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April 01, 2001  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

News from the World of Pupil Transportation

News from the world of pupil transportation


Thomas shifts Safe-T-Liner chassis production to S.C.

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Thomas Built Buses has decided to shift production of its Saf-T-Liner ER and EF chassis from its High Point, N.C., facility to Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp.'s Gaffney, S.C., plant. The finished chassis will be shipped to High Point, where the assembly of body and chassis will take place. The transfer will take place over the next year, according to John Thomas III, president of Thomas Built Buses. He said the Gaffney plant can manufacture a greater volume of chassis, as many as 100 per day, at reduced cost. “They have some economies of scale that are not available to someone who’s building 15 to 17 chassis a day,” he said. The production shift will eliminate about 125 jobs in High Point, including 100 production workers and 25 office staff. Some of these displaced employees will be absorbed into positions at the High Point facility. Thomas said other employees will move to the company’s new Jamestown, N.C., facility, where small shuttle buses are manufactured.

SBFgains finals in magazine competition

TORRANCE, Calif. -- For the sixth time in the past seven years, SCHOOL BUS FLEET has been chosen as a finalist in the Best Trade Magazine category of the annual Maggie Awards, sponsored by the Western Publications Association. “It’s quite an honor to be recognized as one of the top trade magazines in the western U.S.,” said SBF Editor Steve Hirano. “It’s as much a tribute to the magazine as it is to the school transportation industry, which always has been more than willing to share information with our editors and, accordingly, with our readers.” The magazine is also a finalist for Best Feature Article, one of the most competitive categories in the Maggies. The article that received the nomination is “Sudden Death in Murray County,” written by Senior Editor Sandra Matke. It appeared in the June/July 2000 issue. “Sandra certainly deserves the recognition,” Hirano said. “Her article about the rail crossing crash in Tennga, Ga., brought the hard-earned truths of this school bus tragedy into perspective. It was a compelling story, well told.”

Bolstering video presence yields rewards

TAMPA, Fla. -- Officials at Madison Middle School agree -- three eyes are better than two. A pilot program initiated there during the 1999-2000 school year that placed videocameras on all school buses proved to be an effective tool in controlling student behavior and reducing the number of referrals. “Kids know when the driver’s looking and when the driver’s not, but the camera is looking all the time,” said Beverly DeMott, transportation director for Hillsborough County Public Schools, where the study was conducted. Before the pilot program, called Incident Control Unit (ICU), was launched, school officials relied on a camera-rotation system. All buses had dummy boxes, some with cameras inside and some without. DeMott explained that problems would arise when incidents occurred on a bus not equipped with a camera that particular day. “I think it’s an assumption of risk when you have cameras on some buses but not on others. If kids are not sure whether there is a camera there, it may or may not be a deterrent,” said David P. Toward, assistant principal at Madison Middle School. At the outset of the program, School Resource Officer David Shepler went to each class to explain the presence of cameras on the buses and conduct a bus-safety survey. Survey results showed that a majority of the students had been threatened and/or assaulted at least once while on the bus, felt that behavior on the bus was out of control and believed that cameras on the bus would be ineffective. All buses were outfitted with an industrial grade video monitoring system costing $975 each. These cameras were secured in a lock box on the bus, to which only the resource officer, lead driver and route supervisor had access. During the program, videotapes were pulled randomly and by driver request. More than 40 tapes were viewed by Shepler and appropriate administrators. In addition to using cameras, the program made improvements in the disciplinary system by establishing guidelines for student behavior. Students were given suspensions for the first instance of disruptive behavior, which barred them from riding the bus until a parent conference was held. Videotape of the student was shown to the parents during the conference. Students involved in a second disruptive incident were suspended from the school bus altogether. “Some parents were very unpleasantly surprised about what their [children] were doing, and that’s why we had no repeat offenders,” said DeMott. “There is nothing more powerful than sitting down with a student and looking at the videotape.” During the program, 25 students brought their parents to school to view videotapes, after which there were no further problems with those students. The number of bus referrals in a year decreased from 60 to 15 and bus suspensions went from 28 to 6. “Live cameras on school buses make everyone feel more secure -- the students, the bus drivers and the parents,” DeMott explained, adding that cameras are a tremendous help in investigating incidents. Because of its great success in controlling student behavior on the bus, other schools in the district have expressed interest in the program. Currently, 20 percent of the more than 1,200 district buses are equipped with live cameras. “Our school board has now indicated that they want all newly purchased buses to include a videocamera,” said DeMott. By Janna Starcic

Nurse honored for attempt to rescue school bus driver

MAHWAH, N.J. -- A nurse won a “hometown hero” award from the state chapter of the American Heart Association (AHA) for attempting to rescue a driver who collapsed at the wheel of his school bus in January. Though the driver eventually died, the AHA felt the off-duty nurse’s quick thinking and willingness to help warranted recognition. Donna Falken-Clifford had been driving her 3-year-old daughter to school earlier this year when she saw a school bus roll through an intersection, crash into a street sign and get trapped in a snow bank. According to The [Bergen County] Record, Falken-Clifford asked a pedestrian to watch her daughter while she attempted to extricate the unconscious bus driver from the vehicle. She hailed a truck driver and asked him to call 911, reached inside to remove a lit cigarette from the driver’s hand and tried to get into the vehicle to help the driver, who had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. When police and medical personnel arrived, they helped remove the driver from the bus. Falken-Clifford then performed CPR, and an emergency medical technician used a defibrillator to shock the driver’s heart into beating again. Though the driver revived several times, he kept fading and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

Question of the Month

Agree or disagree? Like over-the-road truck drivers, school bus drivers are more likely than the general public to suffer from health concerns related to obesity.

