A new shift-by-wire transmission control reduces from four to two the number of hand-eye motions typically required to bring a school bus to a stop to pick up or drop off passengers.
With fewer operations to complete while stopping the bus to load or unload students, and again when returning to the road, operators are better able to focus their attention on what’s going on in the vicinity of the bus as students enter or exit the vehicle.
"I can't stress enough what a breakthrough this is," says Gregg Wilson, transportation director at Rockford (Ill.) Public Schools, of the Safe Bus system from Arens Controls.
"To ensure optimum student safety, each and every bus stop must be fully compliant with state and federal regulations — all of the mandated steps must be carried out," Wilson says. "If a driver consciously or accidentally fails to, say, put the bus in neutral and/or engage the emergency brake, the bus can lurch forward or backward in gear and cause pedestrian injury or even death. Needless to say, these outcomes are unthinkable."
Fewer actions required
The Arens Safe Bus transmission control reduces the number of manual stop and load/unload actions required by the driver to just two left-handed operations. The driver simply activates the amber lights, which arms the Safe Bus system. With the bus stopped, the only other action required by the driver is to activate the open door switch that also activates the stop arm, red flasher lights and the Safe Bus system. At that point, the system automatically shifts the transmission to neutral and engages the emergency brake.
After the students have exited the bus or are safely seated, the driver closes the doors and pushes the keypad drive (D) button, which automatically shifts the transmission to drive and releases the emergency brake.
"The fact that the system literally takes over and performs these important regulated steps automatically significantly improves student safety," says Wilson. "If drivers aren’t looking down at the console, and back and forth from right to left, to manually operate switches, buttons, gears and the brake, they can focus on observing the movements of children as they exit or leave the bus. And, since it cannot be overridden by the driver, it provides those of us in management with tremendous peace of mind."
Options are available
The Arens Safe Bus system is both programmable and expandable to accommodate the inclusion and control of other onboard equipment such as wheelchair lifts and/or display transmission operation data over and above basic gear identification.
Richard Barksdale, a 14-year driver at Rockford, operated a Safe Bus-equipped bus on his regular route during the summer. "It gets everything out of the way," he says. "No more gear shifts sticking up out of the floor jabbing you in the knee and no more having to fool with all those buttons and switches when you should be keeping your eyes on the kids."
Says John Marsh, shop manager at Rockford, "The ergonomic benefits of the system in terms of vision, comfort and relief from repetitive motions positively impacts driver health and morale. We are planning to specify the Arens Safe Bus system on our next order of 28 buses, which is currently in the works."