COVID-19
  • Salus and PURE Bioscience Introduce Hard Surface Disinfectant for School Buses By:

    In a post-COVID environment, cleanliness on school buses has become a paramount concern for education professionals. Disinfecting should no longer be a reactionary response due to “spikes in COVID cases,” but become part of a “daily routine.”  It is critical for school buses to be disinfected regularly, in a safe, and effective manner, to restore parents and students’ faith in virus-free bus transportation. While the market has many cleaning and disinfectant solutions, the teams at Salus Product Group and PURE Bioscience believe that the PURE® Hard Surface Disinfectant is the safest, fastest, and most efficient surface disinfectant for school buses. This, representatives said, is due to its patented chemical makeup. PURE® Hard Surface Disinfectant is strong enough to provide rapid and long-term effectiveness, yet safe enough to receive the EPA’s lowest toxicity rating available. PURE® has also received a GRAS Rating (Generally Recognized As Safe) from the FDA, unlike other brand-name products that use bleaches, ammonias or other harsh chemicals. “In school transportation, reducing exposure to chemicals and carcinogens is vitally important,” said Toby Drysdale, owner of Salus Product Group. “This solution represents a breakthrough for keeping students, drivers, and aides safe while riding the bus.” Silver Dihydrogen Citrate Salus Product Group is an authorized distributor of PURE Hard Surface Disinfectant by PURE Bioscience, a provider of proprietary antimicrobial products for pathogen and hygienic control.  The active solution behind PURE is Silver Dihydrogen Citrate (SDC), a broad-spectrum, non-toxic antimicrobial agent which is manufactured as a liquid and delivered in various concentrations. “We own the patent on SDC, which is a new molecule,” said Tom Myers, chief operating officer of PURE. “We developed SDC and, after patenting the molecule, spent a lot of effort to receive EPA and FDA approvals.” The development process for SDC has taken around 15 years. PURE spent the first five years developing the molecule, which has now received EPA approval for disinfecting surfaces as well as FDA approval for direct food contact without rinsing.  The product is unique in that it has a 30 to 120 second hospital-grade disinfectant kill, setting SDC apart from most other chemicals which take five to 10 minutes wet on the surface. While most other disinfectants require a post-application rise, the PURE solution can be applied to food and even infant bottles and pacifiers with no rinsing required. Vehicle Disinfection While PURE developed the SDC solution and passed through EPA and FDA approval stages, Salus Product Group provides a large variety of misting and airless disinfectant sprayers in handheld, backpack, and wheeled portable configurations.  Drysdale said that handheld sprayers seem to work best in school bus applications. Handheld sprayers releasing the PURE Hard Surface Disinfectant emit a smoke-like mist. “The mist is applied 2 feet above the surface – or 2 feet away from a vertical surface,” Drysdale said. “Spraying at a rate of 2 feet per second, it only takes 30 to 40 seconds to spray the length of an entire school bus.” “As with any school district, there is no one-size-fits-all applicator,” he said. “The handheld is an easy-to-spray solution, but we also provide high-capacity units and 50-foot hoses for larger districts with bigger cleaning lanes. We work closely with districts to assess their specific needs and find the best application for their disinfecting process.” Drysdale added that they are also looking into developing On-Board Dispensing Systems which would handle a single vehicle’s disinfection even faster than handheld sprayers and further reduce staffing burdens. The Science Behind Disinfecting Disinfection “log reduction” is a measure of a product’s ability to reduce pathogens on a scale of 0 log to 6 log, with 6 log representing the highest pathogen reduction. Bill Johnson of PURE Bioscience said that the PURE Hard Surface Disinfectant can reduce pathogens on a school bus on the order of 4 log to 5 log in approximately one minute. In addition to killing 99.999 percent of germs on hard surfaces, the disinfectant eliminates the SARS-CoV-2 virus (causes COVID-19) in 30 seconds on hard non-porous surfaces, and kills more than 31 harmful germs, viruses, and bacteria including MRSA, VRE, CRE, E. coli, Salmonella, Human Coronavirus, Norovirus, Influenza A (H1NI), HIV Type 1, Hepatitis B and C, and more. “There has never been technology like this before, and not only in pupil transportation,” Johnson said. “This the safest, fastest, and longest-lasting tool to fight bacteria, viruses, and fungi, while still being safe to use around children.” Myers said PURE Hard Surface is EPA-Registered (72977-5-73912), FDA approved, and GRAS rated. It received the EPA’s lowest Toxicity Rating of Category IV, with no harmful ammonias, bleaches, quats or other volatile organic compounds. “We are the only disinfectant that actually kills COVID-19 without any kind of warning on the label,” Myers said. “It can literally be used on children’s toys, baby pacifiers, and pet dishes safely and with no rinsing.”  The solution requires no mixing, and dries approximately three minutes after spraying.  It also doesn’t require additional rinsing or wiping of the surfaces, saving districts time and money, “There are other disinfecting sprays that are just as effective as PURE,” Drysdale said. “But those solutions require warning labels such as DANGER, WARNING, or CAUTION and require protective equipment to apply or require dilution. PURE has no such drawbacks for school buses. It acts faster than other disinfectants and provides longer untouched residual protection.” “An operator can spray the bus first thing in the morning,” he continued, “and that is the last time they’ll spray the bus that entire day.” Beyond the Bus Because PURE is not only specialized for buses, but for all facets of education, Johnson said that Salus has also seen widespread adoption in classrooms, staff rooms, athletic/training rooms, and other facilities. “It has been easy to help find champions for this solution beyond district transportation departments,” he said. “When we demonstrate for school districts, we frequently are flooded with teacher queries about why there aren’t bottles in every classroom!” Another unsung facet of a strong and safe disinfectant, Drysdale Read More >

