Participants in an AMF-Bruns of America training session take part in a team-building exercise.

Participants in an AMF-Bruns of America training session take part in a team-building exercise.

Photo: AMF-Bruns of America

No matter how state-of-the-art a securement system might be aboard your bus, it’s often only as effective as the training a special-education driver or attendant gets.

Susan Bernstein, a transportation supervisor for Henrico County Public Schools in Virginia, attended an in-person securement training session.

She was stunned, she said, by some videos shown during the session. In one instance, the bus operator had a wheelchair incorrectly secured in the middle of the bus, centered in the aisle.

“No employee of any district should be allowed to receive, tie down, transport, or discharge a wheelchair-bound student until they have been properly trained to do so,” Bernstein said. “I feel that part of that is demonstrating to their employer competency in wheelchair transport.”

Todd Silverthorn, a transportation supervisor with Kettering City Schools in Ohio, also considered such training to be critical.

“It is important that transportation staff know how to properly use the various securements on our buses,” he said. “With several brands on the market, some are similar, but each has its own uniqueness. Not only to ensure that we are securing the students properly and positioning the equipment properly, but also to understand how to quickly remove or release the equipment should bus staff need to evacuate quickly.”

Types of Special-Needs Training Available

Training sessions went online during the COVID-19 pandemic, but in-person and on-site training...

Training sessions went online during the COVID-19 pandemic, but in-person and on-site training has made a comeback.

Photo: AMF-Bruns of America

Major securement producers such as AMF-Bruns of America and Q’Straint provide online and in-person training at trade shows or on-site. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also offers refresher training.

Training topics for special-needs transportation providers may include:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people made use of online options to learn about wheelchair and occupant securement, complete a quiz, and receive a downloadable certificate. But in 2022, in-person training returned.

“We’ve gotten a huge response,” said Rose Ferreira, marketing manager for AMF-Bruns. “We do live boot camp training with 40-50 lead trainers. We spend four hours on wheelchair securement, standards in the industry, and suggestions they can use.”

She considers online training valuable, she said, “but sometimes you don’t get to ask those questions about real-life situations, where a driver can’t hook up a certain student or you have difficulty with the shoulder belt. In-person, you can ask questions about whether something else would work or how to do it correctly.”

Training via web browser just isn’t the same as bringing the industry together and discussing securement best practices, she said.

Darren Reaume, national training manager for Q’Straint, also works with school districts with online and in-person offerings – including webinars that school transportation supervisors can log into and view while sitting a conference room with their staff.

The monthly webinars are free, interactive, drivers can ask questions and watch videos, and, Reaume said, “it’s an easy way to get drivers certified.”

Q’Straint also offers more advanced fee-based courses that cover everything from the landscape of securement devices to troubleshooting difficult equipment to best practices for effective school districts.

All Training Options Have Value

Silverthorn prefers in-person training: “Being able to do hands-on training and understand the product’s intended use is very important. Also, the ability to talk directly with the trainer during the training session allows me to ask those important questions at that very moment. Online is fine, but watching a training video isn’t the same to me. Also, having to email your questions and awaiting a response isn’t always timely.”

Anthony Shields, transportation director for San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District in Texas, sees value in both online and in-person training.

“One of the greatest outcomes from COVID was the adaptability of online learning/training,” he said. “If I am being honest, I think a combination of both helps get material out and effective to the end user. In my current district, we will have online training over material and then follow up with a hands-on, in-person training, which has proven to be successful for our team.

Bernstein shared a similar sentiment: “Not everyone learns in the same way. Some are visual, some are auditory, while some people learn by reading/writing, and finally you have kinesthetic learners. Due to this difference of learning styles, we must present material to our staff in a variety of ways.”

Shields recommended that transportation professionals foster close relationships with the vendors who provide their special-needs securement systems.

“They have very valuable knowledge on the product, and they also get feedback from us as customers to bring back and potentially make improvements if needed,” he said.

About the author
Wes Platt

Wes Platt

Executive Editor

Wes Platt joined Bobit in 2021 as executive editor of School Bus Fleet Magazine. He writes and edits content about student transportation, school bus manufacturers and equipment, legislative issues, maintenance, fleet contracting, and school transportation technology - from classic yellow diesel buses to the latest EPA-funded electric, propane, and CNG vehicles.

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