"Risk management is the most important tool for mitigating losses," Linda Neff, executive director, School Transportation Program for Keystone Insurers Group, told School Bus Fleet in the September 2022 feature, "Crucial Steps to Take After an Accident."
We know that preparing and planning in advance, as well as effective and regular training, are crucial to staying ahead of accidents. But there are many additional small steps school districts, private contractors, and drivers can take to ensure safe practices that minimize the risk of an accident.
Neff and Keystone offered the following checklists for accident prevention.
Operational Measures for Safety
- Safety Manual: Does your operation have a safety manual? Make sure it’s routinely reviewed and updated. Use an outside source to review the safety manual to make sure best practices are included. The manual should be detailed and encompass a wide range of topics. It should be a frequent reference for drivers.
- Coverage changes: Review deductibles and additional coverages or deletions made to ensure they follow your operations today and the contractual requirements of the school district.
- Regulatory Compliance: Would you pass a DOT audit? Are you testing the correct number of drivers for alcohol and drugs?
- Continuous Learning: Professional affiliations such as a state association or NSTA provide learning and networking opportunities that can improve safety and even provide an outlet for a new hire!
- Loss History: Understand and review your loss history for trends that may impact updates to your safety manual. Are losses due to a particular driver? Would training, or even firing, be the best solution?
- Route Evaluation: Are your routes now filled with heavier traffic, or more left turns? Routes may need to be modified to improve safety.
- Management/Culture: Document close calls that could have led to an accident or claim that should involve re-training or review of documented procedures such as routes.
- Accident Investigation: What led to the accident? Was it due to traffic, pedestrians, or driver error? Was it due to a driver backing? Was it a rear-end collision? Would training, parent communication, or route adjustments mitigate future similarities? Should a third party get involved?
- Child Check Procedures: After the route and before parking the bus for the day. Make sure to include vans.
Vehicle Checks for Safety
- Age of Vehicle: Could a vehicle become outdated enough that purchase of a new unit be more economical than continuous maintenance?
- Vehicle Features such as electronic stability, collision mitigation and pedestrian detection can greatly reduce the chance of driver error, accidents, and resulting claims.
- Evacuation Plan: Document how and when the bus should be evacuated due to mechanical errors, weather, or accidents. Students should also understand these procedures to exit the vehicle and congregate safely.
- Key Storage: Document where and how vehicle keys should be stored to reduce theft. Never store a key on the bus when parked!
- Technology: Ensure GPS and cameras are in all vehicles.
- Maintenance: Any maintenance on a unit should be performed by a qualified mechanic and then documented and filed.
- Inspection: Inspection of a vehicle for maintenance may be held yearly, but inspections should also be made pre- and post-trip to review any mechanical, electrical, or other issues that could cause problems en-route.
Driver Considerations for Safety
- Continuous Recruitment: Drivers may require medical leave, take another job, or retire. Continuously recruiting for new drivers can help meet route demands.
- CDL vs non-CDL Best Practices: Include Non CDL Driver-drug/alcohol testing as well as yearly physicals even through not federally required to determine they are fit for driving.
- Qualifications: Experience makes the difference! A driver with less than 5 years of experience may require more supervision and training. Driver records should be reviewed annually and result in an “Acceptable” scoring.
- Continuous Training, which would include frequent safety meetings and review of current accidents both in-house and the industry.
- Understanding Student Behavior: Review and understand the new generations of children being transported and how to respond to their behaviors.
- The motor vehicle report on each driver should be reviewed at least yearly and compared to the insurance company standards.