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How to Manage School Transport Effectively

A majority of schools have large fleets of buses that ferry children to and from schools every day. These buses ensure safety for the children. Safety is a major point of concern not only for the parents but for the school authorities as well.

In addition to the quality of education that a school provides, the transportation facilities provided by the school for the safety of their students is a major factor that parents look for when choosing a school for their ward(s).

Given below are few important points which can be practised by the school authorities to manage the school transportation in an effective manner.

1: Manage Routes

It would do best for the school transport department to assign time-saving bus routes in an optimized manner so that it means cost saving in terms of less fuel expenditure.

This activity has to be carefully planned out in such a manner that multiple vehicles of the fleet do not share the same route, do not overlap, or cause any kind of confusion whatsoever. Such a happening would lead to a waste of resources.

2: Bus Station Allocation

This is yet another challenging aspect of managing the school bus fleet.  The school transport department has to create bus stops from where the students can be picked up or dropped off. However, a lot of care has to be taken while deciding the location of these bus stops.

They should be at a convenient spot so that students can reach the bus stop without any difficulty. Secondly, the stops should be in locations that are safe enough for the students to wait till their respective bus comes.

The bus stop location cannot be fixed at spots with heavy traffic as it turns out to be inconvenient and unsafe for both parents and children.

3: Accurate bus timings

Managing the timings of the buses in the fleet is a very important aspect. The bus routes are primarily decided based on the availability of the vehicles in the fleet.

When the routes are allocated, then check the timings of the buses which also includes some buffer time kept aside for any unforeseen delays such as breakdowns, traffic blocks, etc. The buses of the fleet are allocated timing in such a way that only the time required for the travel along the route is allowed for them.

4: Appropriate Fee Structures

Running a fleet of buses is a major cost incurred for the school. The fee structure should be decided on the basis of the running times of the bus and the routes that are traversed.

Other variables to be factored in include the salary of the bus staff, maintenance costs, fuel costs and a facility fee. The fee amounts would be different for different routes that the bus takes and depends on the distance of the bus stops from the school.

SCHOOL-TRANSPORRT-APP5: Allocate Appropriate Routes for Staffs and Students

Firstly, it should be borne in the mind that the student-teacher ratio should be maintained appropriately in each of the buses. The authorities should assign at least two or three teachers per bus.

One of the teachers should necessarily be present in the bus till the end of the route or until the last child in the bus gets off. This ensures the safety of the children travelling in the bus.

6: School Bus Attendance

The attendance roll call for students travelling by each bus should be done every time  bus leaves the school and before the bus reaches the school after the trip completes.

This ensures that the authorities are keeping track of the students. It ensures safety and no slipups whatsoever. Any untoward happening on the bus can be spotted immediately by the authorities.

7: Student Safety

It is most important that the authorities take complete responsibility to ensure safety for those travelling in the bus.
•    Appointing the right driver and bus attendant whose records are clean
•    Maintaining the bus and all its accessories at regular intervals, ensuring that all parts are working
•    It is important to track that the driver’s behaviour on the bus

8: Fleet Tracking

Tracking school buses and occupants is one of the important things that a school should perform to manage school transportation effectively.

This helps the school authorities to take sudden action if any mishaps or any emergencies come during the trip. This in turn helps to tackle the issue without much stress.

Integrating the school transport management software with GPS allows you to get various reports including the wear and tear of the vehicle parts, speed reports, etc.

All these reports help to improve the efficiency of the bus fleet by organizing optimized routes that help to  cut costs as well as ensure a safe trip for the students.

9: Video Surveillance

Video surveillance of the bus every time is essential. It helps school authorities to ensure that everything goes all right with the staff, driver, attendant and students at all times. Any bad behaviour on the part of the driver/staff/students can be stopped in the beginning itself.

10: Fleet Maintenance Software

Use of fleet maintenance software helps to track the vehicle downtimes, parts required, inventory status, expenditure, maintenance schedules, usage of fuel and replacement criteria. Tracking these helps to increase the efficiency and manage the school bus fleet more effectively.

Conclusion

Technology is revolutionizing every aspect of school bus fleet management and it is important that every school’s authorities gather sufficient information to make the most of this and ensure a safe trip to students along with managing it efficiently at the same time.

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10 Important Benefits of Propane Based School Buses

Propane is more widely available and is cheaper than both gasoline and diesel which makes it a preferred fuel for running school buses. Generically known as liquefied petroleum gas, propane is available even in rural areas.

The number of school districts that are using propane for their school bus fleets is on the rise. Propane-based school bus sale has increased by around 500% since the year 1912. As of last year, there are about 13000 propane-based school buses that ferry close to 800000 students to and from schools every day.

This naturally leads to the inference that school buses that use propane are seeing more advantages as compared to others. This article attempts to list 10 of the most obvious and important advantages as to why school bus fleets want to power their buses with this gas.

Here follows the 10 important advantages of propane based school buses which you must know.

1: Financial gains

The primary reason why many schools choose propane is for financial gains. The price of propane is low as compared to traditional gasoline or diesel and also reduces the operating costs. The school buses were able to save to the extent of $3000 per bus if it starts running on propane. The range of savings, however, depends on the price of the fuel.

Right away propane is costing just half as much as diesel from the pump station. In a majority of cases, the school sins a contract with the propane retailer for the fuel consumption of the entire fleet of buses and this makes the cost of propane even lower.

