Creating a Culture of Safety: Best Practices for School Bus Operations
published on November 07, 2023 by Sonia Mastros
route optimization, route planning software, school bus routing software, Student School Bus Safety, School bus driver safety, School Bus Security, inefficient routes, outdated routes, inaccurate routes, route efficiency, state reporting, re-routing, bus shortages, driver shortages, school bus route planning software
When training and maintaining your school bus drivers, few topics are more important than bus safety. School buses are among the safest types of transportation on the road, but that requires drivers who are driving properly and aware of the limitations of their buses. They should be focused on safety at all times, and this can be reflected in your training programs.
Looking at statistics and data from various states, there is wide agreement on the most common causes of school bus accidents. So, these are the areas your bus safety programs should focus on.
School bus drivers are, unfortunately, prone to distraction due to the nature of their job. Trying to drive a bus while managing a load of students requires a lot of multitasking!
This problem is best solved by having a second adult rider who can manage the kids, so the driver can focus on driving. If that's not practical, your training and feedback should focus on the driver's behavior. They should never be using their personal devices while driving, and avoid eating or drinking as well.
In some cases, a combination of onboard video cameras and a tablet within the driver's eyeline can also help them manage the students without taking their eyes off the road.
School buses have large blind spots, which will vary somewhat between models - this makes it easy for accidents to occur, especially to inexperienced drivers. Your driver training should put an emphasis on knowing a bus's blind spots, and keeping track of both people and vehicles nearby. The driver shouldn't ever allow something to slip into their blind spot unnoticed, and training can reinforce this.
Blind spot cameras can also be set up to send video feeds to the driver's dashboard display. These won't entirely solve the problem but can help substantially.
Speeding and Other Illegal Behavior
It should go without saying that bus drivers need to be following the rules of the road - but this should still be a major pillar in your training program. Speeding and failure to stop at bus crossings are two of the most common violations, along with unsafe lane changes.
If your buses have GPS systems installed, these can be used to monitor your drivers' behavior. Track their average speeds, and take note of train tracks and other danger points on each route. Is the driver stopping as they should? This gives you a great tool for providing feedback and retraining as needed.
Failure to Maintain Distance
Finally, many drivers - especially novices - tend to underestimate how long it takes a moving bus to brake or stop. In turn, they may not be staying far enough behind vehicles in front of them, leaving themselves unable to stop if the leading car suddenly brakes.
The importance of maintaining distance must be emphasized. Know the average stopping distances for the buses your district uses, and make sure drivers are giving themselves plenty of room to react.
How does your school district handle bus driver safety training? Please share your tips in the comments!