Breaking news from around the pupil transportation industry

Posted on August 1, 2003

Driver who allowed student behind wheel gets probation

HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. — The case against a school bus driver who allegedly allowed a 17-year-old student to drive her bus while it was filled with students was resolved without a trial.

Debbie R. Beckner, 48, of Surgoinsville reached an agreement with the district attorney to serve one year of probation and complete 150 hours of community service, said Assistant District Attorney Doug Godbee. Beckner had been charged with reckless endangerment and with being party to a crime of a person operating a school bus without the proper license.

Beckner has been suspended without pay until further notice. Her employment will be evaluated some time in the future, but no date has been set yet, said Tommy Dykes, director of schools for the Hawkins County School District.

The incident occurred March 7 at approximately 3:30 p.m. when Beckner is said to have allowed a student to take control of the bus as a training procedure in case she ever became incapacitated. The student had a valid driver’s license, but not a CDL.

At the time of the incident, the bus was carrying approximately 25 to 30 elementary and high school students, said Tim Ryan, the Tennessee state trooper who responded to the call.

Beckner told police that she decided to train a responsible student after attending a training class in 2002, Ryan said. “I think she thought she was doing a good thing. But I don’t think the training class literally tells drivers to let students practice driving."

The bus began to roll as the parking brake was released, prompting the student to quickly apply the brakes, Ryan said. Several students allegedly fell from their seats at the sudden stop, and Beckner, who was standing in the stairwell, shattered the windshield with her shoulder.

Beckner resumed driving the bus and dropping students off until a parent flagged her down, police said. "A parent called the police after one child got off the bus crying," Ryan said. "At least one student was taken to the hospital, but there were no serious injuries."



NSTA white paper provides excellent industry overview

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National School Transportation Association (NSTA) has released a white paper called "The Yellow School Bus Industry: Safety, Caring and Innovation" that provides an excellent overview of the industry, including the challenges facing school bus operators, especially on the private side.

The 35-page document includes chapters on industry structure, drivers, equipment, the education system, outsourcing and economic and public policy issues.

Conceived a year ago, the white paper was drafted by Jeff Kulick, NSTA's executive director, and Robin Leeds, the association’s regulatory liaison. A blue ribbon panel chaired by Dale Krapf of Krapf Bus Companies in Exton, Pa., provided input, feedback and final approval.

The white paper discusses several key issues. Budgetary pressures, of course, are examined. The white paper notes that schools are entertaining a variety of measures to reduce their spending: "As school districts face diminishing funds from government, some look at transportation as a luxury they can no longer afford."

Inadequate financial support for implementation of federal mandates is also a major concern. The white paper mentions the No Child Left Behind Act and IDEA as two laws that have strained "already-strapped school systems."

The paper also discusses the impact of special-interest groups that use scare tactics to promote their agendas: "Yellow school buses are symbols, and these symbols may be targets of convenience."

Because it discusses key public policy issues, Kulick said the document will be disseminated to lawmakers and federal regulators in Washington, D.C. It will also be distributed to NSTA members and made available to other interested parties. For more information, call the NSTA office at (703) 684-3200.


Local business supports education through bench ads at school bus stops

CLERMONT, Fla. — The Lake County School Board has green-lighted a proposal by local businessman Gary Butler of GTB Development to use school bus stop benches sponsored by local business to raise funds for education.

Lake County has agreed to the placement of 1,500 bus stop benches district-wide. Approximately 1,000 of those benches have been installed in rural residential areas. About 500 others are slated for future use and will be placed once new home developments are complete.

GTB Development in Clermont donates 20 percent of the revenue from the benches to the Lake County School Board Foundation, said Kevin Barineau, marketing representative for GTB Development. The foundation manages the funds, and schools contact them for grants.

Advertising rates for the 6-foot-wide by 20-inch-high bus stop benches are for six-month periods and vary according to location. Highway locations are $150 a month. Residential locations rent for $75 to $100 a month. Sponsors also receive volume discounts for multiple rentals. Each bench costs approximately $400 to construct and place.

Many benches have no business advertising and instead display slogans that read "Support Education." Others ask businesses to "Place Your Advertising Here." Said Barineau, "Once someone actually advertises on the benches, it displays their logo and any additional contact information. And since it’s known throughout the community that the benches support education, it’s left up to the advertiser whether or not they want their ad to say 'support education.'"

