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February 01, 1999  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

State Directors Tab Safety Issues as Top Concerns

Emphasis is given to dangers posed by non-conforming vans and stop-arm violators, but the driver shortage is also deemed a major problem.

by Steve Hirano, Executive Editor

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Non-conforming vans, illegal pass-bys and driver shortages are among the top concerns of members of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), which met Oct. 30-Nov. 3, 1998, in Austin, Texas, for its annual conference. Called "Roping Partnerships," the meeting brought together 39 of the 50-plus members of NASDPTS, one of the association's strongest turnouts. Before the conference, NASDPTS members submitted one-page reports on their state programs, listing new materials developed, new programs, key rulings, court decisions and legislation and major issues of concern. The following is a summary of these reports. Not every state is represented in this compilation because some state pupil transportation directors did not submit reports.

ALASKA - Joe Precourt (Administrator of Pupil Transportation, Division of Education Support Services) reported that the state overhauled its regulations for pupil transportation and developed a new foundation formula that mandates 90 percent reimbursement for school districts and 100 percent for contractors.

Major issues: 1.) non-conforming vans; 2.) reworking of pupil transportation reimbursement formula; and 3.) updating Department of Education regulations for the first time in 20 years.

CALIFORNIA - John Green (Supervisor, Office of School Transportation, Department of Education) reported that the California Association of School Transportation Officials received a grant to develop a special-education guide for school bus operators. In addition, he noted that school buses loading or unloading students who need special assistance do not have to activate their red flashing lights, based on a legislative counsel's opinion to the California Highway Patrol.

Major issues: 1.) seat belts; 2.) non-conforming vans; 3.) school bus overcrowding; 4.) replacement of pre-1977 buses; and 5.) driver shortages.

CONNECTICUT - Lt. Wayne Sinclair (Department of Motor Vehicles) reported that the state is now logging all inspection reports of school buses directly from the field using laptop computers as mobile data terminals. Robin Leeds (Executive Director, Connecticut School Transportation Association) reported that a system that allows school bus drivers to directly report stop-arm violators to the Department of Motor Vehicles has been successful. The DMV enters the vehicle owner's name in a database and sends a warning letter to the owner. If the owner receives a second complaint, the DMV issues a $450 ticket.

Major issues (Leeds): 1.) driver shortage; 2.) DMV staff shortage; 3.) non-conforming vans; and 4.) seat belt controversy.

DELAWARE - Ron Love (Transportation Supervisor, Department of Education) reported that a school transportation regulation that is to be part of an overall Department of Education regulation is under development. He also reported that after July 1, 1998, all newly purchased and newly leased vehicles with a rated capacity, as defined by the manufacturer, to carry more than 10 passengers in addition to the driver that are used to transport preprimary, primary and secondary pupils between home and school or to school-related events shall meet state and federal specifications and safety standards applicable to school buses.

Major issues: 1.) illegal pass-bys; 2.) driver recruitment and retention; 3.) increasing special-education requirements; 4.) school bus discipline; and 5.) charter school transportation.

FLORIDA - Charlie Hood (Director, School Transportation, Department of Education) reported that the DOE mounted a public relations campaign with funding from NHTSA on illegal passing of stopped school buses. The campaign included a full-color brochure, poster, a 30-second public service announcement and a toll-free number for citizens to report illegal passing. Hood also reported that a task force has been appointed to study the state's policy of not reimbursing for transportation of students who live less than two miles walking distance from school.

Major issues: 1.) funding level (annual 3 percent increase in number of transported students while state reimbursement has leveled off at about 60 percent of expenditures); 2.) two-mile limit and hazardous walking criteria; 3.) student discipline; and 4.) use of multipurpose passenger vehicles (MPVs) and passenger cars.

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