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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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IDAHO - Rodney McKnight (Coordinator, Pupil Transportation, Department of Education) reported that the DOE disseminated its revised Pupil Transportation Manual and also developed and disseminated a new Driver Training Curriculum Guide, with tabulated topics, comprehensive exams and discussion topics. In place is a program for inspections of new school buses based on material developed by Ray Merical, pupil transportation specialist.

Major issues: 1.) driver selection and retention; 2.) driver training and curriculum changes; 3.) minor funding changes expected this year; and 4.) technician certification.

ILLINOIS - Alvida Petro (Fiscal Consultant, State Board of Education) noted that the State Board of Education is still implementing the school bus safety control device legislation requiring that all school buses be equipped with crossing arms by Dec. 31, 1999. She said $500,000 has been appropriated in fiscal year 1999 to assist districts in retrofitting their fleets.

Major issues: 1.) lack of funding to develop school bus driver and student curricula and training; 2.) illegal use of vans (11-15 passengers); and 3.) illegal passing of school buses.

INDIANA - Pete Baxter (Director, Division of School Traffic Safety, Department of Education) said the state's School Bus Committee has been ordered to put together rules and regulations for physical performance standards and measurements for school bus drivers.

Major issues: 1.) driver shortage; 2.) use of non-conforming vehicles; and 3.) new rules on school bus driver physical performance standards and measurements.

IOWA - Terry Voy (School Transportation Consultant, Department of Education) reported that the Department of Education, in conjunction with the Iowa Pupil Transportation Association, has produced a new 13-minute video called "Why Not You?" It's a school bus driver recruitment tool for administrators and supervisors to use with local community and civic groups. The video is available from Professional Video in Des Moines, Iowa, (515/277-5599), and costs about $50. Voy also reported on a series of questions that he submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's chief consul on day-care facilities. The response indicated that day-care facilities that are providing to-and-from school transportation services on a regular or frequent basis are school bus operations and that vehicles sold to them by auto dealers must comply with the FMVSS applicable to school buses when the vehicle capacity is 10 passengers or greater. This makes it illegal for a dealer to sell or lease a 12- to 15-passenger van to day-care providers if the vehicle is being used for school purposes.

Major issues: 1.) driver recruitment and retention; 2.) funding for school transportation vehicles; 3.) special-needs transportation, including the proper seating and securement for infants and toddlers; 4.) student discipline; and 5.) adequate time and resources to accomplish everything that should be done.

KANSAS - Larry Bluthardt (Director, School Bus Safety Education Unit, Kansas State Board of Education) noted that state legislators changed the definition of a bus to a vehicle carrying 14 or more passengers, rather than 10 or more - despite warnings about the Jacob Strebler case, in which a million-dollar-plus settlement followed the death of 6-year-old Jacob. The boy was killed when the 15-passenger school van he was riding in was broadsided by a large truck. "It is a sad situation when we are forced to use the loss of a student's life to get the attention of adults," Bluthardt said. "It did not work."

Major issues: 1.) discipline; 2.) transportation of infants and toddlers; 3.) vans; 4.) shortage of drivers; and 5.) seat belts.

LOUISIANA - William Gallegos (Education Executive Administrator, Department of Education) reported that attempts are continuing to re-create the School Transportation Bureau, which was abolished in 1988. "Maybe the three accidents we had in one of our districts will catch the attention of our legislators," he said.

MAINE - William Millar (Transportation Specialist, Department of Education) noted that the state is developing a driver handbook and revising its specs.

Major issues: 1.) funding for new equipment; and 2.) use of non-conforming vans.

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