Butler came up with the idea for the program after his son complained of a lack of supplies at school. Butler also noticed that students sometimes sat on curbs, street corners and electrical transformers while waiting for school buses. The program was created to provide safer conditions for children waiting for school buses and to raise money for school supplies.

Still, some residents express concern. "We've run into areas that don’t want benches in the neighborhoods at all," said Barineau. "The vice president of one residential development said that he didn't want the benches because it would be a gathering place for children to hang around and that it could be an eyesore."

But GTB Development, along with the Lake County Schools transportation department, sees the program as a positive gesture for the community. Mainly local businesses have supported the operation, but the company hopes to one day expand its services nationwide.



VT-365 will be standard in new conventional

WARRENVILLE, Ill. — When IC Corp. launches a new school bus next year, the standard engine will be the International® VT-365. This engine, which was introduced two years ago for the 3200 bus and was specifically designed to meet stringent federal emissions requirements, will be standard in the new IC™ conventional buses.

The VT-365 uses a four-valve head, new digital injectors and a new electronically controlled turbocharger. The four-valve head allows more air to enter the combustion chamber for a powerful, efficient burn. The new EVRT® electronically controlled turbocharger provides maximum responsiveness at all speeds and loads.

Adjustable vanes within the turbocharger optimize boost across the entire operating range, yielding enhanced responsiveness and power. The second-generation hydraulic rail fuel-injection system is much faster and more precise than previous fuel system technology.

Engineers were able to reduce the displacement of the engine to six liters, helping to improve fuel economy. To meet more stringent emission levels, the VT-365 features electronically controlled cooled exhaust gas recirculation. Improved uptime and serviceability are accomplished with top-mounted fuel and oil filters, an easy-to-remove oil pan, and easier access to the air compressor and alternator.

To help mechanics make a smooth transition to the new equipment, training on the VT-365 will be accessible in three different ways. International offers a DVD self-paced study program and a mobile training workshop that offers three-day training sessions. In addition, training sessions are available at training centers nationwide.


Reroofing strategy a success for Missouri district

RAYTOWN, Mo. — C-2 School District has gained decades of additional service by reroofing two bus garages that were once considered candidates for replacement.

The retrofit applied a standing seam metal roof system to the 28,700- and 21,230-square-foot structures that were plagued with chronic leaks and deterioration.

“The retrofit fully restored weather tightness to the 50-year-old buildings and was accomplished without disrupting their use during the 60-day rehab project,” said Michael Richardson, director of buildings and grounds.

The district transports 5,300 students daily with 65 school buses, servicing 35 square miles.

The garages subdivide into offices, maintenance shop and unheated parking bays for the bus fleet. Maintenance and storage areas are also provided for the buildings and grounds department.

The 185-by-150-foot and 192-by-109-foot structures were built using war-surplus steel bow trusses for the primary steel framing supported by concrete block walls.

The overall roof was riddled with leaks. “You could see daylight in many places when you looked up from inside the bus bays,” Richardson said. “This created a really bad situation whenever it rained, so we couldn’t store anything vulnerable to water on the floor in those areas.”

The roofs were among several buildings evaluated by RTI Consultants of Overland Park, Kan. After assessing the roofs and supporting structural conditions, RTI recommended reroofing the facilities with the MR-24® standing seam metal roof system developed by Butler Mfg. Co.

The new roof was installed over the top of the existing roof after welding “piggyback frames” to the underlying original trusses. RTI altered the original roof profile from a barrel vault geometry into a double-slope configuration.

“This project went so well that I’m hoping to convince the school board to replace other roofs in this way,” Richardson said. “I imagine the new roofs could last another 50 years.”


Pedestrian detection systems focus of study

MONTREAL — Through a Canadian-funded initiative, the Transportation Development Centre (TDC) is conducting a three-part study to improve safety for children around school buses. The TDC and the U.S. Department of Transportation are currently performing the final phase.

Started in 1996, the first phase assessed the risk factors children face when getting on and off school buses. Results were then placed into an evaluation grid that outlined the advantages of safety devices. The second phase involved gathering information from school bus operators in Canada and the U.S. on specific safety devices currently available for use.

The current phase takes into account the research obtained in the first two phases and focuses on the evaluation of advanced pedestrian detection systems (APDS), or systems that prevent accident risks after something is detected in the danger zone. Various manufacturers have been contacted to participate, and APDS technologies using infrared, microwave, ultrasound or radar detectors are being tested.

