Risk Management
  • Do You See What I See? By:

    Perhaps no one sees their community as much or as well as school bus drivers. In their route, school bus drivers go into all neighborhoods and down many side streets that mass transit buses and other vehicles don’t use and the police may circle only now and again. It’s always intrigued me what school bus drivers see and witness on their tours through our cities and villages each day. And, given my innate curiosity, it makes me wonder how their observations and experiences might contribute to some greater good in our communities and in our schools. Let’s explore some of those sights and sounds and consider their value to our communities and the role that school bus drivers can and do play in helping those communities and the children who live there. This discussion starts with the understanding that our drivers’ first and primary responsibility is to safely transport America’s children. Any of these ideas and discussion points must be viewed through that lens. Illegal Passers A perennial issue for school bus safety and our drivers is the sizable number of motorists who daily pass school buses that have their red lights and stop arms engaged. Regardless the interventions we try, it seems that the problem continues unabated across the nation. It is an urban issue as well as a rural and suburban issue. Our drivers are our first line of intelligence gathering on this issue. They see where the most incidents occur and can provide that information to management and to law enforcement. Such information can help the police to intervene where possible to write tickets or to enhance enforcement and compliance. It can also help school transportation leaders to identify places where routes could be adjusted to avoid certain traffic areas or to avoid the need for students to cross a road to board their bus. And be sure to advise your drivers that you KNOW that sometimes nothing is done with the information they turn over. But let them know that it’s important to the safety of our children and that you are keeping a running log of the passes that are reported and sharing that data with the school board and the media and the police administration.  Infrastructure Issues Potholes that can make your teeth rattle. Intersections in need of repair. Turning lanes not marked or in poor condition. Streetlights not lit on side streets. Traffic signals not working. Any school bus driver knows that they are likely to see any of these problems on any given road on any given morning of afternoon run. And any of these can present safety or equipment maintenance problems for our drivers.  Our kids need for us to be watchful over them. And our drivers, as we have all said, are the first school employees to see them each morning and the last to see them in the afternoon. Encouraging them to report such instances allows managers to communicate with municipal authorities to get them resolved immediately or on a repair list for resolution at some point. Here again, these kinds of activities remind our drivers of their importance and their roles as part of our safety team. And again, keep a log of the reports you have made and the resolution of those reports. Share the results with the drivers so they can see the results of their vigilance. And share your efforts with the school board or your local school administration. Maybe at some point in the school year, put out a statement of gratitude to the municipality regarding their responsiveness to your reports. Dangerous Neighborhoods Many of our school children live in neighborhoods where there are higher than average crime rates or run-down housing stock or commercial establishments that increase the risk level for them. The locations are often known to us when we set up our routing and stop locations. But over time, those locations change or evolve, and need our renewed attention.  What a great opportunity to get immediate input from your own eyes and ears: your drivers! What are they seeing in terms of changes in neighborhoods or at bus stops. Bus stops are often a cause for concern and a venue for bullying or violence. Our drivers see these locations every day, twice a day, and can be a great source of information. They can also be a resource to you in your routing and scheduling activities and updates. Suspicious Activities Who was that person hanging around the swings at the neighborhood park? Why are those three young guys standing in a circle on that corner every afternoon? Who is that person coming out of a student’s home every afternoon just as the bus pulls up to unload? Did that student just get into a car instead of going into her home after she left the school bus? This is another important area where our drivers are a source of intelligence for us on activities or circumstances that present danger or risk to our children. Encourage your drivers to be vigilant and to share with you anything that they see that is troubling or concerning or just out of the ordinary. Let them know that no observation is too small or insignificant. If they share it, assure them that you will do a review and take appropriate action. But it all starts with them reporting and sharing.  Troubled Children Our kids need for us to be watchful over them. And our drivers, as we have all said, are the first school employees to see them each morning and the last to see them in the afternoon. Our drivers are trained in many skills and can (and should) be trained or prepared to watch for signs of distress in a child. I recall an episode in a rural area of New York. A driver noticed that a young male student frequently soiled himself as he left the bus and walked toward his home in the afternoon. The driver noted it happened particularly Read More >