2: Lowered maintenance costs

With propane based school buses, it is possible to save maintenance cost This can be possible in several areas, one being less-frequent changes of the engine oil.

An oil change for propane takes up only 7 quarts of oil. However, for a diesel engine, the oil change requires about 17-36 quarts of oil.  The next reason is the installation of less complicated emission control systems which do not use the diesel exhaust fluid. The fuel burns in a clean manner and there is no requirement for add-on filters usually used by diesel engine systems.

3: Propane is a proven fuel alternative

Propane has been used in vehicles ever since the 1970s which makes the technology almost five decades old and proven. Many school districts started using propane from as early as the 1980s.

4: Quick returns on the investments are possible with propane

School districts that had purchased propane-based school bus fleets got back their initial investment in just about an 18- to 24-month period. This was because of reduced fuel expenditure and lowered maintenance costs.

Typically, the cost of propane has a value that is midway between the price of natural gas and oil. Schools also do well by negotiating a fixed propane price for the entire year with the local retailer.
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5: Propane is a non-toxic fuel and is non-spillable too

Propane has lots of good characteristics:

•    It does not contaminate the soil, air or water
•    It is not made up of harmful chemicals like diesel and gasoline
•    Propane is usually used in a closed-loop system as a result of which it does not spill
•    There are no major clean-up concerns for this fuel

6: The refuelling infrastructure is spread out and big enough

Many of the districts have multiple points from where the school bus fleet can refuel. Each fleet can have their own refuelling strategy. The individual buses from a fleet can be part of a refuelling network.

These networks can be used by those bus fleets that do not have a refuelling facility and infrastructure in their premises. Most of the refuelling stations function 24/7 for the convenience of the bus fleets.

7: The propane refuelling infrastructure is easy to create

For bus fleets of big sizes, it is worthwhile to consider installation of a propane refuelling facility if there is sufficient space in their premises. The infrastructure is affordable and is cheaper than installing stations for dispensing petrol or diesel.

If the refuelling station is outside the premises, a centralized location would be the best as it serves to reduce downtime of the buses. It is also a matter of convenience. Such refuelling centres can be up-scaled when the sizes of the fleets increase.

8: Propane engines operate in a cleaner fashion

As propane engines operate in a cleaner manner than diesel engines. This means that school running propane-based buses set do not have to buy an extra set of about 20 ancillary parts that are required to clean the unwanted emissions of diesel engines.

Without these parts, diesel engines would fail to meet environmental protection standards as far as emissions are concerned.

Propane-based buses emit fewer oxides of nitrogen and almost no particulate matter as compared to diesel.

9: Propane buses have no cold-start problems

Propane buses do not have cold-start issues with the result that the school saves a lot of time as well as money.

10: Drivers love propane-based buses

Drivers love propane based buses for the fact that they operate in a much quieter fashion, they accelerate quickly and are easier to handle, unlike diesel buses.

They do not have the exhaust fumes of diesel engines either. They are quick to start even in the dead of winter. Propane buses do not have to ’idle’ before it starts to move. At the end of it all, they are easier to clean and maintain.

Conclusion

A major cost for most schools is the transportation system. The rising fuel costs coupled with the fact that diesel engine mechanics are rare breed these days, most of the schools are settling for buses that use alternative fuels like propane instead of conventional fuels like diesel and gasoline.

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15 Must-have Safety Features On A School Bus

The school bus is perhaps the safest vehicle that your child can travel in to and from school. According to statistics, students that take the school bus are about 70 times more likely to reach the school safely than other vehicles to get to the school.

The school bus is endowed with a number of safety features as a result of cooperation between the industry and the government. In addition to these, traffic laws are strictly enforced and school bus drivers are well trained.

School buses are loaded with many safety features. Here we are pointing out 15 of them.

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1: High degree of visibility

School buses are designed to have a high degree of visibility. They are painted bright yellow in colour and have flashing lights. This is done so that both pedestrians and motorists notice the vehicle among other vehicles in the road.

Extended stop arms appear when the school buses stop. This notifies other drivers that children are either boarding the bus or alighting from it.

2: GPS systems with advanced features

High-definition GPS systems on school buses help the driver by indicating the exact speed, locations, etc. These help the drivers to stay within the set speed limits, stick to the laid-out route and avoid hazards of different kinds.

3: Anchored seating for the children

Bus seats in school buses are specially designed and are well anchored in their places. The seats have extra padding to avoid injuries. The seats also have a high back and are designed not to shake out of their places in the event of any jarring movements caused by a collision or a crash.

4: Child Check-Mate System

As little children are prone to falling asleep suddenly, the Child Check-Mate is an electronic reminder system that is installed on board to remind the drivers to check the bus and see if there are children that have slept off and not got down at the designated bus stops.

5: Compartmentalization Design

The design of a school bus is different from that of other vehicles such as cars and other light motor vehicles. They use the compartmentalization design wherein the forces that are generated due to an impact or crash spread in a very different fashion from that in other mentioned vehicles.

These buses feature seats that are closely spaced and seat backs designed to absorb energy. These design aspects help to keep the children safe.

6: Safety features in small buses

Preschool children and children with special needs are carried in smaller buses to schools. These buses are generally fitted with car seats and have specially designed child restraint systems on the seats.

In such buses, children need to be fastened with seat belts or shoulder or lap belts because of partial compartmentalization.

