If you are driving a school bus, you know that it is more than taking children to school and dropping them back off at home. It also requires maintaining the bus and making sure that it stays in the best shape. If you are trying to find the best way to get into school bus maintenance, you will also want to make sure that you are able to find the right areas that will provide you with the maintenance needed.

When you begin to look into maintenance, you will want to find a program that is designed to keep the bus in shape. This is important because it will allow the bus drivers to continue to move children to school and will ensure that all of the buses stay at the top level. This means that you will want to find the right mechanics and the right area that provides the service of school bus maintenance and understands exactly what is needed for the proper maintenance.

When you are looking at the maintenance programs, you will want to consider different qualities that are involved. The first of these should be safety inspections. Usually, they will be done in house and will check all of the buses to make sure they are staying in the right gear. Typically, bus programs that want to keep everything in order will measure out how much this is done by mileage or amount of gallons.

In relation to this, there will need to be alternative inspections for maintenance that are done. The next set of maintenance that is done is known as preventative maintenance. This includes changing the oil, checking the service levels and making sure that all of the fluids that are in the bus are set up correctly. Typically, these will be combined with driver daily trip inspections, which will consist of mechanics sitting in on the route that is being driven and checking to see if there is a problem with the vehicle. This will stop break downs from happening and will allow bus drivers to continue to move forward.

The last type of maintenance that is included in bus inspection is known as special projects. Often times, these will be done when the summer starts and when there is not the need to have as many bus drivers. When this is done, more preventative maintenance may be done or there will be the ability to target specific deficiencies that may be on the bus so that it can run smoothly without having any problems.

If you want to keep your bus maintained in the correct way, then you can start by making sure that you line up the preventative measures as well as the special projects with the bus. This will prevent any breakdowns from occurring and will keep everyone moving on the right road. Finding the right mix with school bus maintenance will also provide you with the best routes in making sure everything stays together when going to and from school.

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What’s so difficult about stopping for a school bus? It’s stopped. Its nifty little stop sign is hung out on its side. Its red lights are flashing. We simply stop and wait for it, right? After all, it’s carrying some of the most important cargo we possess as a society and said cargo isn’t always focusing on us or the traffic. So we stop. Besides, it’s the law, right? Or is it?

Hmmm! Well maybe. Kind of depends on where it’s stopped and which state of the union we may happen to be driving in. Is it safer to stop? Or will stopping immediately disrupt traffic flow and perhaps even get us rear-ended? Quite a bit of Googling has suggested that the Stopped School Bus conundrum may be a bit more vague than it would seem at first blush.

There are really only two reasons we should stop for a school bus. The first one is obvious. We don’t want to risk injuring those little cherubs who may be running to and from it. The second? “It’s the Law” and we don’t want to risk getting a ticket and a fine. For most of us, the first reason is the most important one. For others, it would seem that the second is reason enough. For (hopefully) a small minority of drivers, neither reason seems to matter much if at all.

In most cases, sorting out whether we should stop for this special vehicle is pretty straight forward. We’re bopping along on the same, two or four lane undivided street as is the bus. Suddenly it flashes Orange lights to warn us it is stopping, it slows, then it stops, flashing Red Lights. Whether the bus on our side of the road or on the other facing toward us, we should stop. Cool. How far away from the bus should we stop? Common sense will usually dictate but varying state laws will provide fairly stringent guidelines and state law does vary on the issue. Okay, but what if we’re on a multiple lane, divided highway? Well here again, if the bus is in front of us on our side of the highway, we’re obligated by both law and our own sense or morality to stop for the kiddies. State law seems pretty uniform on this one. If the bus is on the other side of that divided highway, however – it gets more interesting. If the bus is stopped on the opposite side of a divided highway, there really isn’t much risk to its cargo if you pass it on your side, but there may be risk to you if you stop. Other drivers driving with you might not expect you to stop. You will be inhibiting traffic flow (never a good thing), and at the very least, you might be offered some unfriendly hand gestures as other drivers buzz on by you.

