’Danger zone’ deaths slip
TOPEKA, Kan. — Latest statistics reveal that nine children were killed by their own school bus or by a passing vehicle during the 2000-01 school year, a decline of 59 percent from the previous year and lowest total in more than a decade. The statistics are gathered annually by the Kansas State Department of Education. Last year, 22 children were killed in loading/unloading zone accidents. According to the survey, five of the children were killed by their own bus, while four were fatally injured by passing motorists. Five of the nine students killed were 6 years old or younger. Two of them were age 15. Of the five buses that fatally injured students, four were Type C (conventional) buses and one was a Type D (transit-style) bus. Eight of the fatalities occurred as the student was going home; one occurred during the morning pick-up. Over the past decade, including the 2000-01 school year, the average number of “danger zone” fatalities has been 19.7. During the 1997-98 school year, 10 students were killed. All 50 states responded to the survey. Washington, D.C., was the only non-respondent.
Boy kicked off bus, run over
HOUSTON — A boy whose driver kicked him off the school bus was run over by the bus as it pulled away from the stop. Michael Fuller, 14, suffered a fractured pelvis and a punctured bowel in the accident, and the driver has been suspended pending an investigation. According to the Dallas Morning News, the driver reports that he pulled over and ordered Fuller off the bus for bad behavior. He said that Fuller was on the sidewalk when he checked his mirrors and pulled away from the stop. When the vehicle was in motion, he noticed in the mirror that Fuller was hanging from a window of the bus, at which time the boy fell and was run over by the bus’ tire. Authorities of the Houston Independent School District say that district policy prohibits drivers from suspending students from the bus. The driver, who has been employed by the district for 14 years, was not cited by the police. District officials say that a campus authority was asked to step in earlier in the route when the bus loaded at a school and students were misbehaving. They also say that the driver warned students to behave several times along the route. Fuller’s parents, however, told reporters that they doubt their son’s behavior was inappropriate and that the driver shouldn’t have expelled him from the bus.
In-service plays two roles at once
OCEANSIDE, Calif. — The transportation department for Oceanside (Calif.) Unified School District prides itself on designing unique strategies to prepare its drivers. The district recently used a student holiday as an opportunity to combine its driver route bid with an in-service driver-training meeting, capping it all off with a holiday cookout. “Putting 100 drivers into a room and lecturing them makes it hard to learn anything,” said John Farr, director of transportation for OUSD. “We try to make things a little more interesting with a sudden-death bidding process and lots of hands-on training.” The meeting started at 6 a.m. on Halloween, with the drivers being divided into two groups. The first group was composed of the district’s most experienced drivers, who start the seniority-based route bidding process. The longer the driver has been an employee for the district, the earlier that driver gets to select a bus route, giving the driver a greater chance of finding a route that meets his or her scheduling preferences. Each driver has five minutes to select a route, but if the driver fails to select in the allotted time or if he or she does not show up on time to bid, a route is assigned to that person. While the route bidding process was taking place, the more inexperienced half of the drivers was busy taking two training sessions. Each in-service track lasted about two hours and went toward fulfilling the mandatory number of in-service hours that drivers are required to complete annually. From 10 to 10:30 a.m., the entire staff took a break and enjoyed a cookout complete with hot dogs, hamburgers and refreshments. After the break, the less-experienced group began its bidding process, while the senior drivers attended the two in-service tracks. The session concluded at 2:30 p.m., but additional training was offered as an option afterward for drivers interested in brushing up on important topics, such as special-needs transportation. The meeting’s training tracks included a school bus mirror field of vision test, a parallel parking examination, a route road hazard checklist, a hands-on session on sharp right turns, tips for improving driver attitude and many other important topics. The instruction was led by OUSD’s four state-certified driver trainers and five delegates. Classroom teaching, educational videos and behind-the-wheel exercises were all incorporated into the in-service. “This type of training really helps our driver retention,” said Farr. “We have no turnover right now; we didn’t lose a single driver over the summer.”
