We entrust in a select group of individuals to take care of our children throughout the day. Some of those said people are the transport team, the school bus drivers. There is more to school bus transportation than one may think. It involves a lot of training and preparation before even being released out on the road. Edmonson County Schools Transportation Department runs 407,680 miles a year, with 28 regular routes, three special-needs routes, and two preschool routes. That does not include trips for ball games and other afterschool activities.
Lannie Deweese is Director of Transportation and Maintenance for Edmonson County Schools. He expressed some of his concerns when it comes to the rules of the road for bus transportation. “The main thing to get out there is we have cars passing school buses while the bus is stopping,” he explained. “I do have to say though since the county attorney and others cracked down on it, this has seemed to help some.”
Some of the preventative measures made for this include the implementation of cameras on the buses. In the event of someone disobeying the rules, that entire event will now be captured on camera.
He added, “we do now have outside cameras on all buses. We get a shot of the car as they go by. Another bonus of the system is I can take a picture of the car and lasso the license plate to the full screen of the computer. Technology has gone a long way.”
All the buses have digital cameras in them now. The camera head is in the back of the bus, there is a camera on the front of the bus and on the outside of the bus. The ones on the front and back of the bus pick up audio as well as video.
The buses do get several miles on them, but the transportation team tries to change out the fleet as much as possible. He mentioned, “we really do have a good fleet and the drivers are very well trained.”
A lot goes into to be a bus driver. Interested individuals must have 30 hours classroom training, 12 hours on-the-road driving with a driver and driver trainer (no kids on the bus) and must practice 8 to 10 hours for the obstacle course, to pass when they take the test. This total is close to 50 hours of training per bus driver. In addition, they must know a lot of rules involving traffic. In summary, there is a lot of time put into this. There are no monitors on the buses, only a bus driver. The team chose to substitute monitors with cameras.
“We want the drivers really focusing on front loading and unloading the children,” Deweese explained. “In addition, we have to do bus safety with students and teachers yearly at the schools. We also keep them up to date on evacuations.”
Deweese said there are still a few tweaks to be made with bus transportation. One of the things the public needs to help with is making sure that students are at the bus stop on time. “We still have some trouble with students being at the bus stop on time. It is recommended to be at the stop at least five minutes early. Our routes, unless the bus breaks down or something happens, routes run a minute or two of each other every day.”
He added, “I understand about weather conditions like rain to delay a student from getting to the bus stop. We do not want a student waiting out in the rain for the bus. In cases like this, we will wait for them.”
As for the upcoming winter weather, there is already a very beneficial system in place. The bad weather procedure says, in the event of snow, Deweese and five others would get out usually on the road by 3 a.m. “I have the other guys contact me by a quarter to four. A lot of times in our county, the river plays a big part in how the weather comes in. The north of the river may have bad roads, but the south of the river may nothing on them. Some of the roads we run in hills or hollers and the sun doesn’t touch it. I have to say the county does an excellent job of clearing roads.” Usually by 5 a.m., in these situations, Deweese will contact Edmonson County Schools Superintendent Patrick Waddell and tells him the condition of the roads, and Waddell makes the call.
In closing, he said, “the main thing we like to ask the people of Edmonson is to please stay off your phones while driving. Distracted driving could cost a life in a matter of a second and change a motorist’s life forever. Please remember we are on the roads heading to school from 6 – 7:30 a.m. and leave school at 3 p.m. and are out until 4:30 p.m. We travel on a lot of side roads. Again, be watching for us at that time.”