In the divided highway scenario, there is much debate as to whether it is safer to stop or go but your State has probably provided guidance for you – and the State’s laws do differ. According to Wikipedia, New York State and Mississippi, definitely require a “stop and wait”, even if the bus buggy is on the other side of the divided highway. A quick peek at the New York State driver’s manual clearly confirms that you must stop. Alabama and West Virginia also require a stop, depending on the type of highway or the width of the divider.

For drivers in the rest of the states, a bus stopped on the opposite side of a divided highway, does not appear to restrict you from passing it. Obviously, you should pass with caution and a quick review of your state’s actual law is most definitely in order to confirm. (Don’t rely on Wikipedia for strict interpretation of State driving laws!)

How far from the bus should you stop? Again, the laws seem to vary from state to state, but somewhere between 20 and 100 feet seems to be the suggested distance. Not too much of a variance there! Here again, common sense and conditions would seem to dictate. Another stopped School Bus scenario can be more vague. The bus is at or near an intersection but it’s not on the street you’re on. It’s on the other, intersecting street, either to your left or your right. Hmmm again.

The first question at the intersection would seem to be “where is the bus”? Is it right at the intersection or further back on that intersecting road? If further back, “how far further back?”

If the bus is stopped right at the intersection, you obviously should not pass it. But what if you’re not actually passing it? Let’s say it’s on your right but you’re making a left turn. Did you actually pass it? Same question if it’s on your left and you make a right. You didn’t actually pass it did you? It appears to be a very grey area but discretion would be the better part of valor here. Few would fault you if you waited for the bus, but you could get nailed if you made the turn. Here again, it would seem that state law and even different judges could view the matter differently. Probably better to wait the minute or two and let the little cherubs do their thing.

Lastly, the lil’ old bus is on that side road but a bit further away from the actual intersection – where you are. How far down from the intersection is it stopped? I really couldn’t find anything which would clearly define how far from the intersection the bus would have to be, before you could legally pass it, but here again, a quick review of state regs would be in order.

Common sense would appear to dictate here also. If you need a pair of binoculars to see the bus, you’re probably good to go. The 100 foot distance might be a guideline here. I would certainly not pass the bus if it were within 100 feet. Over that range? You’re probably at the mercy of the traffic officer and the courts, and “somebody was honking at me” isn’t likely to get it.

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School Bus Safety and Accident Prevention

There are few things more tragic then school bus accidents. The loss of life a child is always a disturbing and unsettling even if you do not know the child, but when multiple children are killed in a road accident that could have been avoided, pure horror ensues.

No parent would put his or her child on a bus which was at great risk for a collision, but few parents properly equip their children with the knowledge they need about safety in order for them to stay far away from school bus tragedy.

What Children Should Know

School bus safety needs to approach from a number of levels. School bus safety involves:

o The bus driver
o The school and the administration
o The children who take the bus to school
o Parents of children
o All other motorists on the roads at the same time as school buses

For children, it is vital that parents instill the importance of the following:
o Never run around the bus-many children start to run to the bus stop if they feel that they are late. This should never be done.
o Always walk on the side walk and abide by all traffic lights or traffic signs.
o Arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes prior to when it is scheduled to arrive
o Do not rough house or play at the bus stop. Children should find a safe place to sit and wait once they arrive at the stop.
o Never speak to strangers or enter into strangers cars while waiting.
o When the bus arrives, wait for it to stop and the red lights to flash. Then look left, right and left again before crossing to enter the bus.
o While on the bus, remain in your seat. Do not rough house and NEVER distract the driver.
o Keep the aisles clear at all times.
o In the case of an emergency, stay calm and follow the driver’s instructions very carefully.
o When getting off the bus, look both ways and carefully cross the street if need be.
o Never run after the bus if you forget something.

