Bonin says turnover at the cooperative is low, and its employees enjoy the work that they do. Pictured are bus attendant Ann Crowley-Hash and driver Randy Wiktorek.
Handling harsh weather
Operating buses in severe weather presents another challenge for the cooperative. It has an extensive area of service, with bus drivers traveling out to areas near the Pacific Ocean and up into the Cascades mountain range.
"During challenging weather conditions, like snow, it's up to the drivers to make determinations about equipment to put on the buses, like chains, since they're out-posted [at bus yards throughout southwest Washington], and to call us and tell us what's going on," Bonin says. "Our drivers receive chaining instruction, and we have meetings that provide support on how to deal with hazardous road conditions."
(Drivers receive training on such topics as emergency evacuations, working with medically fragile students and behavioral disorders during an annual in-service workshop.)
High safety standards
Like most pupil transportation operations, the cooperative's primary goal is to safely serve its students. To that end, service is often customized for each child. For example, the staff evaluates which driver and bus are best for each student, and it provides bus attendants to support students who need them.
The type of equipment on the operation's 50 small buses enhances student safety. In addition to some units being outfitted with wheelchair lifts, all of the buses are equipped with non-skid flooring, lit stairways, many mirrors for increased visibility and flexible tiedown systems.
"We've started purchasing buses that have integrated seat belts in the seats," Bonin says. "Some also have integrated child seats because we transport some children who require car seats."
Preventive maintenance is performed on the buses regularly to keep them in good operating condition. Oil and other vehicle fluids are changed approximately every 3,000 miles.
The rigorous maintenance program has paid off. "For the last four years, which is as long as I've been here, we've always had perfect state inspections, which I'm pretty excited about," Bonin says. "The schools look at that - they want to make sure that we're safe."
(Prior to joining ESD 112's transportation cooperative, Bonin worked for Laidlaw as general manager for Oregon and Washington state.)