7: CCTV inside buses

CCTV placed inside the buses help to prevent accidents and other untoward incidents. It also helps to reconstruct events after an incident has happened. Constant real-time monitoring of video helps to prevent bad behaviour of students, attendants and drivers.

8: Placement of mirrors on the school bus

Mirrors should be properly placed on the school bus to enable the driver to see other motorists, objects and students near the bus and inside the bus.

The mirrors should be placed and adjusted in compliance with motor vehicle safety standards set for the purpose. The seven mirrors recommended for use in the school bus are:

•    Top-left glass mirror

•    Left convex mirror

•    Right convex mirror

•    Left cross-view mirror

•    Right cross-view mirror

•    Top Right flat glass mirror

•    Rear-view mirror (Interior)

: Colour of a school bus

Most of the school buses are painted in such way that it is visible and other road users must be able to recognize among other vehicles. This decreases the possibility of accidents due to poor visibility.

10: Fire extinguisher installation

School bus fires can happen due to many reasons and can have dreadful consequences. There must be a fire suppression system installed in the bus to extinguish the fire if it happens.

The probability of occurrence of fires in the bus can be reduced with regular inspection and timely maintenance of the vehicle. Any bus with a mechanical or electrical problem should be kept off the road.

Fire suppression systems let off an alarm when the temperature reaches a specific high value. Thereafter the system releases a mist or powder that extinguishes the fire. Heat sensors can also be installed to indicate any rise in temperatures above specific levels.

11: Regular first-aid box inside the bus

Every school bus must have a  first-aid box  inside the bus. This would come in handy when there is an accident or untoward injury caused to the occupants of the bus.

12: Windows and horizontal bars

The windows of a school bus should be fitted with horizontal bars. This would prevent the students from putting their heads, hands or any other objects out of the window thus preventing accidents and injuries.

13: Emergency exits

There should be more than one emergency exit installed in a school bus for the safety of the children in case they have to be evacuated from the bus.

There is a monitor system for the emergency exit that provides both an audio and a visual signal to the driver when the emergency exit is opened.

14: Locks for school bus doors

The doors of a school bus should be securely locked when in motion. The locks should be ones from reliable manufacturers and should conform to safety standards.

15: Lettering on the bus

The words “School Bus” must be painted on the front and back of the bus. The size of the letters and colouring must conform to safety standards. In addition, the name and telephone number of the bus must be written on the body of the bus.

Conclusion

Just as it has done in the last many years, the government works closely with school bus manufacturers to implement new safety features in school buses so that everyone concerned is vigilant and consider safety on the road as a continuously evolving issue.

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How to Choose the Right Software for Your School Transport Company

The safest way to transport students of your school would be to have a complete overview of your entire school transportation system at any point in time.

Budget cuts are happening everywhere, with the result that the transport department is forced to squeeze out the most from every dollar spent.

One of the most efficient ways to cut down fuel costs, staffing and to improve vehicle utilization is by optimization of routes.

However, this can be frustrating, time-consuming and inefficient if done manually. Using software packages for school transport is the best way to get this done neatly and efficiently.

How School Transport Software Package is Useful

From creating the school bus routes, scheduling the drivers, and managing unforeseen incidents, the software package for school bus transport must be in tune with the requirements of the school. Any school transportation management software would address the following objectives:

1: Features that make every-day time-consuming tasks easier

•    Allowing easy preparation of trips with auto optimized routes

•    It should be able to manage the presence of students in each stage of the bus trip

•    A few clicks should be enough to plan the rounds for a specific bus contract for a period of a range of dates

2: The activity would be visible immediately in real time

•    The schedule would be accessible and readable in real time

•    Changing the route of one driver to another would be a matter of just a couple of clicks

3: The software package would be in line with the objectives of the business

•    The package should have tools that can help to manage both the drivers as well as the bus attendants

•    It should help to plan the maintenance and renewal of the bus fleet

•    It should give the difference between the monthly projected turnover of the bus and the actuals easily

But while choosing the right software for your school transport company, you must consider certain things as now the market place have flooded with many school bus transportation software kits with various packages. Here we are showcasing certain key things you must take care of.

1: Compatibility with other software

The routing and transportation management software will operate optimally when it is compatible with the other existing programs in your system.

If the integration is good, there is a good possibility that you can derive a variety of reports from the package that will sure make your transport system management easy and efficient.

2: Features of the bus transport system software

The important features that your software package for transport management should possess are the distances to be plied, the route layouts and their complexities, the number of users, etc., among others.

Advanced packages have features that include a layout map of the areas to be covered, maps that can be edited to add new routes and stops, and travel restrictions.  Some other features are:

•    Assignment of bus stops to students (these are defined by the users)

•    Accommodation of right-sided pick-up points

•    Generation of bus passes

•    Option for scheduling pick-up and drop-off points (alternate locations)

•    Calendar facility

•    Student-bus tour history for purpose of report generation

•    Options to customize necessary things

3: Training and Support

Any transport management software package would work best only if you know how to use it effectively. For this, you selected package provider has to provide the required training so that it fits the requirements of your institution.

The software provider should provide training during the time the package is laid out and also beyond this period so that all issue can be sorted out and it can be made to function the way in which it should.

4: Type of software vendor

Rather than choosing a vendor that provides a generalized transportation management package, it is wiser to go for a single vendor that provides a customized end-to-end solution for your specific needs.

Though the former option may cost you less, you may end up making it more expensive if you want amends to be made for the package to suit your system. An end-to-end customized solution will function seamlessly.