Safety
  • Our Drivers Are Family…Treat Them Accordingly By:

    “Essential workers.” “First people children see every day.” “Critical to children’s education.” Most of us have said these things, with good cause, about our school bus drivers…which makes the current rash of violent acts against drivers so hard to reconcile. As the 2021-22 school year nears the first quarter mark, it has been marked by increased tensions and even violence in classrooms and, specific to our work, on the school bus. We should talk about that a bit. In this school year, we have witnessed the killing (by stabbing) of Pasco, Washington school bus driver Roland Whitehouse while his students looked on in horror. In recent weeks, we have learned of three parents who dragged a New Orleans school bus driver out of her seat and down the bus stairs where they beat her violently, again in view of her students. Recently, the NAPT Board of Directors issued a well-thought statement on this issue and urged members across the nation to consider steps they could take to protect drivers as well as students who would be exposed to such acts and at some risk as well. It is with that statement as background that we explore the issue further. First, we should accept a threshold standard: violence against other human beings is not acceptable. It follows then that violence against others who are serving a public need, especially children, is not acceptable. In fact, some would argue it is even more unacceptable, which we will touch on shortly. Secondly, in our business, safety is our number one mission and objective. Clearly, the safety and security of school bus drivers (and aides, where applicable) is an essential factor in the safety and security of the children who ride the school bus. If a driver is injured or violated in some way, the children riding that bus are no longer safe. We have a clear obligation to ensure the safety of school bus drivers and to protect them from harm or exposure to risk to the extent possible.  So, what steps can we take to help ensure the safety of school bus drivers? Here are some possibilities: Equivalent Treatment for Drivers We can learn from building-based efforts that affect our teaching corps and facilities staff members. We can begin ensuring that behavioral and violence issues on school buses are treated on par with such acts that occur in classrooms, libraries, gyms, and cafeterias. Note that a student attacking a teacher will be dealt with immediately, including removal from the classroom. And teachers are often assisted by teacher aides and have administrative staff down the hall if the need arises. In fact, given the reality that the school bus is remote and distant from the building and other helpful adults, we need to develop even more thoughtful approaches to such problems.  Codes of Conduct This might take expansions of school codes of conduct and discipline programs to include actions taking place on school buses. Many school districts have adopted such codes and principles that apply to all or most of the activities on school property. Some states have enacted laws that require such codes and practices and often require reporting of incidents of violence to the state. How clear is it to the public (and to students in particular) that such codes are applicable on the school bus and that enforcement of the code and/or disciplinary actions can result from misbehavior and violence? Transportation managers owe it to themselves and to their drivers to know the answer to that question and to act accordingly. This means that if there is no clear statement about the school bus, we should be speaking up for inclusion. If there is such a statement, we should be ensuring its enforcement. Sounds simple but it takes work and attentiveness. Hands-On Presence Counts It might also take increased hands-on presence of principals and other building officials to demonstrate to student riders that violence or aggressive behaviors are not tolerated. One district in the Capital area of New York was having serious student behavior issues. One day a principal rode the bus and called attention to student behavior and took disciplinary action. Things changed almost immediately. All it took was a signal that someone in authority meant business. The driver was appreciative of the act of recognition by that principal. Statements from Leadership We should also be encouraging superintendents and school boards to recognize the value of school bus drivers and to make clear statements about respect for drivers. As leaders, we can also recommend that they consider programs to instill such respect for drivers. Sometimes, just saying the right thing often can correct a problem.  PTA Involvement Another strategy for helping to instill respect and positive behavior is to engage the school district’s PTA leadership and members. Local PTA’s can provide positive information to parents which, in turn, can lead to more parents working with their children on such issues. Our efforts can include asking the PTA to help in poster contests or during School Bus Safety Week or Driver Appreciation Week.  Crimes of Assault Some states have enacted laws that create crimes of assault that are applied whenever an individual injures a school bus driver in the performance of his or her duties (driving the bus). Moreover, some states have also made it a crime for individuals who board school buses without the approval of the driver or even against the word of the driver. These kinds of laws are worth looking into and provide our drivers a sense that we respect them, and their safety means something to us. You (Yes, You) Play a Big Role Lastly, supervisors themselves can make a huge difference in how the public and students view and treat their drivers. Some soul-searching may be needed here. The days should be over when complaining about school bus drivers is a sport. These are days when we should be rewarding and publicly recognizing school bus drivers for the work they do and the Read More >

