Place
Scott Woizeschke
Windom Area High School
Windom, Minn.
2nd Place
Blake Bosner
Pocono Mtn. Intermediate School
Swiftwater, Pa.
3rd Place
Mallory Mueller
Elm Grove Elementary School
Wheeling, W.V.
(Special Education)
1st Place
Nate May
Simpson Middle School
Marietta, Ga.
2nd Place
Rebecca Clark
Swananee Middle School
Live Oak, Fla.
3rd Place
Charlie Gourm
Gilbert High School
Gilbert, Ariz.
1st Place
Ariel Rangel
Monroe Elementary School
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Division I
Sarah Acklen
Taegu American School
South Korea
Division II
Criselle Olaes
Shirley Lanham Elementary School
Division III
Louis Fuertes
Taegu American School
South Korea

People in the Spotlight

Philip Mulvey has been named president of Collins Industries’ bus division — Collins Bus Corp. and Mid Bus Inc. Mulvey previously served as general manager of CNH Global in Grand Island, Neb. CNH is a multinational Fortune 100 company that develops, manufactures and distributes agricultural and construction machinery. William “Bill” Hinze has been named vice president of sales for Maxon Lift Corp.’s new Mobility Products Division. Hinze is responsible for guiding the growth and development of the WL-6A platform wheelchair lift. Maxon, headquartered in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., is a leading manufacturer of truck and trailer liftgates. Kevin Endres, president emeritus of the Vermont School Transportation Association, has been elected to Vermont’s House of Representatives.

Is the industry fair to women and minorities?

Do you agree with the following statement? In general, women and minorities employed in pupil transportation have the same opportunities to advance to management positions as anyone else. That was the question we posed in The Forums at our Website. Here are some of the responses: Yes, diversity is prevalent
Yes, I believe women and minorities have equal opportunities to advance in the pupil transportation industry. Four out of my last five supervisors were women, two of whom were African-Americans. This is one of the few industries in which anyone with ability can advance to management levels. Since the school bus drivers’ demographics are diverse, it only makes sense that management becomes diverse since many managers are hired from lower levels. I am proud to be a part of this work force.
Neal Abramson
Acting Transportation Director
Santa Monica-Malibu (Calif.) Unified School District
No, but things are changing
I am a woman transportation supervisor for a large school district. I have had to deal with several men in administrative positions who would have preferred a man doing the job I do. I have been in school transportation for well over 20 years and only now do I see things opening up for women in the management of school transportation. It could be due to the shortages in the transportation field for the past few years as well as the salary.
Transportation Supervisor
Yes, the industry is tolerant
I have been in pupil transportation for over 10 years in the Los Angeles area. I am a heterosexual male supervisor right now. I have had many female bosses. Some of those were lesbian as well. This is one of the few industries that has overall acceptance of all people. In my bus yard, we have the following demographics: gay men, gay women, black men, black women, Hispanic men, Hispanic women, Asian men, a Filipino woman, short ones, tall ones, skinny ones, fat ones, etc. Our yard is like a family. Everyone respects everyone. Everyone even likes just about everyone too. I have been to other yards with a similar mix. I have even been to a yard where the only male staff person was the shop supervisor. The rest (12 of them) were various types of females. The school bus industry has “gotten it” in spite of the rest of the bus-hating world.
Transportation Supervisor
Glendale, Calif.
Yes, strong leaders advance
I have only worked for former Bruce Transportation, now First Student, for 10 months. My wife began two months before me. She was a CNA for 10 years, and I was a house painter. The lady manager did not know either of us, and neither did anyone else in the company. We came in “right off the street.” Since that time I have become a full- time route driver, charter driver and certified trainer, while my wife drives her route (including kindergarten) and the occasional charter. I feel this mostly stems from desire. Our next manager will most likely be a woman if common sense prevails, but most of the positions above that are filled by men. We currently employ four male drivers and 40 women drivers. The senior trainer and dispatcher/driver are women. The two mechanics are men. The manager in our neighboring yard is a male. I say that attitude and desire are everything. I do not feel anything discriminatory is going on here at all. Decisions are being made with a common sense approach, utilizing the personnel available.
Driver, Certified Trainer
First Student

Thomas earns ISO 9001 certification

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Thomas Built Buses has become the first major school bus body manufacturer to achieve International Standards Organization (ISO) 9001 certification. ISO 9001 is an audit of 30 elements within a company’s written procedures and accompanying processes. The audit, which was conducted by KPMG, included certification for the company’s High Point plants, including the chassis division and the Type A, Type C and Type D manufacturing sites. “This is a tremendous accomplishment for all Thomas employees,” said John Thomas III, president of Thomas. “It illustrates the outstanding manufacturing processes we have in place, and the commitment of our employees to maintain this quality assurance standard every day.” Jack Schafer, Thomas’ vice president of manufacturing, said KPMG performed a readiness audit in April to determine where the company’s strengths and weaknesses were in the process. The ISO audit was conducted during one week by three auditors who randomly interviewed employees throughout the company, observed their work areas and verified that they were properly trained. In addition, auditors scrutinized company-wide processes to ensure that they conformed to written procedures and training.