Motorists must also know all of the laws regarding school buses in their states.

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A position as a school bus driver is a perfect job for a CDL driver who wants to work regular work hours and enjoys working with children. Most school bus drivers transport public elementary school, middle school or high school students. These are stable jobs paid for by the various school districts of the counties the driver is employed by. These jobs usually offer good salaries and employee benefits which include health insurance, holiday pay and vacation pay. School bus drivers usually work a set schedule. A typical schedule involves picking children up early in the morning to take them to school and returning to schools in the afternoon to pick them up to return them to their neighborhoods. Drivers can also earn extra money by driving students to special events. Middle schools and high schools often have after school activities which include various sports events. Football games, basketball games and other sports events are often held at different locations through the city. Drivers can earn extra money by transporting the athletes, cheerleaders, dancers, etc. to these games.

Another benefit of a school bus drivers schedule is that a typical drivers work day starts early. Most children are picked up early in the morning and dropped off at their schools between 7:30a.m. and 8:00a.m. depending upon the schedule set by the school district. Drivers are then off duty until they return to schools in the afternoon to pick the children up and return them to their respective neighborhoods. This allows a sufficient amount of time for drivers to work a part time job or attend classes either during the day or after their work day ends. Some drivers like to use their off duty time to exercise, do chores, or take a morning nap. Whatever drivers like to do with that time, a school bus driver schedule allows them the flexibility to do so.

To be qualified to become a school bus driver you must receive a Commercial Driver License (CDL) with a school bus driver endorsement. To qualify for the school bus endorsement you must meet specific criteria. Applicants must take and pass a driving skills test in a vehicle of the same vehicle group that the applicant intends to drive. Applicants must also pass the knowledge test for obtaining a passenger vehicle endorsement. The knowledge test demonstrates knowledge concerning the proper loading and unloading procedures with children. This includes knowledge of the safe operation of:

Stop signal devices
External mirror systems
Flashing lights
Emergency exits and procedures for safely evacuating passengers in an emergency
State and Federal laws and regulations related to safely traversing railroad-highway rail grade crossings.
Knowledge of other warning and passenger safety devices required for school buses by County, State or Federal law or regulation
Other operating procedures and practices required by law but not otherwise specified.

Over 20 million children nationwide ride the school bus every day. While school buses are regulated to some extent by federal law, not all states have the same safety standards. For example, New York, New Jersey, and Florida all have state laws in place which require school buses to have lap belts installed for student use. No federal law exists, however, which makes this a national standard. In fact, the debate over seat belts in school buses has been going on for years.

That being said, school buses do not have a bad safety record. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses have some of the best safety records on the road in terms of deaths per distance traveled – just 0.2 deaths per 100 million miles. Furthermore, while some 30,000 people died in passenger vehicles crashes during 2004 alone, only 71 school bus passengers have died in accidents in the past eleven years combined.

Of course, as scintillating as the statistics may be, no one can argue that they are perfect. Children are society’s most valued resource, and it only takes the death of one child to make a significant impact on a family and community. One must also consider that many more children die as a result of being hit by buses than do while passengers on a bus. Even though bus drivers are required to undergo safety training and to take extra precautions due to the nature of their job, accidents happen. Nearby drivers may also be at fault. Despite laws which require motorists to stop for school buses, thousands upon thousands of irresponsible drivers ignore these laws daily, creating a serious safety risk for children getting off the bus.

As a parent, one of the best things you can do is reinforce bus safety guidelines with your child. Even though such rules may already be communicated in school, children often look to their parents to give the final word on issues. Be ready to answer questions your child may have, and make sure he or she understands how to be safe around buses.

– When waiting for the bus, stand several feet away from the curb. Do not enter the street or attempt to board the bus until it has come to a complete stop and opened its doors.

– While riding the bus, do not distract or otherwise aggravate the driver. Keep backpacks, lunchboxes, and other objects out of the aisle, as these create tripping hazards.