CDL passing rate drops 60 percent in New Hampshire
CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire Department of Safety statistics show that only 29 percent of applicants passed the state CDL exam in September 2001, down from 73 percent in September 2000. This substantial drop in the number of drivers passing the exam prompted the New Hampshire School Transportation Association (NHSTA) to investigate the fairness of the N.H. Division of Motor Vehicles’ recently tightened licensing procedures. NHSTA solicited testing accounts from applicants who took the exam in September and will compile these testimonies and complaints to present to the Department of Safety’s Division of Motor Vehicles. Applicants reported that instructors expected them to know beyond what is required of them in the CDL manual - information of a technical nature. Some provided specific examples of instructors treating them unfairly and even intimidating them during the testing process. “Our biggest concern is lack of professional attitude,” says NHSTA Executive Director Dick Clough. NHSTA representatives met with Division officials on Oct. 3 to present a preliminary list of concerns and discuss working together to re-establish equity in the testing process. The Division of Motor Vehicles is attempting to remedy the problem by upgrading school bus drivers’ awareness of the revised policies. The Department of Safety held a weeklong series of workshops in early November in different areas of New Hampshire to train and better inform school bus instructors in CDL testing procedures. Clough says NHSTA also recently convened a committee to work on proposing legislation for a school bus-specific CDL license in New Hampshire. “We’ve been losing a lot of drivers to truck driving. If we had a restricted license, we could keep them in our industry,” says Clough. -Joan Hong
New York bans cell-phone driving
ALBANY, N.Y. — Since Nov. 1., school bus drivers and all other motorists in New York have been prohibited from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Violators receive a $100 fine.
County paralyzed by driver strikes
ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. — School bus drivers for the county’s two largest school districts, Francis Howell and Fort Zumwalt, failed to reach an agreement in salary negotiations with the districts and contracting company First Student, prolonging a strike that, at press time, had already lasted more than a month. “We can’t wait any longer for this to be resolved,” Fort Zumwalt Superintendent Bernard DuBray told reporters at the Post Dispatch. Both his district and neighboring Francis Howell held job fairs in an effort to recruit replacements for the approximately 350 striking drivers. First Student likewise looked to recruit new drivers to transport the districts’ 26,000 students. Fort Zumwalt drivers, represented by Teamsters Local 610, began striking Oct. 1, and Francis Howell drivers joined them just over a week later. Drivers for the districts currently earn between $9 and $13 an hour. Fort Zumwalt drivers have asked for a top pay of $14 to $16 an hour and a five-year scale, while Francis Howell drivers want $15 an hour and a two-year scale. Both districts currently employ an 11-year scale. Talks have repeatedly broken down, with contractor representatives saying drivers are asking for too large an increase, and that they would have to renegotiate their contracts with the districts in order to cover it. “Their movement certainly is not headed toward resolving this,” said Lewis Lowry, regional vice president of First Student. Meanwhile, striking drivers say First Student isn’t prepared for negotiations. “Unless they bring somebody to the table with the authority to make a decision, it’s likely we’ll never reach an agreement,” said Rich Piglowski, union president.
Motorcoach driver charged with careless driving
SUSSEX, New Brunswick — The driver of a motorcoach that crashed in April and killed four students has been charged by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with careless driving. The Associated Press reported that Hin Chi Kan, a former driver for Boston-based Kristine Travel and Tour, was charged with undue care and attention after several months of investigation. Canadian law prohibits the release of any more information regarding the charges. The bus was carrying 42 students from a Boston-area middle school to a music festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia, when it ran off a Canadian highway and overturned on April 27. Two boys and two girls died at the scene, while 36 others on the bus were injured. Survivors reported that the bus was traveling in the wrong direction on an exit ramp and was moving too fast to negotiate the ramp’s sharp turn.
