Despite the many challenges faced last school year, from dealing with an ongoing driver shortage to ever-changing health and safety protocols, pupil transporters are charging ahead and using those experiences as fuel for planning a successful 2021-22 school year.
In our recent August issue, a handful of transportation directors shared with Joshua Hendrix, a school safety research scientist at RTI International, how their plans to combat COVID-19 during last school year helped shape their districts emergency response efforts, and in turn, helped improve student behavior management.
Each transportation director told Hendrix that having a plan in place and ensuring clear communication between all parties within their district was key to helping their operation run more efficiently. Additionally, implementing COVID-related safety practices like social distancing, seating charts, and taking daily attendance has made it easier for their drivers and students to build rapport, thus reducing the occurrence of behavioral issues on the bus.
While most operations may not be able to continue social distancing as a long-term practice, due to the driver shortage and more students returning for full, in-person learning, the use of seating charts and attendance-taking can still be useful when dealing with challenging student behavior.
Another important task that operators will need to keep in mind as schools reopen is ensuring their bus drivers and staff are properly trained.
Our story on how to prepare for potential threats on the school bus seeks to arm our readers with best practices for de-escalating violent incidents, such as active shooter scenarios and hijackings, on the bus.
Frank Baio, assistant vice president of safety and risk management for DATTCO Inc., a bus dealership and transportation company based in New Britain, Connecticut, highlights the importance of having a “multi-stage, multimedia approach” to de-escalation training.
“We have to recognize that as adult learners, our employees take information in very different ways,” he says. “Each [DATTCO] training session consists of lectures, DVDs, practical skills attainment, live drills, and an overall interaction between the trainer and an employee. We’ve found that [this] works best for us and for our employees to absorb the material.”
Aside from conducting ongoing training, pupil transporters should also start preparing to meet a new demand: ensuring their new drivers meet the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) regulations.
Two companies — School Bus Safety Co. and Student Transport — detailed in an article for our August issue their offerings designed to help school systems prepare drivers for CDL licensure and ensure their drivers meet ELDT regulations, which are set to take effect on Feb. 7, 2022.
With all these new changes and regulations on the horizon, I’d like to think our annual photo contest can provide some relief and excitement for the school year that lies ahead. The winners and honorable mentions this year reflect unique scenes captured by pupil transporters. You can check out the full gallery, including our Also Noteworthy selections, here.
As we continue to move forward, I’d also like to acknowledge one change that has taken place for us at School Bus Fleet. After eight years, our executive editor, Nicole Schlosser, has left to take on a new career opportunity.
While we’re excited for Nicole as she embarks on a new professional pursuit, we’ll certainly miss her — and I’m sure many of you readers will as well. Nicole started on the magazine as an editor and writer in 2013 and moved up the ranks, becoming the top editor in 2018.
One of the last articles she wrote for SBF is included in our August issue and features tips from various women transportation leaders on how to empower female employees in the workplace through mentorship, industry involvement, and opportunities for growth.
We look forward to hearing from you all about the reopening process, from the highs to the lows. We hope you all have a safe and successful school year. Here’s to new beginnings.