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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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MARYLAND - Donald LaFond (Chief of Pupil Transportation, Department of Education) reported that his state is developing a training program in mirror usage and distance judgment for all school bus drivers.

Major issues: 1.) use of vans; 2.) the 12-year limit on school bus use for public schools; and 3.) driver shortages.

MINNESOTA - Major Dennis Lazenberry (Minnesota State Patrol) reported that a new state program calls for random, surprise school bus inspections conducted at sites other than the terminal. Lazenberry added that the legislature approved a "not a drop" measure that penalizes a school bus driver with any amount of intoxicating substances in his system.

Major issues: 1.) inadequate funding for replacement of aging buses; and 2.) driver shortages.

MISSISSIPPI - Regina Ginn (Director of Transportation, Department of Education) reported that the state is developing guidelines for safe practices to transport pre-kindergarten children.

Major issues: 1.) pre-kindergarten transportation; 2.) special-needs transportation; and 3.) seat belts on school buses.

MISSOURI - Gerri Ogle (Coordinator of School Administrative Services, Department of Elementary & Secondary Education) reported that several new training materials were developed, including a video that reviews new safety equipment on school buses and a video on emergency evacuation. Ogle also reported that legislation was passed that prohibits efficiency reduction of any school district's state transportation aid reimbursement for the reported cost of transporting students with disabilities.

Major issues: 1.) loading and unloading zone safety; 2.) full funding of pupil transportation; 3.) transportation of pre-kindergarten children using seat belts and/or child restraint systems; 4.) use of non-school bus vehicles; and 5.) driver recruitment and retention.

NEBRASKA - Duane Schmidt (Director of Pupil Transportation, Department of Education) reported that transportation training materials were revised and new material was developed for beginning and veteran drivers. Schmidt said the state has developed a Website for student transportation.

Major issues: 1.) stop-arm violators; 2.) recruitment and retention of drivers; 3.) use of vans; and 4.) effectively and efficiently reducing transportation budgets.

NEW JERSEY - Linda Wells (Director, Office of Pupil Transportation, Department of Education) reported that her office is analyzing plans of local school boards to improve pupil transportation efficiency. She hopes to identify barriers to greater transportation efficiency. Wells also reported that the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles has begun an on-site school bus inspection program.

Major issues: 1.) encouraging school districts to improve their transportation efficiency by sharing services; and 2.) ensuring that all non-conforming vans are removed from service.

NORTH CAROLINA - Derek Graham (Section Chief, Transportation Services, Department of Public Instruction) reported that statewide routing software has been modified to print warning messages such as "Blind Curve" or "RRX" in the drivers' instructions. He added that the state received funding from NHTSA to do additional work in the area of stop-arm violation prevention.

OREGON - Deborah Lincoln (Director of Pupil Transportation, Department of Education) reported that her office collaborated with the Department of Motor Vehicles on a pre-trip inspection training video for new drivers. She added that her office converted database software last year, changing from Alpha 5 to Microsoft Access. She said Access is more powerful and allows import of data from school districts.

Major issues: 1.) driver shortage; and 2.) overcrowded school buses.

PENNSYLVANIA - Steve Madrak (Manager, Special Driver Program, Department of Transportation) reported that legislation that would ban pre-standard buses from use as passenger vehicles is advancing.

Major issues: 1.) illegal passes of buses; 2.) seat belts on school buses; 3.) pre-standard buses; and 4.) non-conforming vans.

SOUTH CAROLINA - Donald Tudor (Director of Transportation, Department of Education) reported that the Department of Education, in cooperation with the Department of Public Safety, developed a public service announcement program for school bus safety that includes TV and radio spots, billboards and posters. The department also developed a database to track school bus-related accidents and fatalities associated with school bus transportation. Tudor said the state will require that all school districts offer full-day kindergarten in the 1999-2000 school year. No additional transportation funding was provided.

Major issues: 1.) state funding for general maintenance and operations is anticipated to be $3 million short of fiscal year 1999 expenditures; 2.) driver shortage; 3.) no state-recognized fleet replacement schedule; and 4.) after more than 20 years of fleet reductions, the state is now faced with the need of additional school buses.

SOUTH DAKOTA - Dennis Johnston (Director of Pupil Transportation, Department of Education) reported that some progress has been made to discourage use of 10- to 15-passenger vans. He said materials provided by national pupil transportation organizations and federal agencies prompted the Department of Education and Cultural Affairs to more aggressively discourage schools and contractors from using non-conforming vans.

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