12 Warning Signs That Your Bus Capacity Is Unsafe
published on June 03, 2022 by Sonia Mastros
school bus management, route optimization, Student Safety, overcrowded Bus, school bus routing software, school bus transportation safety, school bus driver shortages, inefficient routes, outdated routes, inaccurate routes, route efficiency, state reporting, re-routing, bus shortages
Out of all the jobs a school does, there's probably none that's more central or vital than protecting the students in its care. Unfortunately, it seems like there's been a rash of incidents lately with schools running buses that are dangerously overcrowded.
Every student who rides your bus should be assured of a safe and comfortable ride. If your buses are overcrowded, it's endangering your students and likely costing you money!
12 Signs School Buses Are Over-Crowded
1. Exceeding Official Capacity
It often surprises people to learn this, but there are actually no Federal regulations on school bus capacity. Maximum bus capacity is determined by the manufacturer, and is usually based on putting three elementary students onto each seat. If you're got more riders than the manufacturer recommends, you may have trouble.
2. Too Many Riders Per Seat
While a school bus seat may "officially" hold three people, plain common sense says that a seat which seats three 8-year-olds is only going to be able to hold two high schoolers. Otherwise, you're going to start seeing horribly unsafe situations like students sitting on each others' laps.
3. Students In The Aisles
If they aren't sitting on each other, they may be in the aisles. This is an absolute red flag that must be prevented. A student in the aisle has no crash protection whatsoever and is at far higher risk of harm in any sort of incident. It's a totally unacceptable risk, no matter what budgetary constraints are involved.
4. Miscounted Students
You can also see signs of stress in your own bus drivers, especially if they're keeping tallies on paper. The more students on the bus, the more likely it is the bus driver will be unable to keep tabs on all of them.
5. Loss Of Disciplinary Control
It's easy to say a bus driver should be able to maintain control of 70+ students on their bus. Realistically, the more students on board, the harder this is to maintain. Worse, if students are having to ride in the aisles, the driver may be physically blocked from exerting control over the back of the bus.
6. Students Choosing To Walk
Obviously, if a student wants to walk home and their parents allow it, there's nothing necessarily wrong with this. However, if you see a large number of students all choosing to hike long distances, that can be a major indicator of problems on your buses.
7. Full Parking Lots
Don't forget about your older students! If your school provides inadequate parking facilities for your Juniors and Seniors, it may force students into riding the bus who wouldn't have to. Sometimes, you can reduce your bus load simply by giving more alternatives to your upperclassmen, who'd rather not be riding the bus anyway.
8. Combining Bus Routes
We're hearing from more districts who, due to budget constraints, are having to combine bus routes. While you can certainly save plenty of money by cutting buses from your routes, is it really worth the extra risks this adds to your other buses? Don't cut a bus unless you can ensure a safe capacity on the remaining vehicles.
9. Special Needs Students On Regular Buses
If you're having to assign special needs students to your regular routes, this is another red flag - especially if the bus is already over capacity. It becomes extremely easy for situations to arise where the student needs attention, and the driver is unable to intervene.
10. More Maintenance / Lower Mileage
Another element to overcrowded buses that's often overlooked is the toil it takes on the buses themselves. When every additional student means around 80-100lb of extra weight on board, this will start significantly affecting your bus tires, brakes, and suspension, as well as reducing each bus's gas mileage. If you're not getting the expected performance out of your buses, reduce the occupancy.
11. Parent Complaints
If you're getting parent complaints, it usually means there's a problem that's gone unsolved for too long already. Either way, if parents are talking about your buses being overcrowded, that's a huge problem that needs to be addressed directly. A school lives or dies based on the parents' belief it can safely protect its students.
12. Social Media Notoriety
Finally, it's impossible to forget just how much influence social media can have over people. A single picture of an overcrowded bus posted to Instagram or Twitter can bring nationwide attention to your buses... and that's something no one wants.
If your bus routes are too long, and your buses too overcrowded, consider software solutions. Today, a single package of software can optimize your buses and your routes, allowing you to handle more students safely.
Contact Orbit Software today to learn how software can help keep your students safe!