Job makes it hard to be thin
I'm "clinically obese," but I was that way before I starting driving a school bus. However, I don't feel like I have time to get out and walk. I'm always needed in the office, or to run a shuttle or run parts. Not enough time for me, plus too much time sitting down (behind the wheel, behind the desk).

Cheryl Robinson, driver
Northwest Independent School District
Justin, Texas

Active staff is healthy, happy
I disagree. I have been doing this for five years, and I am not even fat, or rather obese, and neither are the people that I work with. If anything, half of my drivers are anorexic. But most of us are just health conscious and use our spare time to exercise. We have a basketball hoop outside. Others walk around the area. Some bike and others blade. It is all about motivating your staff. You would be surprised how much better relations around your shop would be and how much behavior improves on your buses. Fact is, the first thing a passenger sees is the driver. If the driver is so large that he or she cannot fit down the aisle, then the passengers' safety level drops. Under Canadian law, the driver must be able to maneuver around the vehicle and be able to fit behind the controls without any modifications. If this means that a person can no longer be employed due to their size, then I am sorry, but our first priority is safety. That should be everyone's concern. If people are dedicated to their jobs, then they will do whatever is necessary to ensure that they are fit and capable of performing their duties.

Chris Weston, driver trainer
Pacific Western Transportation
Maple Ridge, B.C.

Don't confuse size and health
I am not overweight, but that doesn't mean I am not at risk for health problems. My family has a serious history of heart disease. I am 39 years old and have never been in the best of shape after having three children. I don't think being a bus driver puts you more at risk for obesity or any other health-related problem. Nor do I think it is the responsibility of our employer to ensure our good health. It is up to the individual to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.

Tammy Plants, driver
Gallia County Local Schools
Gallipolis, Ohio

Focus on safety, not weight
I think there are a lot of overweight people in all walks of life. But as long as the driver can safely perform his or her duties and can get down the aisle to help a child in trouble as quickly as possible, it's the driver's business if he or she is overweight.

Fran Briggs, driver


States Target Aggressive Driving

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- States across the country are actively opposing aggressive driving with a combination of new laws, strict enforcement and public education campaigns. That’s what a report by the National Association of Governors’ Highway Safety Representatives (NAGHSR) suggests. The report points out that Arizona, Delaware, Nevada and Rhode Island have already enacted laws that specifically confront aggressive driving, while several other states are currently pushing through similar legislation. Further, those states without aggressive driving laws have begun charging drivers with multiple other offenses in an effort to stiffen legal constraints. Meanwhile, NAGHSR’s study also reveals that states are stepping up their enforcement of aggressive driving in a number of ways. According to the survey used in the report, 31 states have launched some type of aggressive driving enforcement effort. These efforts include aggressive driving patrol teams, aircraft and helicopter surveillance and road signs and cameras that photograph offenders’ license plates. Finally, the report shows that states are stepping-up their efforts to educate the public about the dangers of aggressive driving. Through brochures, posters, billboards, television and other media ads, at least 24 states have embarked upon campaigns to get the word out. They seek to create awareness about enforcement techniques, deter potential offenders and promote safety procedures. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety, reported incidents of aggressive driving have increased by 7 percent every year since 1990, and more than 13,000 drivers died between 1990 and 1996 as a result of aggressive driving. By Joseph Campbell

New Rules for Head Start Transportation

Under the final rule published in the Federal Register on Jan. 18, 2001, Head Start agencies are required to meet specific deadlines in regard to transportation services. The following timeline details the key operational and equipment requirements stipulated in the final rule, which was issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. Feb. 20, 2001
Each Head Start agency that uses federal grant funds to provide transportation services must ensure that the funds are used to purchase a vehicle that is either a school bus or an allowable alternative vehicle (see definitions below). It must be equipped with height- and weight-appropriate child restraint systems and a reverse beeper. Jan. 18, 2002
All vehicles used for Head Start transportation must be equipped with a communication system to call for assistance in an emergency; safety equipment, including a fire extinguisher; a first aid kit; and a seat-belt cutter. It must also ensure that any auxiliary seating, such as folding jump seats, is built into the vehicle by the manufacturer. All vehicles must undergo a safety inspection at least once a year through a program licensed or operated by the state. In addition, a preventive maintenance program must be in place and drivers must perform daily pre-trip inspections of the vehicles. All drivers must have a CDL, receive a combination of classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction and be trained in first aid and emergency evacuation. Routing must be designed to limit one-way trips to and from a Head Start program to a maximum of one hour, unless there is no shorter route available or any alternative route is impractical or unsafe. Jan. 20, 2004
At least one bus monitor (see definitions below) must be present on each vehicle. These monitors need to be trained on child boarding and exiting procedures, use of child restraint systems and emergency evacuation procedures. Each vehicle must be equipped with height- and weight-appropriate child restraint systems. Jan. 18, 2006
Head Start agencies must use only school buses or allowable alternative vehicles to provide transportation services. Vehicles must be adaptable or designed to transport children with disabilities. Defining the terms
Allowable alternative vehicle means a vehicle designed for carrying 11 or more people, including the driver, that meets all the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards applicable to school buses, except traffic-control devices such as stop arms and eight-way warning lights. Bus monitor is a person with specific responsibilities for assisting the driver in ensuring the safety of the children while they board, ride or exit the vehicle and for assisting the driver during emergencies.

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