Paul Lemay, senior product manager for the TDC, said that 12 North American manufacturers have had products tested, but more can participate. "Even though the deadline passed, because the primary purpose of this is to improve safety, if we have other manufacturers come in late, it’s still OK," he said.

After phase three, the manufacturers will make 30-minute presentations of their technologies to the project committee. Two APDSs will then be chosen to undergo final tests. One set of tests will calculate safety, reliability, flexibility and performance in a controlled track setting. The other set will measure how the devices function in real operating conditions. Additional field tests will include installing the APDSs in New Brunswick, Quebec and Alberta during the 2003-04 school year.

"We are not looking to eliminate other safety devices such as electromechanical detectors, mirrors, cameras and external speakers," Lemay said. "We want to assess the effectiveness of ADPSs, with the exclusion of other devices." For progress reports and more information on this study, visit



Legal Routes provides scoop on compliance issues

ARLINGTON, Va. — A bimonthly newsletter that focuses on legal issues within pupil transportation has been launched by Roseann Schwaderer and Peggy Burns, two industry veterans with backgrounds in publishing.

The first issue of Legal Routes, which was published in July, provides clear, concise coverage of federal overtime laws, bus aides and deaf children, sexual harassment, hazardous walking routes and the need to administer medication on the bus.

Burns, the newsletter’s editor, keeps the legalese to a minimum, relying instead on straightforward, easy-to-follow explanations of case law and the ramifications for pupil transportation professionals. Burns also provides helpful sidebars with practical tips and advice.

Burns uses real-world examples to illustrate her points, which helps to make the content more credible and relevant for those in the school bus industry. She also injects her own insights into the "stories" to maximize the instructional nature of the material.

According to Burns, some of the broad topics to be covered in future issues include the following:


  • Student management
  • Special-ed transportation
  • Employment issues
  • Driver training
  • Confidentiality
  • ADA concerns
  • Assistive technology
  • Evaluation, discipline of staff
  • Age discrimination

    Burns is an in-house counsel at Adams Twelve Five Star Schools in Colorado. She is the founder of Education Compliance Group Inc., an organization committed to addressing legal compliance issues in education. She is also the author of "Putting the Brakes on Sexual Harassment: A Training Program for School Bus Drivers."

    Schwaderer is publisher of Legal Routes and president of Edupro Group LLC. She also sponsors and chairs the National Conference on Transporting Students with Disabilities and Preschoolers, which has been held annually since 1992. Schwaderer served as the editor of two newsletters — School Transportation Director and Transporting Students With Disabilities — until 1998.

    The newsletter, which will run 8 to 10 pages, will be published six times a year. A one-year subscription is $110.

    For more information, call (703) 288-4088 or e-mail [email protected]. The mailing address is Legal Routes, P.O. Box 427, Arlington, VA 22210.


    Manual offers 37 ways to build staff morale

    ALBANY, N.Y. — The National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) and the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute (PTSI) have partnered to create a workbook aimed at helping transportation supervisors enhance morale in the school bus yard. Titled "Staff Recognition: 37 Ways to improve morale in your transportation department," the informational manual was sponsored by Hydrotex, a Carrolton, Texas-based manufacturer of lubricants for school buses.

    After identifying problems caused by high staff turnover, including loss of time and money, the manual points out six key factors that affect staff morale — employee recognition, employee involvement, group identity, management communication, the facility and isolation from the school district. From there, instructions are provided on how to analyze costs and turnover rates and then perform a self-assessment. The booklet contains worksheets with sample questions to help transportation managers gauge their own operations.

    The 37 morale-building tips are divided into categories based on the six key factors that affect morale. For example, holding banquets and rewarding accident-free drivers are tips listed under employee recognition. Assembling an accident review committee is one way to improve staff involvement, and creating a comfortable break room is listed as a tip for facility improvement.

    Laden with pertinent photos and italicized quotes in the margins, the manual does an excellent job of organizing information in an easy-to-follow format. Individually, many of the hints are basic, but the list as a whole is very comprehensive, giving transportation managers a vast selection of ideas to consider. As an added feature, cash symbols are printed next to each tip to identify its cost. The number of symbols next to a particular idea denotes whether it is cheap, moderately pricey or expensive to implement.

    For more information or to order the workbook, contact NAPT at (800) 989-6278 or PTSI at (800) 836-2210.

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