Special Needs
  • A Look at Post-COVID Special Needs Transportation By:

    School BUSRide spoke with Kevin Trudeau, director of commercial sales for BraunAbility, to discuss accessible student transportation in the wake of COVID-19. BraunAbility provides mobility products to numerous transportation industries. Trudeau discussed disruptions due to the pandemic, new safety concerns, the role technology plays in the “new normal,” and more. From an equipment standpoint, what new safety concerns have arisen in special needs pupil transportation due to COVID-19? Most of the students who use our products are a higher-risk population, and we do not take lightly their decision to trust their health to our services. Since COVID, we have implemented processes to increase peace of mind for those with mobility challenges, including an anti-microbial powder coating on the handrails of our wheelchair lifts and implementing a sanitation process as the last component of any service inspection. We also encourage and incentivize mobile service units, enabling the service technicians to come to the repair unit and limit exposure. What role does technology or equipment play in reimagining accessible transportation after COVID-19? Like every industry, pupil transportation is witnessing a high turnover of employees, specifically of equipment operators. This turnover forced us to accelerate our virtual education and certification efforts. In the past we would schedule onsite, in-person trainings. Today a brand-new operator can scan a QR code on our wheelchair lift and read instructions or watch instructional videos to ensure they are operating the equipment correctly or troubleshoot any issues. We still believe in the value of in-person trainings, but we recognize the need for more versatile and virtual options in today’s era, whether during COVID times or beyond. This and our sanitizing processes are changes that are here to stay. What best practices do you recommend for districts in a post-COVID transportation environment? Our best advice to special needs transportation providers right now is to stay current on safety operations, commit to a thorough pre-trip inspection cycle, and make use of OEM and vendor resources for operators. With the quick scan of the QR code on products, our new virtual training and troubleshooting content is now so easy to access. Other equipment providers can provide similar services for their own products. In a post-COVID school transportation environment, our loading and unloading training procedures have not changed. We still focus on safety of the customer above all and meeting them at their comfort level. What vehicle- or equipment-based steps can districts take – whether in practice or with technology – to prep their operations for future crises? This timeless advice still applies in a post-COVID transportation environment – be sure you are conducting pre-trip inspections and conducting preventative maintenance on all your equipment. Many vehicles have been sitting through COVID due to less operating requirements. If your fleet has been idle for more time than is normal, it is especially important that you are regularly running the equipment, taking it for test drives, and ensuring it is ready and able to operate despite any down time.  This is a critical time for the future of the pupil transportation industry. For our part, BraunAbility is excited about our collaboration with Q’STRAINT and the potential to not only make wheelchair securement easier and faster, but also touchless and therefore safer as well. This partnership could not have come at a better time.