5: Calendar-based routing and scheduling

A calendar-based bus schedule helps to organize a trip and allows for the creation of trips quickly, optimally and efficiently. You can edit the schedules with ease. You can even plan for what-if scenarios with efficiently structured advanced software packages.

6: GPS Tracking

Software packages with GPS tracking facility allow you to both track and monitor every bus of your school fleet. Additional information of student in a particular route can be facilitated in integrating RFID options and providing the students with tracking cards. This is precious information as far as the school authorities and parents are concerned.

7: Bus Driver Management

Efficient software programs will help to schedule trips based on drivers’ experience, seniority and expertise. Al trips can further be made to connect to payroll so that month-end salary pay-outs become easier. All these can help to improve retention rates of drivers over the longer term.

8: Management of Changes in Students’ Schedules

See if the software package allows for editing a student’s route to a new one. It should allow setting a student’s status as ‘on vacation’ if they want to stop the school bus transportation for a specific period of time.

9: Matching of Plan vs. Actual

Analysis of GPS data helps the drivers to follow routes that have already been designated. Drivers find it easier to follow the maps of planned routes rather than generic maps displayed by Google.

10: Students with Special Needs

Transportation for students with special needs stands improved by following optimized routes with minimum time on board and proves helpful for generating student data for student reimbursements.

11: Availability of the features on mobile phones

It is greatly convenient for the school authorities as well as parents to receive any notification/alert related to the transportation on mobile phones in real time.

The software package can be designed to send tracking and monitoring signals to servers which disseminates the information to mobile phones.

Facilities that users look out for in School Bus Transportation Management Software

•    Easily input data regarding the pick-up and drop-off stations for the students

•    Maintain details of all the buses (vehicle number, insurance, fuel details, etc.)

•    Maintain details of all students such as contact details, pick-up and drop-off point, etc.

•    SMS facility for parents if any change in scheduled routes or timings

•    All data related to bus maintenance and insurance payments maintained

•    Define bus charges and timings for students for pick-up and drop-off points

•    Easy generation of reports

Conclusion

A software package which helps to manage all the sub-processes that are involved in student transportation through the school buses includes passenger tracking, route optimization, ease driver-parent-school communication, generate comprehensive reports, and facilitate real-time management of different parts of the transportation service. This will help to improve the savings and money control and will ensure student safety.

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How to Install Car Seats In School Bus?

Drivers depend on car seats to keep babies safe. However, according to some experts, only 15% of the car seats are correctly installed guaranteeing the safety and protection of the child.

Before you start installing a car seat in the school bus, know the type of car seats you have. Is it a rear-facing car seat or a front-facing one? Next, take a look at its design to understand if it has to be fixed to the school bus’ seat belt, or the anchor belts attached to the car seat, or to both.

Let us look deeply onto it.

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Installing a Rear-Facing Car Seats in School Bus

Step 1: The carrier and the base are two different parts and must be separated. You need to install the base as this is what will remain in the car.

Go through the manufacturer’s instructions to understand how the carrier can be removed from the base. Generally, this is done with the help of a lever or button placed at the base.

Step 2: Check for the belts attached to the base. Some car seats have a belt with two hooks that can latch onto the designated spots near the seat belt area of your vehicle. If these are the kind of belts in your car seat, snap the hooks onto the metal bars of your school bus’ seat.

  • Make sure the base is resting right against the seat. Tighten the anchor belt in case of a gap.
  • Check the instructional manual to ensure that this is the way the base has to be fixed.
  • Some car seats have another belt that needs to go through the car seat to secure the base and provide additional security.

ALTERNATIVELY,

If the car seat which you are going to install does not have an anchor belt with hooks, it will have a buckle to securely put through the school bus’ belt opening. The seatbelt must go through straight without any twists or turns.

  • Check the manual thoroughly to understand where the belt has to be attached in case of doubt.
  • Every school bus and every car seat is different and, therefore, the manufacturer’s manual must be referred to.
  • A car seat that is not properly latched can be dangerous since the child is at the risk of getting injured.

Step 3: Fix the infant carrier onto the base. The direction of the carrier must be such that the child is facing the rear side. When the base and carrier are correctly fitted, you must hear a click sound. You can practice placing and separating the carrier a couple of times to know how it’s done.

Step 4: Check the angle of the base. Rear-facing car seats can be adjusted to different angles. Young infants need a more reclined position as it helps them to breathe properly.

  • Car seat carriers have level indicators to help you understand which is right for your child. Read the level and check if this is right as per your child’s weight/age/height.
  • Alter the base angle if you feel your child is not comfortable.
  • Always change the angle as your child grows.

Installation a Front Facing Car Seats in School Bus

Step 1: Take the seat belt through the car seat. Front facing car seats have openings at the back or bottom through which a seat belt needs to pass.

This seat belt must be buckled into the school bus’ seat on the other side. Once the belt has passed through and you’ve buckled it, push it down and pull to ensure that it has locked well. Check that the belt is straight and there are no twists or bundling.

Step 2: Some car seat designs include an attached tether. This can be taken over the top of the vehicle’s seat to latch on the anchor behind the seat. If your car seat and vehicle’s seat both support this locking, attach the tether to the anchor and tighten.

ALTERNATIVELY,

If the tether is not attached, you need to use latches to secure the car seat. Check the bottom of the car seat for two buckles with hooks.