VIDEO REVIEWS: ‘School Bus Mirror Systems’
For a commercial vehicle driver, mirrors are a safety lifeline. Proper training and usage is crucial. This is especially true for school bus drivers who not only have traffic maneuvers to deal with, but little people around the outside of the bus as well. With national statistics showing that danger outside the bus causes fatalities to children every year, school bus driver trainers need all the friends they can get in emphasizing around-the-bus safety habits to both new hires and senior driving staff. A strong ally in this battle is an excellent video produced by Strategies Training Systems (STS) of Seattle. Unpretentiously titled School Bus Mirror Systems, the video offers a thorough treatment of mirror system adjustment, usage and weaknesses. Beginning with proper adjustment of mirrors and how to set up a mirror adjustment station in accordance to FMVSS 111, it then puts viewers through a series of practical exercises in locating children in danger zones around the bus. The video discusses not only the blind spot hazards inherent in school bus mirror systems, but also gives the drivers tactics to compensate for blind spots. We began showing the video to new trainees a few months ago, and recently to senior drivers at an in-service. It received a good response from our drivers and our training staff. Our next step is to follow through on creating mirror adjustment stations at our two bus yards. We have a list of enthusiastic drivers “chomping at the bit” to help us measure and paint the stations and get them in operation.
Tucson (Ariz.) Unified School District For more information on the video, visit the STS Website at www.strategiestraining.com or call (800) 600-5636.
‘Stop and Stay Stopped’
According to the Minnesota School Bus Operators Association (MSBOA), approximately 70 percent of school bus-related fatalities occur outside the school bus. It is with this harsh truth in mind that the MSBOA has developed “Stop and Stay Stopped,” an educational video examining the dangers of passing a school bus when the stop arm is extended. The video, which runs about 13 minutes, emphasizes the importance of obeying the laws related to driving near a school bus. It starts by outlining the basic eight-light system that is used by school buses. Showing the viewer the difference between red and yellow flashing lights and how drivers should react to them, the video stresses the consequences of disregarding these light sequences. It continuously alludes to the everpresent possibility that children could be in the danger zone. The video also explains the penalties for failing to stop, underlining that in Minnesota, illegal stop-arm passing is punishable by fine, jail or suspension of driver’s license. The next part of the video walks the viewer through common mistakes made by drivers around school buses. There are three dramatic depictions of incidents in which drivers cause accidents by failing to stop for school buses. These re-enactments touch on several themes - driving while using cell phones, speeding, lack of patience and failure to concentrate on the road. After each depiction, the video provides viewers an opportunity to pause the tape for class discussion. The final depiction shows an extreme example of how not following school bus stopping laws can result in serious injury and death. Designed with Minnesota students in mind, one free copy of the video went to every school district in the state, courtesy of the MSBOA. The content of the video, however, is not exclusive to Minnesota and could serve as a valuable resource nationwide for driver’s education classes or public safety instruction via TV broadcast. For more information on the video, visit the MSBOA Website at www.msboa.com.
Question of the month
How important do you think it is to attend industry conferences and trade shows? From the Forum at www.schoolbusfleet.com/forum. Conferences are hotbed for industry networking
Conferences and trade shows are the best times to network with your peers and share stories or ideas. The vendors are there to share new technology, and the workshops are comprehensive, usually touching on current issues. It’s especially helpful for the newcomers in the industry. I look forward to the next conference as soon as I arrive home from the last.
Pupil transportation coordinator
Keansburg (N.J.) School District Annual attendance is not imperative
Although it’s important to attend conferences when possible, it’s not critical to attend every year. Often there are many idea-filled sessions to attend, along with critical law and regulation changes. Like anything else, it can be helpful to develop priorities and then attend if possible. Sometimes it’s all business for me, and other times, I’m having fun as well. I don’t know about others, but I love this business, and some of the people in this business are just fun to be with. The Internet and forums such as schoolbusfleet.com can help fill the information voids created when some other aspect of the business (or life) needs your attention more.
Providence Catholic Schools
New Lennox, Ill. Information and resources help you handle change
I believe it is very important for all involved in the school bus industry to attend conferences as well as trade shows. Like everything else in this world, nothing in this business stays the same.
Medford, Mass. Conferences offer more than just ‘party time’
It’s important to attend conferences, but more important is what you do when you get there. Ask yourself if you are taking full advantage of what is offered, or is it just party time?
Retired Transportation Director