– When getting off the bus, use the handrail and watch your step. Try not to cross in front of the bus. If you must do so, walk several feet ahead of the bus and wait for the driver to signal for you to cross. Watch out for passing motorists when crossing the street.

– Never, under any circumstances, crawl under the bus. Not even to retrieve lost property.

While School Bus Safety Week is only observed during the third week of October-its message reverberates throughout the year. After all, some 25 million children ride school buses every day.

And, although school buses are said to be the safest form of highway transportation, accidents continue to happen. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seven school-age children are killed in school bus crashes every year-and 19 are killed getting on and off their school buses.

First and foremost, then, remind your child to avoid what’s called the Danger Zones-a ten foot area around the front, back, and both sides of the bus. The driver can’t see a child crossing too close to the front of the bus, and walking along the sides or back risks being hit by other motorists, as well.

Then take it further, reiterating how to get on the bus, behave while on board, and finally how to exit.

Kids should line up and board one at a time, and, once inside, quickly take a seat–and remain seated throughout the ride. To avoid distracting the driver, voices should be kept low. Should your child have a question, she should wait until the bus comes to a stop, then raise her hand, and call out the driver’s name to get her/his attention. Meanwhile, backpacks and such should be kept out of the aisle. And remember: rowdy behavior is never tolerated and is usually met by a loss of bus riding privileges.

When alighting from the bus, children should take their time and continually check in all directions for oncoming vehicles, making sure they can see and be seen by the driver. Once the driver signals that it’s clear to cross, kids should do so, steering clear of the bus’s Danger Zones.

Meanwhile, the school bus stopping laws differ somewhat from state to state. In Pennsylvania, motorists must . . .

1. STOP when meeting or overtaking a school bus whose red signal lights are flashing and stop arm is extended.

2. STOP when approaching an intersection where a school bus’s red signal lights are flashing and stop arm is extended.

3. STOP when traveling in the opposite direction of the school bus if there is only a ridged or grooved divider between the lanes.

4. Do NOT STOP when traveling in the opposite direction if there is a clearly indicated divider between lanes, such as trees, grass, etc.

5. STOP at least ten feet away from the bus and wait until both the lights stop flashing, the stop arm is retracted, and all children have moved to safety before traveling on.

Be forewarned: every year, about 1,000 Pennsylvania motorists fail to obey these bus stopping laws and receive a 60-day license suspension, five points on their driving records, plus a $250 fine.

So, for safety’s sake, be patient, obey the law, and heed the theme of this year’s School Bus Safety Week: “Avoid harm; obey the arm.”

As unbelievable as it may sound, there are a large number of fatal accidents which continue to occur in this country involving students while getting on and off the school bus.

According to published figures from the Kansas Department of Transportation and other sources confirm that fatalities and injuries in the loading and unloading zone, rightfully called the ‘danger zone’, accounted for 13 fatal accidents, involving K-12 school children. Of the 13 fatalities, 7 occurred behind the bus and 6 were killed by a passing motorist.

Pedestrian fatalities at the ‘danger zone’ are three times as many as school bus occupant fatalities. This makes the time of getting on and off the school bus, one of the most potentially dangerous part of the bus ride.

The reason why the ‘danger zone’ is potentially so hazardous is because this is the area on all sides of the bus where the children are not seen by the driver (ten feet in front of the bus where the driver may be seated too high or ten feet on either side of the bus where a child may be in the driver’s blind spot, and the area behind the school bus).

Considering the rise in such fatalities there have been several mandatory product and design changes in school buses implemented. For instance, the federal rule requires all new buses to have an 8-amp lamp warning system and stop signal arm.

While the number of such accidents in the ‘danger zone’ has significantly reduced over the years, the School Transportation Section of the National Safety Council recommends that training on various aspects of getting on and off the bus should be given both to pupils and students.