'Special Saturday' fills training niche

WAYNE COUNTY, Mich. — School bus operators in Wayne County, Mich., have developed and piloted a six-hour training program aimed at teaching drivers and attendants how to safely transport special-needs students. “Because there is not a national or state certification program available to train bus drivers and aides in the area of dealing with students with special needs, the Wayne County transportation directors decided to put together a pilot program for their county,” explained Mike Schuster, transportation director for Garden City Schools and president of the Wayne County Transportation Association. After nine months of planning, more than 640 drivers and 100 attendants from Crestwood, Garden City, Livonia, Plymouth-Canton and Wayne-Westland school districts met on the campus of Garden City High School in March to attend a program called “Special Saturday: Special People for Special Needs.” With teaching techniques varying from lectures to role-playing, attendees had their choice of 33 classes on such subjects as autism, ADHD, medically fragile conditions and emotional impairment. There were also demonstrations in proper use of wheelchair tie-downs and other childcare restraints. Instructors included Dr. Andrea Witkowski, director of special education for Garden City Public Schools, and Mary O’Neill, director of the Burger Autistic School, among others. Organizing the event was no easy task. The planning committee, led by John Shupe, county transportation director, and Mary Fayad, county special-education consultant, negotiated registration costs, catering, prizes, transportation for live demonstrations, course selection, class set-up and instructor reimbursement. The committee also had to find a central location that could accommodate and feed up to 1,000 people for an entire day. A post-session survey of participants indicated that the project was a success, said Schuster. “Drivers and aides need to know how to handle special situations. They need to be doing the same things that the parents are doing at home and that the teachers and teachers’ aides are doing in the schools,” he explained. Schuster said that, as a result of the program’s success, the county transportation supervisors have decided to hold the training session countywide every other year. “Our hope is that other counties and states will adopt a similar program,” he said.

Director organizes fundraiser for bus driver

BELGRADE, Mont. — A three-day fundraiser in late October that included chilly all-night vigils in a school bus parked at a grocery store netted nearly $10,000 for a school bus driver stricken with brain cancer. Douglas Kellie, transportation supervisor at Belgrade Public Schools, said the 78-hour event helped to raise funds for Marlene Durham, who underwent surgery for brain cancer on Oct. 31. The cancer was discovered about six months earlier during a routine medical exam, Kellie said. Durham, who has driven for the district for seven years, spent time at the fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 28, watching as people donated money to throw pies at some of her fellow bus drivers. “She was overwhelmed by the level of support and it gave us a boost to see her there,” Kellie said. Durham’s bus served as the centerpiece of the event. It was stationed in a grocery store parking lot and manned by at least one driver for the duration of the fundraiser, which started at 6 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 27, and ended at noon on Monday, Oct. 30. To keep the vehicle warm at night, Kellie said he equipped the bus with heaters powered by portable generators. Most of the funds were generated through sales of donated items, including autographed baseballs, footballs, volleyballs and hockey sticks from local colleges and professional sports teams. Other popular items included “beanie school buses” and collector’s prints donated by International Truck and Engine Corp. Kellie, who solicited the donations, said a local beverage distributor chipped in with 35 cases of soft drinks. The Belgrade district employs about 24 bus drivers. Kellie said about half of them participated in the event. “We also had tremendous support from the school district and Harry Erickson, our superintendent,” he said. The event garnered considerable media attention from the local newspaper, two radio stations and a TV station, Kellie said.

Bus driver repeats as Arizona's best

GANADO, Ariz. — Ganado School District’s Freddie Yazzie was named Arizona Bus Driver of the Year for the second year in a row at the October conference for the Arizona Association for Pupil Transportation (AAPT). Raised in Ganado himself, Yazzie, a Navajo Native American, understands the 90 percent Navajo student population he drives to school every day in this rural area of northeastern Arizona. Ganado Transportation Director Jesse Apachee nominated the bus driver based on his dedication to students, shown through involvement in student achievement, communication with parents and promotion of children’s safety on and off of the bus. Not only does he ensure that the children reach home unharmed, he also encourages students to strive for high achievement in education and all aspects of life. Cathy Erwin, president of the AAPT for the 1999-2000 school year, said this year’s contest came down to two finalists with equal scores. The applications went before the Department of Public Safety, Pupil Transportation Division, where four judges deadlocked on a decision. A third party was called in to break the tie, and Yazzie emerged victorious. According to Erwin, judges made their decisions without knowing who the contestants were or where they were from, as that information was concealed on nomination forms. Among Yazzie’s winning qualities is his habit of taking a personal interest in the lives of the students he transports. He likens his job to “being a co-parent, helping kids with their problems.” He coordinates the district’s annual School Bus Safety Week Poster Contest and has been internationally recognized for his involvement in a program to present sportsmanship awards to students. To promote literacy, Yazzie has fashioned a magazine pouch that he hangs inside his bus and fills with reading materials for his passengers. Yazzie’s words to his students are reflected in his own behavior. “Success is not a singular act. It is a habit,” he tells them.

School bus safety is like a circus act

CHELSEA, Mich. — This fall, elementary school students at Chelsea (Mich.) School District learned the importance and seriousness of school bus safety from a couple of clowns. Transportation Director Robin C. Melton said a new safety program using a skit with two clowns — Popcorn and Sassy — was introduced in August to help younger students understand the importance of school bus safety. Melton, who plays Popcorn, said the skit covers safety on the bus as well as the dangers associated with loading and unloading, safety zones, crossing in front of the bus and the importance of being quiet while crossing railroad tracks. “We learned through parents, teachers and drivers that the children talked about the assembly for several days,” Melton said. Melton said the humorous underpinnings of the skit made it memorable for the children. “We need to realize that tasks can be accomplished in more inventive ways,” she said. “Not all of our efforts need to be taken so seriously that we forget how to smile, laugh a little and enjoy our lives.” Melton said drivers developed additional respect and admiration for her because she was willing to play two roles — transportation director and Popcorn. Her co-star, Sassy, was played by Susan Wahl of Grass Lake, Mich.

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