Recently chosen as SCHOOL BUS FLEET’s Administrator of the Year for 2001, Randy McLerran, transportation director for the Oklahoma Department of Education, is becoming accustomed to gaining national recognition. McLerran’s School Bus Safety Speech contest, originally a state event, was recently expanded to encompass school districts around the country. Now, he is again receiving attention for his Advanced Collision Avoidance Course for School Buses. McLerran discussed this new training program with SBF Plus.
SBF Plus: How would you describe the Advanced Collision Avoidance Course?
McLerran: The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has one of the finest emergency vehicle driving schools in the U.S. We took a school bus through some of their challenge courses on collision avoidance and evasive maneuvering. These courses are designed for police cars at high speeds, but we were pleasantly surprised at how maneuverable our school buses were. We knew the buses were crashworthy, but we had no idea they were so well-designed and responsive. We discovered that most of the fear of overturning them, at least with the proper driving, is pretty much unfounded. Basically, we took the highway patrol’s high-speed pursuit techniques with emphasis on precision-control steering and recognizing weight transfer, and we are now teaching them to be applied to bus driving.
SBF Plus: How did you come up with the idea for the program?
McLerran: A lot of initial driver training is done at slow and controlled speeds. Then when they complete it, drivers are turned loose on the highways. We wanted people to be able to control the vehicle at highway speeds because that is an environment they are going to be operating in. Through accident investigations and information gathering, we found out that a lot of drivers are afraid to maneuver a school bus. At times when they could have maneuvered around an obstacle and avoided a collision, they were afraid of overturning the bus and were riding their brakes until the impact.
SBF Plus: What are your future plans for the program?
McLerran: We have entered into a partnership with a private truck-driving school. They use a lot of our equipment, and we use their driving course. From here, we will start training trainers. Once we have a good cadre of trainers, then we will start getting career drivers and people from districts in other states to take the classes.
SBF Plus: Do you feel the program will be successful?
McLerran: We are just getting the course up and going. It is probably not going to be for every driver, but it will certainly be good for activity-trip drivers and and career school bus drivers. So far, it has been an amazing, eye-opening experience, and besides that, it has been a tremendous amount of fun. It’s a great confidence- and skill-builder. McLerran can be contacted at [email protected]