Here are some simple guidelines which you could train your child while he is getting ready to get on and off his school bus:

– Avoid any rowdy behavior while waiting for the bus. Stay calm and do not stray on to the streets.

– Remain away from the street as the bus approaches.

– After entering the bus, find a seat and sit down.

– Keep your head, neck and arms inside the bus.

– When the school arrives, wait for the bus to come to a complete halt before getting up from the seat.

– Keep the aisle of the bus clear of clutter.

– Walk at least 10 feet ahead of the bus along the side of the road, if you have to cross the road in front of the bus.

– Wait for the driver to give you the ‘walk’ signal before you start to cross the road.

– While crossing the road, keep your eyes for oncoming traffic.

– Always stay away from the rear wheels of the bus.

Riding a school bus to school in the mornings and the afternoons has been a tradition for many years now. It has always been a concern for parents on the first day their put their child on the bus because they worry about whether or not they will be afraid or if their safety should be a concern. Usually after the first couple of weeks it becomes routine and most parents never give it much thought after that.

However, in recent years there are a number of reasons that parents are having to be cautious when they have children that ride a school bus to and from their schools. This is because in recent years especially, there has been an alarming increase in the number of children that fight on the bus even as the bus drivers watch in their rear view mirror. There have been many serious incidents where children have been ganged up on by several other kids at one time.

Another concern that has just recently came to light is the risk of a child being molested on the bus by other children on the bus. Older students have been found guilty of molesting smaller kids as they ride to or from school. This is such a serious concern and fifty years ago such a thing occurring on a school bus would have been unthinkable.

There have also been incidents where small children have been accidentally left on the school bus in the morning after the run has been made. It is the responsibility of a bus driver to walk the entire length of the bus after each route has been finished to make sure there is no one left on the bus. Evidently this is not a practice all bus drivers care to make sure they do because when the bus is taken to a temporary parking place until the afternoon route, they were surprised to find a small child had fallen asleep in the morning and had been left on the bus all alone for the entire day. This can be a very dangerous and scary situation when a five or six year old wakes up all alone and is made to sit for hours in hunger and sometimes cold or very hot temperatures in a closed up and empty bus.

Even though the aid of cameras have been installed in many school buses around the country, these types of incidents are still continuing to rise overall. Parents need to take the time to get to know their child’s school bus driver and find out how responsible they might be. Be sure to ask your child about what is going on their school bus and if there are any suspicious things happening that they tell you about, take it to the school principal or even the school board to make sure your child’s bus ride is as safe as possible.

Imagine: millions of students nationwide start their day by getting on and off the school bus. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that year after year, pedestrians who are usually below the age of 19 have died in school bus-related crashes. More school-age pedestrians have been killed between the hours of 3 and 4 p.m. than any other time of day. The NHTSA has even formulated several safety tips for both drivers and children:

Take note of the crosswalk/school zone sign.

Drivers: This means that during mornings and afternoons, these areas are likely to be crowded with children — some even on their bicycles or in-line skates. All of them are no match to a bus, so extra care in part of the driver is needed.
Children: Do what you learned in pre-school: look left, then right to see if vehicles or people are going to pass before crossing the street. If you could, go along with other children/people using the crosswalk.

Learn the “Flashing Signal Light System”that school buses use.

Drivers: Alert motorists if you are preparing to/stopping the school bus using the yellow/red light.
Children:Just because they are in a stop position does not mean there is no more danger. Take note of the danger zones around a stopped school bus, namely, the front and back (which are the most dangerous zones) and the driver’s side of the bus.

Slow down.

Drivers: Be alert around school zones. Young people may be rushing about on their way to class or to meet a parent.
Children: No need to rush when getting on or off. Wait until the bus hits a full stop, with the doors wide open before getting in. Use the handrails to avoid falls.

Visibility.

Drivers: For a vehicle such as a school bus, you really can’t see what’s directly below you. Be careful before speeding on.
Children: When crossing in front of a bus, put a safe distance (say, 10 feet) between the bus and where you plan to cross. Use sidewalks and walkways where you’re sure the driver sees you.