  • 5 Essential Lift Safety Tips By:

    Stay safe and avoid noncompliance fines The vehicle lifts that are supporting the school buses in your garage can represent one of the most productive tools in your shop, or potentially one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment you own if not used and maintained properly. If there were an incident in your garage involving a vehicle lift, OSHA would ask you three questions: What did you know? When did you know it? What did you do about it? Complying with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH) requirements ensure vehicle lifts are kept at the highest possible safety level. Following these safety tips ensure your technicians are kept safe and that noncompliance fines are avoided. 1. Buy certified lifts & options There’s one and only one nationally recognized safety standard for vehicle lifts: ANSI-ALI/ALCTV, administered by the Automotive Lift Institute (www.autolift.org). The Automotive Lift Institute, working though ETL testing procedures, involves rigorous third-party testing verifying lift manufacturers meet and comply with current ALI requirements for lifts as defined by the International Building Code, which mandates that lifts be third party tested to meet these safety requirements. Most every state has building code rules that shops have to follow. To verify equipment status, look for the gold ALI/ETL certification tag next to the lift’s controls. Beware that using an uncertified option voids the lift’s certification. ANSI/ALI standards for Operation, Inspection, and Maintenance (ALOIM 8. Replacement Parts) as well as Installation and Service (ALIS 6.2.6 Repair Service Parts) require all accessories, such as rolling jacks, truck adaptors, lighting for runway lifts, and special lifting pads, to be ALI/ETL certified. ALI/ETL standards (& ANSI standards & building code standards) require all accessories, such as drive-thru runways, rolling jacks, truck adaptors, lighting for runway lifts, and special lifting pads, to be certified. Although certification is good for the life to lift, older models may not meet the most current standards, which typically change every five to seven years. Some lifts and options that were certified in 2000 wouldn’t pass the 2011 standard. 2. No locks = liability You’ve heard the phrase, “Never use a jack without a jack-stand.” The same is true for vehicle lifts. Always raise the vehicle and then lower it onto the lift’s mechanical locks as suggested by the manufacturer and required by ANSI. Refer to ALI safety manual Lifting it Right or the manufacturer’s operating instructions for detailed information. When you’re walking through the shop, make sure techs are using the proper procedure. An easy way to visually verify the locks are being used is to include a weight gauge on your lift. The weight gauge must be made by the same manufacturer so it will be properly calibrated to the lift cylinder size. When you walk by a lift and the weight gauge reads anything but “0”, the tech in that bay hasn’t lowered the lift onto the mechanical locks. 3. It’s easy to overload Manufacturers of the most common lift – two post, side-by side lifts – mandate that none of the four swing arms be overloaded. Unfortunately, overloading of lifts happens more than realized. For example, some may think that a 12,000-pound rated lift that’s loaded with an 11,500-pound vehicle isn’t near capacity. They would be wrong. If this vehicle has a front axle weight of 4,500 pounds and back axle weight of 7,000 pounds. The per-arm capacity of a 12,000-pound rated lift is 3,000 pounds. If the heavier rear end of a vehicle weighs 7,000 pounds, each swing arm needs a minimum arm capacity of 3,500 pounds for safe lifting. Multiply this example by four swing arms and the minimum capacity of your lift for this vehicle should be 14,000 pounds. It’s easy to see why two-post, side-by sidelifts are often overloaded, even though the total lift capacity hasn’t been exceeded. Look around your shop and determine if any lifts are being overloaded based on the heavy rear ends of certain vehicles. 4. Inspect equipment annually ANSI/Automotive Lift Institute ALCTV Standard for Automotive Lifts – “Safety Requirements for Construction, Testing, and Validation” requires technicians to perform a daily operational safety check. ANSI also requires an annual inspection by a qualified individual. Failing to do so exposes your shop to liabilities that could be associated with an injury if an accident were to happen. Contact your manufacturer or garage equipment sales company to schedule an inspection. 5. Training and testing Like any product, lifts vary in style, type, capability, longevity, and warranty. ANSI requires technicians to be trained annually in proper lift use. This may seem unnecessary, yet think of everyone who drives a forklift in your facility who is required to take and pass an annual safety test. The test results are added to each employee’s file in case of a forklift incident. The same applies to vehicle lifts. Contact the Automotive Lift Institute, your lift supplier, or a local lift inspection company for a copy of the 20-minute Lifting it Right video hosted by legendary NASCAR driver Richard “The King” Petty and his son, Kyle. Require your technicians to watch the video and pass a written test on lift operation and safety. And remember – our lifts are available on nationwide government contract, making them a perfect fit for publicly-operated school districts. Steve Perlstein serves as sales & marketing manager for Mohawk Lifts, Amsterdam, NY. Visit www.mohawklifts.com for more information.