These should latch onto the designated spots of the school bus seat where the back and bottom join. Tighten the belt in a manner that the back of the car seat is snug against the back of the vehicle’s seat and the base is snug to the base.

Safety Guidelines

Proper installation of the car seat in school bus is not enough to ensure the safety of the child while traveling. There are a few other factors that you must keep in mind to ensure that the child remains uninjured on the school bus journey. Here’s what you must check:

  1. Choose the right spot to fix the car seat. Child car seats should not be installed in the first few or last rows of the school bus. This is because these seats are unsafe and experience more jerks than the middle rows.
  2. The seat must fit well according to the dimensions of your vehicle’s seat. At any point in time, the base of the car seat must not move more than 1 inch.
    Pull and push your car seat in different directions after installation to check this movement and in case the car seat is moving a lot, do not place the child in it. Tighten the belts to first fix the car seat correctly.
  3. Use the shoulder straps and lap harness to buckle the child into the seat. The child must not be left loosely in the seat. The chest clip must also be buckled properly.
    Tighten all the belts to make sure that your child is safe and comfortable as well. Please ensure that none of the straps are twisted or bundled.

Keep the instructions manual handy to be sure that you have done everything correctly. Student safety in the car seat is in your hands and you must double check everything.

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15 Effective Special-Needs Training Tips For School Bus Driver

Regional rules require that students with special needs should be transported only by those who are specifically trained to provide the service. This is because the whole process is quite a difficult one which involves many different activities.

Here are some of the activities:
•    Loading and unloading students using specific procedures
•    Securing student using a wheelchair
•    Knowledge of operating specific equipment
•    Proper communication with students and concerned people
•    Evacuation of students in an emergency
•    Knowledge of regional and state laws pertaining to the transport of students with special needs or disabilities, etc.

Every driver and bus attendants should have these sort of training so that they can transport students with special needs in a secured way and with utmost care to and from school.

Below are 15 tips for school bus drivers to transport students with special needs.

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  1. The first point that you can start with is you can search for ‘transporting students with disabilities’ in Google. The list that is thrown up would contain many websites that can provide help in this direction.
  2. Different states have published their own training manuals on the web. You can use any of these to define a starting point for your training and design program that suits your needs.
  3. One useful resource where you can spot an effective special needs driver training program is the NST specifications and Procedures manual. This can be downloaded from www.ncstonline.org.
  4. Your training guidelines for drivers transporting students with disabilities should be based on those that are dictated by your district policies.

     

    They should also be based on the regional and state legislation on the matter. This would tell the drivers and attendants the need for this kind of training.

  5. It is necessary to familiarize the drivers and attendants with the characteristics that pertain to the different disabilities so that they are able to identify them easily. This is likely to make the training more effective for them.
  6. Companies that manufacture equipment such as the wheelchair that is required to transport children with special needs provide training on different aspects such as loading the wheelchair on to the bus and securing it.

     

    It is essential to subject the drivers and attendants to such training every time whenever there is a new release of the product and/or its securement systems to keep them updated.

  7. The NHTS Administration has published many manuals to describe the use of child restraint systems in school buses. It is a good idea to become familiar with these during the driver and attendant training sessions.
  8. Your special education department is likely to contain resources that teach drivers and attendants how to control the behaviour of children with special needs during school bus rides.
  9. For drivers and attendants to become good at emergency evacuation procedures, it is important to conduct mock drills at timely intervals with help from the local fire department. This would provide them with first-hand knowledge as to how children with special needs have to be handled during emergency situations.
  10. Drivers and attendants have to be taught to keep specific information regarding students with special needs confidential. They have to be aware of the student’s medical needs if any and should be subjected to sensitivity training to best appreciate the condition of the student.

     

    These are important topics that have to be present in the training manuals. At this stage, the drivers and attendants have to be reasonably familiar with the line of practice that is followed in the specific district.

  11. Every training session should be documented for future reference. These documents should find an appropriate place in the drivers’ and attendants’ training files.
  12. The training program should be one such that it draws from the experience of the training veterans in the field of transportation of students with special needs.

     

    This does not mean that the new trainers can be left out. They will bring in their own expertise to the table. They should be asked to train the drivers and attendants about the requirements they envision in the future for transportation of students with special needs. As of now, there is a lot of precious information in this field that is waiting to be shared.

  13. It is important for drivers and attendants to remain updated about the latest procedure, best practices and incorporate new ideas and information.

     

    Trained drivers and attendants should be readers of school publications that cover the needs of students with disabilities.

  14. To make the training more effective, it is the duty of the trainers to make the environment more conducive to learning. The learning environment should be professional for the best outcomes after the training sessions.
  15. Bus drivers and attendants should be aware of student medical emergencies that may occur. They will have to be trained to pull over and call 911, stay calm, stay with the student during the medical emergency, lend emotional support to the student and correctly document the incident.

Conclusion

Bus drivers and attendants that transport children with disabilities shoulder a great responsibility. It can be done safely and effectively only when the drivers and attendants carry out the job in a very professional manner.

For this, the training has to be very effective. Drivers and attendants that are well trained provide the safest means of transport for children with special needs.

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15 Tips to Fix Your Child’s Long School Bus Rides

While many parents may not have realized this, it is a true fact that a child’s school day starts with the ride on the bus.

However, very long bus rides for the children (say for two hours one way) are seen to detrimentally affect the child’s health and contribute to absent school days and even increase drop-out rates.