Backing up.

Drivers: Be aware if children/bicycles are crossing behind you.
Children: Never be the children/children-in-bicycles who cross behind buses.

To enforce traffic safety, the state of Florida has enforced tougher penalties for passing a stopped school bus while loading or unloading children. Previously the fine was $65.00, however now they are required to attend a 4-hour basic driver improvement course. This course explains Florida traffic laws and provides a refresher on defensive driving techniques.

There are many things to consider when planning to rent a charter bus with a professional driver-whether it is a full-size motorcoach, a smaller coach bus, or a school bus. By the way, school bus charters are mostly rented out by the bus operators for strictly local charter trips. In any rate, I would like to outline a few important and essential things to consider and resolve before, during, and after renting a coach or a school bus from any bus rental company. These points to note come from the extensive experience working as a bus company operator and having made, as well as witness many clients make, many mistakes and blunders resulting in charter delays, bus/bus-driver scheduling errors, and other such inconveniences like having no-shows on the day of the charter trip. I realize along with our clients that any charter trip begins and ends with a functional and clean coach/school bus being driven by an enthused and punctual coach bus or school bus driver. There are, however, ways to ensure that all of the logistical fronts are covered for the clients to be satisfied with their chosen charter bus rental company and the bus operating company in turn to be happy with their clients. It all boils down to effective and efficient communication.

Firstly, the relationship between the client and the bus operator begins with the client requesting a charter trip quotation or a charter trip appraisal. There are many things that are taken into consideration before a bus rental company issues a quotation. For example, the season, month, day of the month, bus fleet availability, and the rates given by the 3 largest charter bus rental companies in the industry for a given date-just to name a few. At this stage, the client is strictly focused (like tunnel vision) on getting the best price for the best possible charter bus services. And they rightly should be; however, not at the cost of neglecting their focus on very simple but profound details. Such crucial, albeit simple, details include making sure to submit the exact and correct dates for the charter trip; provide the correct time of departure and arrival; and outline the itinerary details, like extra charter-trip destination stops. Once, these details are provided to the charter bus rental company, the bus operator issues a charter trip quotation with a trip-rate. The client is now at the stage of either accepting the charter bus rental company as their vendor or not. Once the charter bus company is chosen and the client confirms the booking of their respective charter bus (be it coach bus or school bus) a formal trip confirmation is issued by the charter bus rental company to the client.

At this stage, it is crucial to double-check all of the aforementioned “simple” charter trip details. Many times, clients get quoted for a different date than what the trip confirmation states. That is there is a discrepancy between the trip quotation and the trip confirmation. Any bus rental company ultimately goes by their trip confirmations when scheduling and finalizing their bus rentals and schedule. These trip confirmations are also signed by the client upon the finalization of their charter trip booking. In my personal experience, some clients end up not getting their charter bus arriving on the right date. This seems to be a ridiculous mishap and it is. But it all stems from neglecting to focus on the contracted details stated on the trip confirmation.

I plan to continue the series of articles focusing on such logistical details in order to help clients and operators to foresee and overcome such blunders and to ultimately provide a reliable and professional charter bus rental service to our community. Please stay tuned for future publications on how to rent a charter bus and, equally important, how to make sure that all the charter trip logistics are put in place.

This article is written on behalf of BelCa Tours & Coach Inc., a charter coach bus and school bus rental company. As the Operations Manager of a reputable charter bus rental company, I seek to inform the readers of the industry insights, chartering details, and a plethora of the publicly unknown information which is essential when chartering any bus for any charter trip of a client’s choice.

Information and its accessibility is the most valuable asset of any client, business, or enterprise. Also, the source of such information is essential for it to be reliable and accurate. I therefore, would love to share as much as I am able, presently being an integral part of operations of a medium-size charter bus rental company.