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 at the last minute, had been informed that the red flashers comprised the signal to cross. So too did the driver. So as the flashing bus began to pull away, the kindergartner crossed the road, stepped in front of the bus, and was promptly run over.

To protect your students, your school district, your company and/or your job, your drivers must know:

  • The precise address (or landmark) of the stop
  • The precise position of the stop with respect to the intersection (i.e., near-side, far-side or mid-block)
  • The scheduled stop arrival/departure time
  • Who is boarding or alighting at every stop
  • Whether or not each student needs to cross
  • Each student’s age or grade
  • Information specific to each student’s problems related to safety

To help monitor your drivers’ compliance with this information, correct crossing procedures, schedule reliability, and other issues, it helps to have drivers enter their actual arrival/departure times at a handful of key stops (the transit industry refers to these as “time points”). That way, you can quickly review a batch of logs, catch any problems, and focus your supervisory attention on those drivers who may appear to be experiencing problems.

A sample log is presented on the opposite page in Figure 1. Obviously you would not have an entire general education bus full of students with the types of problems shown here. But since you don’t, providing this type and level of information about a handful who might is relatively easy. Not providing it can compromise safety and expose your district and/or your contractor to liability.

Related Tips. To reinforce what your drivers know and do, also make sure to:

  • Note any day-to-day deviations (e.g., students on vacation) on each day’s logs handed out.
  • Communicate proper crossing procedures to both students and their families.
  • Make sure that drivers never deviate spatially from routes and stops without permission from the dispatcher.
  • Make sure every bus is equipped with the full array of accepted and recommended crossing equipment.

Liability Tips. You are not liable for genuine accidents. Only for your errors an omissions. If a student is killed or injured on your transportation system, you want to be able to demonstrate that it happened despite your best efforts. Submitting copies of drivers’ logs that include all pertinent passenger information, and which reflect tight management and control, will help you accomplish this goal. So too will your testimony about the process you employed to review these documents regularly, and spot and correct deviations immediately.

Publications: School Transportation News.