The effects are more intense for those children who require special education. Are these long bus rides not able to meet your child’s needs? Have you been mulling on the idea to fix these rides?

Currently, there are no definitions for lengths of the rides even for students with disabilities. If you want to fix the length of the bus ride for your child, you may have to explore and find out aspects with which you can establish that these rides are inappropriate. We give you a few tips that you can start exploring with and later build upon.

  1. It is important to understand that according to the IEP document, transportation comes under the banner of related services.

     

    Therefore, the first and foremost tip is that any concern in this direction should be approached in the same manner as you would do for other related services.

  2. The next important thing to be done is to ask your child what he/she feels about the ride. Whereas some children find the ride cumbersome and exhausting, others seem to enjoy the bus ride.

     

     

    It is good to get some clarity about the extent of the problem right here. Even if the child seems to be happy about the ride, it does not mean that you cannot strive to make it better.

  3. IDEA does not define the ride length. Therefore, go through the state registers to find out whether the length of the school bus ride has been defined.

     

    You may find this in some of the states and would not find this in others. It is a good idea to go through the transportation policy of the school district.

  4. For a large majority of children, riding the bus for long hours can cause severe anxiety. In school-going children, sitting for long hours is difficult. This is a valid point that can be brought up.
  5. It pays for you to know that if the transportation has been provided by the school, it is essentially a part of education that is covered by the IEP. All the queries and concerns can then be addressed to the school.
  6. As transportation is a related service according to IEP, if you feel the bus driver needs to be trained, that can be put in the IEP.
  7. The bus ride is largely chaotic and most of the times, the rides are not supervised to the extent they should be. If your child faces problems such as bullying because of little or no supervision, you can state that as a concern.
  8. In case any change seems impossible, what about the following solutions:

•    Can the child be allowed to eat (whenever the child feels like) on the bus?
•    Would there be a Wi-Fi hotspot so that the child can do their homework on the bus?
•    Can tutoring take place inside the bus?

  1. Make a list of the point which you are not willing to negotiate with: bullying by kids, medications on time, hunger pangs, Type I diabetes, epileptic seizures, etc. These would make your case stronger against long bus rides.
  2. Document all your findings. Add bus incidents to make your point.
  3. Just as how adults do not perform well at work after a bad commute, much the same happens with the children after a long bus ride.

     

    You can make a point when you prove that every day the child is recuperating after an hour’s drive to school and recuperating at home after the one-hour ride back.

  4. Even a roadblock in the IEP process means there is a solution to the problem and you can come around it if you make an effort.
  5. It is a good idea to motivate other community members to take the bus when possible instead of driving their children to school. 
  6. In the case where the district administration does not provide transportation for any child, then you will have to argue the case based on the fact that this is a related service that would help your child to access the provisions of Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
  7. An argument can be made with the fact that LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) does not imply only the classroom placement but also the long bus ride.

     

    IDEA states that children that receive special education should do their learning in the least restrictive environment.

Conclusion

If your child spends too long on the school bus on a daily basis, then it is upon out to bring it to the IEP team’s attention without any delay.

It will also do well for you to contact an attorney that specializes in special education who can help to examine your case and determine whether your child is being denied FAPE.

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​How to Prevent the Threat of School Bus Hijacking

In these days when terrorist attacks are common, it is possible that a school bus may get hijacked.

This is because, worldwide, international terrorists have targeted transportation systems (in particular, buses) and secondly compilations have indicated that many terrorist incidents at schools were focused on buses at targets.

Buses are preferred targets for the reasons because there are many people concentrated in a small space inside the bus and, secondly, the bus is a horrible target to around millions of parents whose children ride to school in the school bus every day.

In the light of these facts, it is very important that every school bus driver must be prepared to prevent the threat of school bus hijacking at any cost. Given below are a few pointers that can be adopted by drivers if they are faced with such a situation.

  1. It is important for the bus driver to anticipate the threat of a hijack and be prepared for one, always.
  2. The bus driver should be aware of the fact that the hijackers are not always adults. There have been instances when students have hijacked school buses.
  3. The motives of the hijackers are varied and most surprising. Whereas in the case of one bus hijack the attackers wanted money, on another school bus hijack the attacker was unhappy with his employer.

     

     

     

    The hijacker can even be a parent of one of the children on the bus. In some weird case, the hijacker may not have a motive at all.

  4. The hijacker can be of any ethnicity, sex, race, age, or background. They can be a complete stranger too. This is why it is important not to allow any unauthorized individual on the bus be it a child or an adult.
  5. The school bus driver should have a perfect plan on what exactly to do in the vent of a hijacking. This plan must be practised with dry runs just like emergency evacuation drills.
  6. School bus drivers should use code words to inform others of the hijack in case it has happened. It is not a good idea to tell the others that they think they ‘have been hijacked’ or that ‘one of the students has a gun’.
  7. The driver of the bus should check in with the authorities from time to time when on a trip. If some check-ins go missing, it is easy for the authorities to understand that a hijacking may have taken place or the bus and its occupants are in some kind of danger.
  8. It is important that the school authorities/school district works closely with the police and other law enforcement agencies. The police should regularly patrol the scheduled school bus routes. This can deter the hijackers.
  9. Students can be trained to conduct regular bus patrols. The older students of the bus patrol can be taught to act in a specific manner in case of a bus hijack. At the same time anyone of the students can call police for help.

