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December 01, 2005  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

NAPT Fuels Up in Austin

Pupil transportation professionals convene to fill up on solutions for key challenges in safety, special needs and — most evidently — fuel concerns.

by SBF staff editors Thomas McMahon, Albert Neal and Steve Hirano

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Inspection strategies
An effective fleet preventive maintenance program is even more critical these days because of high fuel prices and tight school budgets. But it’s also an important element in preparing the fleet for state maintenance inspections.

Joe Scesny of the New York State Department of Transportation, which inspects the state’s 50,000 school buses, offered his insights into this process. His presentation, “12 Ways to Ensure a Passed Inspection,” outlined the following keys to a successful maintenance program:

1. Lighting

2. Noise

3. Cleanliness and efficiency

4. Preventive maintenance

5. Driver vehicle inspection

6. Forms

7. Interior

8. Exterior

9. Undercarriage

10. Road Test

11. Training

12. Accountability

The state of the bus shop itself plays an integral role in the maintenance program’s success. Scesny said the garage needs to be well lighted, not unduly noisy, clean and organized. He likens the bus shop to the operating room for surgery.

In addition to a clean, well-lighted area, shop personnel need to have a top-notch preventive maintenance program in place. Scesny said the long-term benefits of such a program include improved system reliability, decreased cost of replacement, decreased system downtime, better inventory management and a passed school bus inspection.

Scesny said the New York State Department of Transportation’s school bus inspections cover approximately 210 points with three defect categories: A, B and C. Over the past three years, state inspectors have performed more than 300,000 inspections.

Maintenance programs should monitor the following performance indicators:


  • Preventive maintenance compliance


  • Frequency of unscheduled maintenance


  • Employee work performance


  • Ability to meet equipment demand


  • Road failure history


  • Equipment performance


  • Inspection results


    In New York state, inspection results for school bus fleets are tracked in a system called Bus Safety Information Network (BUSNET). All inspections conducted are recorded on an inspection form, a copy of which is provided to the operator at the conclusion of the inspection or reinspection. The information from each inspection is also entered into the BUSNET computer system.

    The BUSNET system can generate an operator profile report, which is a summary of an operator’s inspection record with the state over a specified period and includes information such as number of inspections, number of inspections passed, average defects per inspection and average out-of-service defects per inspection.

    Getting down to business
    Regardless of the skill level one has with juggling the more technical undertakings at a transportation operation, written communication is essential in imparting messages to parents, supervisors, staff and school boards.

    One of the NAPT’s offerings in its Professional Development Series was a course on effective business writing strategies.

    Transportation consultant George Horne, who is president of Horne Enterprises and a former English teacher, was on deck to facilitate the four-hour, hands-on workshop.

    Horne began by defining the four elements of written communication: the writer, the message or contents of the document, the form of the document and the reader — the intended audience for which the document is written. Horne said that the writer must know which types of messages should be delivered face-to-face and which can be e-mailed in a casual style or written in a formal letter.

    “Prepare yourself with knowledge of the topic and with information about the intended reader,” Horne said. “Recognize the ability of the intended reader to react to the message in the desired manner.”

    Manage risk or risk loss
    “Slips and falls are by far the most expensive of overall workers’ compensation claims,” said Charles Kennedy, senior loss control consultant with the Texas Association of School Boards.

    Kennedy’s session was aimed at assisting the pupil transportation community in cutting down on workers’ compensation payouts through preventive measures.

    Kennedy suggested that every transportation operation have an accident-prevention plan. The plan should be written with individuals assigned to various responsibilities to help enforce the policies.

    Any workers’ compensation claim should be analyzed for effectiveness of the current safety plan and for prevention of future incidents. There should be monthly safety and health training for every employee and a scheduled evaluation to determine objectives for the upcoming year’s safety plan.

    A formal plan to check for substances or work practices that may lead to occupational illness or injury can help reduce the number of workers’ compensation claims and minimize the risk of huge payouts.

    See you next year
    The NAPT’s 32nd Annual Conference and Trade Show will be held in Kansas City, Mo. from Nov. 5 to 9, 2006.

    For more information and photos from this year’s event, visit the association’s Website,


    Hidden Hazards

    Bob Hodges of the Danielle Dawn Smalley Foundation led a workshop on hidden hazardous material accidents along roads. Hodges told the story of the untimely death of Smalley, who drove her truck into a highly explosive butane vapor cloud near her house.

    “This tragedy happened on a Saturday; had it been on a weekday, it could have been a school bus,” Hodges said, explaining the topic’s relevance to pupil transporters.

    In the United States, there are more than 2 million miles of pipeline, carrying materials such as natural gas, crude oil and liquified petroleum gas. Hodges emphasized the importance of knowing locations of local pipeline easements — which are marked with colored posts on each side of roadways — and of being able to identify signs of a rupture. These could include dead vegetation around a pipeline, a hissing or roaring sound and an odor of petroleum.

    For more information on pipeline safety, visit


    Heard in the Aisles

    At this year’s NAPT Conference and Trade Show, we asked attendees the following questions:

    What is the strangest thing that has happened at your operation?

    One of our drivers, David Caslin, told me about a little girl who got on the bus and sat down. Another little child tried to sit down next to her. She said, “No, you can’t sit there.” And the driver said, “Yes, they can sit there.” Then she said, “No, Tommy is sitting there.” This was her imaginary friend. So the driver said, “Well, can a third person sit with you and Tommy?” And the girl said, “Well, I guess so.” So the driver delivered most of the kids, and, as it would be, she was one of the last to get off the bus. As she got off, the driver said, “Now, you know the rules — tomorrow, if Tommy rides, he has to have a note.” The next morning, she got on the bus, and the driver was kind of looking around. He said, “Is Tommy with you today?” And she said, “Well, no. I don’t have a note.”
    Director of Transportation
    Columbia-Brazoria Independent School District
    West Columbia, Texas

    I found a bag of Cheetos hanging from the roof vent in a bus. When I asked the driver what they were doing there, he said he was trying to keep raccoons from getting to them. The Cheetos were required by a student’s IEP to reward good behavior.
    Regional Bus Driver Coordinator
    Medina County (Ohio) Schools’ Educational Services Center

    How are you trying to keep your fuel costs down?

    We’ve had an anti-idling policy for the past four years. And any engine that can be programmed by computer will shut down automatically after 15 minutes. Also, we’re out and about looking, and our principals help out, too.
    Transportation Manager
    Birmingham (Mich.) Public Schools

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