Archives for School Transportation News

Getting Students Back to School During COVID-19

Because of social distancing, classrooms and schoolbuses can only be filled to one-fourth of their capacities. This constraint alone requires that a broad range of dramatic changes be made in order for our children to return to physical school without placing out entire population at greater risk than we already are. Using the key points below, state educational and transportation officials can tweak this model into a formal, detailed plan, and hand it to their respective governors. With such plans implemented, students in many or most states should be able to return to Zoom school this September, and attend school,

Flashers, Signals and Recognition: Part 3

To a school bus professional at any level, the importance of red flashers and stop arms is beyond intuitive; it is primeval. But is it dangerously naïve to assume that motorists, parents and students think likewise. In thinking about this enigma, it is also important to recognize that, particularly in rural areas, two-color traffic lights are common. But in most cases, these traffic signals’ colors are red and green – not red and amber. Never having even seen such a traffic signal, many urban and suburban motorists approaching a traffic light containing only red and amber lights may have no

Who Picks the Stops

Many individuals can, theoretically, select school bus stops: School district management, contractors, software applications personnel, drivers, students and parents. Who actually does this is almost always an issue in crossing-related lawsuits, whether the student was struck by the school bus itself or a third-party vehicle. When the student-victim selected the stop, the defendants are almost always asked some form of this question: “So, in your system, children who don’t even have the ability to cross a street get to select the bus stops?” There is really no good response to this question. If you make choosing the bus stop multiple

Flashers, Signals and Recognition: Part 2

There have been plenty of explanations for the phenomenon of school bus pass-bys. Among them is lax law enforcement, eroding increasingly as funding for such enforcement priorities have dwindled – despite an explosion of useful technology employed to simply enforce and practically guarantee conviction. But the dozens of crossing accidents I have examined as a forensic expert have convinced me that a principal reason that motorists fail to stop for engaged red flashers is that, accompanied only by amber signals (if then), they do not recognize them as traffic signals at all. Instead, motorists cite the fact that a large

Who We Are and What We Do

Crashing a school bus, head-on, into a transit bus or motorcoach costing five times as much is not a fair test. But it is also a stupid one. As even officials in other bus sectors admit, each mode is uniquely superior in providing certain types of trips. School buses are superior in providing home-to-school transportation because they transport mostly individuals who do not yet have the skills to cross streets and intersections, and help them do so. School buses are not just buses. They are crossing buses. This is not a minor distinction. Crossing is what we do. As a

Flashers, Signals and Recognition: Part 1

Several articles ago (“The Steel Wave” in the May, 2008 of STN), I argued for the first of four crossing-related equipment changes that I feel strongly are needed to complete school bus conspicuity. These changes involve efforts to eliminate the ambiguity and temptations many motorists feel when confronting a loading or unloading school bus with its crossing devices engaged, and will clarify crossing procedures for school bus drivers, students and their parents. This second improvement is a twelve-way flasher system. Evolution of the Eight-Way Flasher System Nearly two decades ago, the pupil transportation community acknowledged that red flashers alone provided

Crossing: Things to Come

The November, 2006 issue of STN will launch a series of articles about the most essential and unique feature of our community and our service: The operation of crossing buses. These articles will certainly acknowledge that a vehicle carrying its own traffic signal is something very unusual and very special. But coming installments will also explore approaches, practices and procedures for designing and operating crossing bus systems at a level-of-detail rarely presented. We will explore these systems not only in terms of safety, but also in terms of liability. We will also explore these systems in terms of their efficiency,

Consolidation and Caution

As our economy has continued to shrink, my admiration for most pupil transportation Directors has grown immensely. In 1992, when I could no longer obtain the contract terms that allowed me to run a large paratransit operation at a level of efficiency and virtuosity frankly unthinkable of today, I walked away from a lucrative five-year contract renewal to do other things. But nearly 20 years later, few Transportation Directors in any mode, in either the public or private sector, have the choices to simply walk away that I did. Since then, working largely as a safety and efficiency expert, I

The Creep of Common Carrier Status

As it affects liability, an operating agency’s status as a “common carrier” has an enormous impact not only on determining liability itself, but depending on legal constructs in various states, can also affect considerations like immunity and/or the assessment of punitive damages – often barriers to the assessment of damages afforded to public agencies. So except for motorcoaches deployed in commuter/express service under contract to public transit agencies, these latter considerations rarely affect motorcoach operations in the courtroom. Why the status of common carrier is important is that it requires the “highest duty and standard of care.” Without this status,

Knowing Your Passengers

Each school year starts with new or newly-tweaked routes, new students and new drivers. So too does every run assigned to a substitute. Or every after-school run attended by different students on different days. When drivers have too little information, bad things can happen: With no information about the number of students boarding (much less which ones needed to cross), a substitute driver picked up several students, waited for one whom fellow students advised her was on the route, and eventually pulled away – with the door still open and the red lights flashing. A kindergartner and his parent, arriving