     

     

     

    The bus driver can focus on this job and do it well while he/she knows that someone else is calling for help. However, all these have to be practised beforehand through dry runs.

  10. If at all the school bus has been hijacked, then the school bus driver has to become very alert and must take some decisions very quickly. However, there are two methods that are recommended.

     

     

     

    Whereas in one the instructions are for the driver to obey the hijacker’s instructions while waiting for some kind of assistance, the second method recommends that the bus driver has to resist and take command if the situation is conducive.

    Whatever be the method adopted, the protection of the children on the bus is paramount. For all these to happen in the best manner possible, the driver has to conduct drills beforehand.

  11. It is important for the school bus driver to maintain good communication with the students and their parents/guardians.
  12. In the event of a hijack,  school bus driver has to communicate with them instead of fighting. Saying the right things and maintaining the right tone can help to de-escalate the situation to a large extent.
  13. The driver should be trained in the use of all emergency-related equipment. They should be familiar with operating all the emergency procedures and plans.
  14. The driver should have the clarity of thought to identify an emergency and clearly understand their role in the unfolding emergency situation. The driver should stay calm under all circumstances
  15. The driver should make it a point to remove the keys from the ignition when the bus is left unattended.
  16. The bus driver should be familiar with all the guidelines of the school district and state as far as security is concerned.
  17. The inside and outside of the bus has to be inspected thoroughly before and after every school trip.
  18. If the driver spots suspicious people around, they should immediately notify the authorities about the concerns they have.
  19. In case the driver notices any unusual behaviour from individuals, the judgment should not be based on race, religion or ethnicity.
  20. Suspicious individuals can pretend to have gotten lost and may be seen wandering near the buses or inside the school premises. Some of them may even openly wield dangerous weapons or other items.
  21. A suspicious person should be approached by the driver only if they are comfortable in doing so.
  22. The bus driver should refrain from becoming confrontational and try to detain the suspicious person in the first place. The driver should withdraw if they become aggressive.
  23. The driver should look to diffuse the situation, should not attempt to grab the weapon or make any sudden movements and look for ways to alert emergency response. The driver can also pretend that the bus has broken down, if possible.

Conclusion

Every school bus driver should have a written down plan that can be executed if the bus is hijacked. These plans must be practised just as with emergency evacuation drills.

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Common Guidelines for the Location and Design of School Bus Stops

Millions of school children travel to and from schools on a daily basis in school buses during a school year. The safety of students is a matter of high concern for both school authorities and parents.

This post provides some information on the common guidelines related to the location and design of stops for buses run by various schools.

Guidelines for Deciding the Location of School Bus Stops

The first step is definitely deciding the routes for the school bus. Once the routes have been finalized, the next step is to decide the location of each school bus stop along these routes, taking into consideration the various aspects that have been listed below:

  • Special guidelines required for  kindergarten  children like picking them up from their door-steps
  • Choosing the location of school bus stops on the key arterial roads of the city or town
  • Transportation in danger zones marked as "no transport zone"
  • Locating stops in dead-end streets
  • Locating stops at places midway between residential blocks or at corners
  • Closeness to railroad crossings
  • Adequate visibility

There is an intimate link between school bus routes and stops. This is because the characteristics of one impact the other.

For example, a route may have a busy road segment and a stop may have to be necessarily located in this segment. Students waiting at bus stop will definitely have to deal with the heavy traffic on the segment.

Keeping in mind the street-side things like the condition of the road from where the students board and alight school bus and ensuring a safe environment for children, consider the following aspects whenever possible.

  • Route school buses through roads with lower traffic speeds and volumes
  • Avoid roads with multiple lanes where the risk of injury for pedestrians is very high
  • Select roads that have sidewalks/designated pedestrian walkways which are different from the roadway/traffic; if this is not possible select roads with adequate space so that children can walk along the roadway and reach the stop
  • Avoid/limit the stops that necessitate the school buses to make a left/right turn along the route depending on whether right hand or left-hand driving is practiced
  • Avoid stops that necessitate backing up; if backing up cannot be avoided, make sure that the students are picked up before backing and during the return trip the children should be dropped off only after backing up so that the bus can be driven in the forward direction
  • Avoid railroad crossings as much as possible; if it is not possible to do that ensure the presence of signage and crossing arm protection
  • Select stops that have a high level of visibility for both drivers and pedestrians; the sight distance should be sufficient for both the students waiting at the stop and bus drivers

When it comes to the sight distance, some of the factors that have an impact are:

  • Sunrise/sunset times – It is better to avoid locating stops in such a way that the buses are forced to face into the sun at pick-up/drop-off times
  • Curves
  • Trees and vegetation

Guidelines for Designing School Bus Stops

When designing school bus stops some of the key aspects to be kept in mind are as follows:

  • Opt for the safest areas where students can wait for and get into and off of the school bus
  • Choose “near-side” stops as much as possible
  • Design should minimize the need for crossing the road to board or after alighting from the bus; as much as possible the need to cross multi-lane roads must be minimized
  • Ensure adequate lighting is available; if children have to wait during hours when the light is low, the school bus stop must be close to a street light/ other light sources as much as possible
  • Ensure adequate waiting space for both students and parents; the waiting place must be at least 12 feet away from the bus but the bus class and sight distance should be kept in mind
  • Consider the environment around the school bus stop; parks and commercial businesses both have their own benefits and drawbacks; they may confer safety as drivers might expect the presence of pedestrians in the areas but they can distract children
  • Design school bus stops in such a way that the children remain protected from vagaries of nature weather

On the basis of the geographical region, some of the aspects to be kept in mind are:

  • Design stops in such a way that shade is available without sacrificing visibility
  • Avoid areas that will reduce the visibility/access because of changes in weather conditions
  • Avoid snow drift areas that reduce the visibility of the bus or access to the school bus
  • Take into consideration the number of children that have to be picked up from a school bus stop; the presence of many students might confer safety, but it can increase the chances of behavioural problems

The common guidelines outlined in this post are focused on preventing traffic-related injuries to students using the school bus to travel to and from their schools. Students, just like all other community members, face risks of assault and other crimes.