Technology
  • LiDAS Ensures No Child is Left Behind By:

    After a long day (and despite the school bus industry’s exceptional safety record), children are sometimes left behind on the school bus. Best practices, surveillance systems, and training help a lot — but is there more you can do to ensure every kid is off the bus each night? No school bus driver intends to leave a child on their vehicle at the end of a long day. But despite the best training, efforts, and intention from dedicated professionals nationwide, this unfortunate situation still happens too often. Training, surveillance systems, and best practices all go a long way – but are you doing everything you can to ensure each kid is off the bus each night? That question is what lead IEE Sensing and Dr. Joseph Funyak, senior vice president of transformative products and technologies, to develop LiDAS, or Life Detection Assistance System. LiDAS is described as a turnkey child detection system which automatically recognizes children (or any living being) accidentally left behind on school vehicles.   Origins in Automotive Safety The technology behind LiDAS began in the automotive world with VitaSense, a radar sensor developed by IEE Sensing in 2009 to detect infants and children left behind in hot cars.  “We created an onboard sensor with the capability to detect even the faintest breathing from a six-month-old infant, even with a blanket covering their head,” Funyak said. “That sensor is being rolled out to passenger cars, but it presented an interesting question – what about school buses, where the number of children is multiplied many times?” In 2017, IEE Sensing began developing LiDAS for school buses. Funyak observed that school buses were very safe thanks to surveillance technology and driver checks, but the industry lacked an automated solution to protect against the event of a child being left behind on a bus. “I thought it was important for school districts to have a standalone, automatic system to check for children,” he said. “There is no way for the driver to circumvent the system, and it provides an independent check against human error.” Funyak noted that even experienced drivers can sometimes miss a child due to habitual memory triumphing over prospective memory.  “When a school bus driver searches their bus after each run, day after day, in search of children left behind, they form habitual memory — that no children are found on the bus,” Funyak said, citing a 2019 study by Dr. David Diamond at the University of South Florida. “Now add a change of some sort or a distraction and the prospective memory – like searching the bus for children left behind – can fail.”   LiDAS When installing the system on a school bus, IEE Sensing first places radar sensors around the vehicle equipped with a patented pattern recognition software. IEE partnered with Brandmotion to be the primary installer of LiDAS as it ramps up into higher production volumes. Brandmotion, experts on installing state-of-the-art technology in the transportation market, have helped with ideas and improvements regarding the installation of LiDAS into school buses. “It is critical for us to provide support when LiDAS goes to a new school district,” said Jeff Varick, CEO and founder of Brandmotion. “Districts are busy enough and do not have the necessary expertise to install the system, monitor, and support it. We have 175 technicians across the country who can help – while also making the installation process better, faster, and more affordable for school districts.” IEE and Brandmotion also equip the bus with a central control unit (CCU) with a wireless communication modem, and a driver interface at the front of the bus. This interface provides the driver with system status, and the system’s notifications are customizable – including alarms, horn activation, flashing lights, and text messages. The control unit connects directly to the cloud, providing districts with real-time system communication and data storage savings. That control unit for LiDAS was developed and manufactured by BGM Engineering. BGM assisted in optimizing the design of the CCU and will also produce and assemble the complete Integrated Driver Interface with CCU. “IEE had a prototype of the controller, which we optimized into a robust, vehicle-ready control board for LiDAS,” said Joe Mazur, VP of engineering for BGM Engineering. “School buses run for long periods, and sometimes in extreme temperatures and over a lot of vibration. This unit is rugged-ready for the many miles placed on school buses.” Funyak said LiDAS allows for customizable settings like detection escalation cyclic, or pre- and post-route checks – all depending on a district’s unique needs. When a driver turns on the vehicle’s ignition, LiDAS goes into standby mode. When the ignition is switched off, the LiDAS activates after a preset delay time (for post-route driver tasks). In about one minute, the system scans the entire bus and sends out a predetermined notification to the appropriate district contact. “The system will detect a child even if they are sleeping under a seat bench in the dark,” Funyak said. “It is not reliant on lighting. It sees through seats and is not affected by mechanical disturbances.” All results are sent to a cloud-based storage for retrieval and review on a real-time basis. St. Clair Technologies (SCT) assisted IEE Sensing in designing and optimizing the various wire harness and cable configurations for LiDAS. SCT’s market focuses include bus, automotive, military, RV, truck, H-D equipment, marine, power sports, alternative energy and more.  “When IEE came to us, there was a basic idea of how the system should function,” said Sharon Azuara, SCT account manager. “We worked with IEE to develop the connection systems, how it could be fed through the buses, and worked to develop the wiring to run the system. “Even in today’s world, children are still unfortunately left behind from time to time,” said Barry Grobosky, vice president of engineering for SCT. “Many of the preventive systems in place are based on people completing a process, whereas this sensor array provides an automatic check.” “The entire industry is Read More >