Dallas County Schools has been acquiring a variety of new equipment for its giant fleet, from new school buses to seat belts to stop-arm cameras.
The district, which runs 1,627 route buses and provides transportation service for 11 independent school districts, recently took delivery of 103 new Saf-T-Liner C2s from Thomas Built Buses.
Director of Transportation Aaron Hobbs told SBF that he was particularly pleased that, with lap-shoulder belt seats in a staggered arrangement, the buses have the 77-passenger capacity that the district wanted.
Dallas County Schools began equipping its buses with lap-shoulder belts for passengers in 2009. But they haven't limited the belts to new buses — they've taken the rare step of retrofitting older buses, which entails replacing the seats entirely.
"We retrofitted 178 buses this summer," Hobbs said. "The school board made a decision to make the funds available to get it accomplished."
Dallas County Schools has also embarked on a mission to equip its fleet with stop-arm cameras. As of press time, the district had the cameras on close to 1,000 buses, and Hobbs said he hopes to have them on 1,700 by December.
The district's decision to pursue stop-arm cameras was prompted by "seeing how many violations were occurring — anywhere from one to 10 violations per bus each day," Hobbs said.
New local regulations dictate that for a citation (which carries a $500 fine) to be issued, the stop-arm running footage has to be viewed by a police officer. To that end, Dallas County Schools is launching its own police department, complete with officers and a police chief.
"Their main focus is on stop-arm violations," Hobbs said.
Hobbs came to Dallas County Schools in July 2011 from Houston Independent School District, where he was senior manager of operations. He started his career in pupil transportation about 33 years ago, driving a bus while he attended college.
"Then I went through all of the positions" up to director of transportation, Hobbs noted. "I think that experience has helped me to relate better to what my employees do on a day-to-day basis."