Many of the other non-traffic issues addressed by transportation policies such as proximity to bars, liquor stores, and adult entertainment, among others are not dealt with in this post.

However, following the guidelines when designing and locating school bus stops can greatly improve the safety and security of school children.

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How to Avoid School Bus Accidents

The statistics are unnerving: with over 25 million children travelling to school by the school bus every single day, there are many deaths that occur due to school bus accidents.

In all of these, it has been estimated that over 10% of all the deaths were school children, drivers and passengers. These are more than enough to make us learn ways using which we can avoid school bus accidents and keep our children safe.

A school bus accident is one that involves a school bus vehicle body or the body of any other bus functioning as a school bus. Almost every parent agrees to the fact that transportation of children to and from the school is safer in the school bus than in a car. However, it is up to every school driver to bear in mind that the school bus shares the road with other types of vehicles.

In this article, we have gleaned some precious tips that will help to prevent school bus accidents.

When the school bus is carrying the children, follow these tips:

•    When there are children in the school bus, always maintain  distance from the moving vehicle in the front. The driver should be left with plenty of time when the brake lights of the vehicle on the front start to flash. Flashing yellow lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop. This gives an opportunity for the drivers behind to slow down.

•    If the yellow or red lights of a school bus carrying children start to flash, and when the driver extends the stop arm, all the traffic behind must come to a stop.

•    In case you are on a road that is not divided, do not pass a bus, from either direction, which has stopped to load or unload children.

•    It is a good idea for every driver near a school bus to be extra alert as one cannot predict the behaviour of children. Drivers of all vehicles near schools should be aware of the lowered speed limits.

There have been many cases where children lost their lives in bus-related accidents when walking on the roads.  Majority of these children are very young, between 4 and 7 years of age. Many a time, they are hit by motorists that are illegally passing a school bus that has stopped to pick up or drop off the students. Otherwise, they are hit by the bus.

Given below are some precautions that will help to keep the children safe.

•    Ensure that your vehicle does not block the crosswalk. This forces children to move around your vehicle when they want to cross the road. This could put them in the midst of moving traffic.

•    When your vehicle is in the ‘school zone’, and flashers are blinking, check all cars nearby are stopped and allow pedestrians to cross the roads.

•    Always make sure that you stop the vehicle whenever a traffic policeman or a school patrol guard holds up a ‘Stop’ sign.

•    Look out for children whenever your vehicle crosses playgrounds and parks or school areas.

Rules for School Bus Students

Some of the rules that we have seen are for the vehicle drivers and school children who are walking. There are also some rules that should be followed by the students on the bus to minimize school bus accidents.

•    Board and alight from the bus in an orderly fashion.

•    Be seated when the bus is moving.

•    Keep head, arms and legs inside the bus throughout the journey at all times.

•    Ensure that you are seated with your feet placed on the floor and facing forward.

•    Keep the aisle area free.

•    Do not distract the bus driver at any cost.

•    Make use of the handrail while boarding and de-boarding the bus.

•    Maintain a minimum distance while waiting for the bus at bus stop.

•    Enter the bus only after it has completely halted to a stop.

•    After alighting from the bus, walk for a distance of at least 10 feet before attempting to cross the road.

•    No student should cross the road from behind the bus.

•    You should cross the road only after receiving driver’s signal.

•    You should be educated about the safety of the school bus.

These rules are to be followed when new school bus drivers are appointed.

•    The school bus driver should be in possession of a commercial driver’s license. He should have an accident-free clean personal driving record. He should also come out free of a drug screening procedure.

•    The driver should be a friendly person and capable of maintaining good communication.

•    School bus drivers are expected to eat healthy, take time off when sick and get enough rest on a daily basis. They should completely understand the bad effects of sleep deprivation.

School Bus Maintenance

•    As far as the school bus is concerned, the upkeep and safety of the vehicle are paramount. It is utmost important to stick to the rules as far as maintenance schedules are concerned.

•    Drivers should inspect the buses on a daily basis and the vehicle should receive mechanical maintenance.

•    The bus should undergo a preventative check-up before a long-distance trip.

Bus Routes

Bus routes should be planned in such a way that they travel through roads that have lower speed limits and have a lot of pedestrian space. Streets that are overcrowded or those that have poor visibility should be avoided.

Construction of the School Bus

•    Ensure that the bus has safe handrails.

•    The schools should not use non-conforming vans to transport children to and from schools.

•    The bus should not be too noisy such that it is a distraction for the driver.  There should be no speaker placed adjacent to the driver’s heads.

Conclusion

The driver, helpers, and the public at large should be watchful and vigilant at all times. There is no room for any complacency whatsoever. Only this can help to control school bus accidents.

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