Special Needs
  • Durham School Services Donates Bus for Mobile Mental Health “Chill Room” By:

    Durham School Services (DSS), a leader in student transportation, has donated a school bus to the West Jefferson Hills (WJH) School District in Jefferson Hills, Pennsylvania, to renovate into a mobile “Chill Room/Makerspace” for its students. The Chill Room will allow students to seek innovative ways to help manage stress, anxiety, and focus on mental health. The donated bus will be renovated and designed into the mobile Chill Room with help from Thomas Jefferson High School’s technical education and graphic design students. It is slated to be completed during the 2023-2024 school year. The mobile “Chill Room” is an expansion of Allegheny Health Network’s (AHN) Chill Project, a program for schools that “uses mindfulness-based exercises to equip students, teachers, and parents with a common language and universal skills to identify, discuss, and react positively to stress.” Through the Chill Project, participants have access to services such as counseling, support groups, school-based outpatient services, and more. “We are excited for this unique opportunity to create a mobile ‘Chill Room/Makerspace’ for our elementary school students and community, and thank Durham School Services for their extraordinary donation,” said Dr. Janet Sardon, WJH School District superintendent. “This bus will positively impact our students since it will provide them with a more accessible means to seek out support. The bus also is a great opportunity for Thomas Jefferson students to construct a welcoming and functional interior space and design a colorful and creative interior and exterior. We are fortunate to have a compassionate and supportive partner like Durham School Services who possesses such a strong commitment to the well-being of its students and community.” The donation to the West Jefferson Hills School District was made as part of Durham School Services’ company-wide Partners Beyond the Bus program, a continuous effort to serve students’ growing, diverse needs and increase the positive impact we make on their lives beyond school and their communities. These bus donations also help to repurpose retired, non-electric vehicles from DSS’ fleets, which further contributes to DSS’ transition to alternative fuel-powered and zero-emission buses. Durham School Services plans on transitioning to an all zero-emission fleet by 2035. “We look forward to the transformation of the bus into an innovative and mobile space for WJH students,” said Karen Kotar, West Jefferson Area general manager. “We are delighted that this donation will give the students of the West Jefferson Hills School District an additional opportunity to receive the support they need when they are stressed or going through a difficult time. The Chill Project is an admirable endeavor, and we are proud to contribute to the project through our bus donation. We are eager to see how the students transform the bus and the difference it will make in the lives of the students and community.”

  • The Electric Bus Journey: Grant Funding and Beyond By:

    By IC Bus WHERE ARE YOU ON THE FLEET ELECTRIFICATION ON-RAMP? Has your organization already developed a comprehensive strategy to convert a portion or all of its fleet to electric school buses (ESBs)? Or, conversely, have you already received one or more grants yet still have significant research, planning and consensus building to accomplish a seamless transition to a low- or zero-emissions future? Regardless of your present status, the transition to ESBs and other clean-vehicle technologies is accelerating across North America thanks in part to rapidly growing awareness of the safety, environmental and operational benefits of replacing older, diesel-powered buses. Of course, the most meaningful catalyst for change has been recent government policy, which has led to an exponential increase in funding – both from national and local sources – available to school bus operators. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (2021) allocated $5 billion to districts and other school bus operators investing in zero emission or alternative fuel vehicles, while the Inflation Reduction Act (2022) earmarks more than $1 billion in additional grants for class 6 and 7 vehicles. State-level funding also is on the rise: In 2021, California spent more than $110 million to support fleets in the transition to ESB. While Florida recently authorized funding for seven school districts to purchase a total of 218 zero-emission buses.  ‘WE’VE SECURED A GRANT! NOW WHAT?’ Transitioning to ESBs or any other transformational technology is indeed a journey comprising several incremental steps that contribute to the ultimate outcome. While your organization might have received funding very early in the process – perhaps even before selecting an ESB supplier – this does not eliminate the need to complete each step in the journey. In short, implementation of a safe, reliable, environmentally friendly, and cost-efficient new transportation platform that will serve your needs far into the future. An essential step in this journey is to establish your goals and develop a clearly defined vision for the role of ESBs within your fleet. This is vital not only in understanding how to develop a strategic plan but to gain buy-in from important constituents, from school district leadership to fleet operations personnel to the community at large.  Once you have achieved a consensus among key decision makers, it’s time to conduct a high-level needs assessment. Your needs assessment should encompass both current, mid-term and long-term needs. For example, if your district is located in a fast-growing area, consider how your fleet would need to scale over the next several years and the impact of changing bell schedules to your operation. WHAT DOES YOUR DATA TELL YOU? Another fundamental step is to audit the use of your existing buses. IC Bus® dealers can help you analyze vehicle usage logs and/or telematics data to better understand the miles required from each bus per route and day, dwell time, downtime, topographical features (hills, valleys, etc.) of each route, bell schedules and other variables that should be considered during the planning stage. Consideration of technology performance as well as operational requirements to meet bell schedules and allow for charge events should be assessed early on. The results of your equipment and route analyses will contribute to your likely next step – establishing a charging strategy. A charging strategy should be based on: • Individual bus requirements, including daily routes and extended use (after-school activities, etc.) • Route lengths and operating environment, including external environment impacts • Time between charges • Fleet operations structure (centralized/decentralized) • Main power source (current load / system capacity) • Utility requirements for electrical upgrade (including possible reimbursement) • Need for scalability (future expansion of fleet service area) • IC Bus and its dealers can support this analysis to ensure successful adoption of ESBs. IC Bus and your charging company can provide comprehensive consulting, infrastructure planning and implementation services for school districts and other school bus operators. THE CENTER OF IT ALL Besides the ESBs themselves, the biggest change most school bus operators will experience through electrification is in the bus garage, where they will need ample charging infrastructure to support fleet charging. The most complex and costly element of this phase is upgrading the power supply and installing all required high- and low-voltage cabling, charging equipment and backup power resources. As with any sizeable capital project, it is best to invest in the time and outside expertise to design a charging infrastructure that will meet your fleet’s needs for years to come. In navigating this step, you’ll need close collaboration between your fleet operations team, ESB supplier, charging system provider and, above all, your local utility. Together, these partners can help you assess the feasibility of converting/upgrading an existing facility to safely and effectively house and charge your ESBs. Include your utility as early in the planning process as possible so they understand your electrification goals and can identify and eliminate any power supply constraints. Additionally, they can help offset some of the costs associated with site upgrades with grants and incentive programs available in your area. Other areas of collaboration should include negotiating electric rates for your ESB fleet as well longer-term revenue opportunities associated with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) services. VEHICLE SELECTION AND BUILD Soon after receiving grant approval, you will likely formalize the selection and purchase of your new ESB(s). In the ideal scenario, your ESB supplier would be the same company that has helped you navigate through each step of the planning process. When considering the vehicle manufacturer that best meets your needs, the following should be considered: • Ensure the charger hardware, charger software, and vehicle are all compatible • Ensure the battery specification and the battery capacity provides you with the “true” range considering operating environment and vehicle specifications • With vehicle and hardware software important, ensure the platforms provide the necessary data for Fleet Management, Business Manager, and future reporting requirements The ESB manufacturer may help you achieve and maintain compliance with the requirements of state, federal and other grants, and incentive programs. When applying for a grant or Read More >