Summer Is Finally Here!!

Once the countdown to the final days of the school year begins, we all know summertime is fast approaching. Camp routes and community centers are bustling with children excited to be free from what seemed like a 9 month prison sentence. Most would look at summer as an opportunity to relax, relate and release. However, for a school bus company, summer can be one of the most busiest times of the year.

While some drivers are making decisions to go out of town with their own families, others are looking for alternate work and worrying if there will be enough routes to go around.
Office and corporate staff are making arrangements to obtain and retain good drivers. Recruiting strategies are in full force looking for those elite individuals that have a sincere interest in transporting all of our precious children. The training department has an opportunity to evaluate and train existing drivers on issues or problems that may have occurred during the previous school year. Office staff are shredding route copies, making room for the upcoming school year.

Summer also gives the company time to spruce up the property. Surfaces are getting deep cleaned and made fresh with a new coat of paint.  An inspection of the grounds may show the previous winter’s damage. So a main focus will be on yard clean up. Filling potholes in driveways/walkways to prevent future trips and falls. It is easier and safer to do repairs when weather permits and can clearly see what needs repair. Incorporating slip and fall prevention into driver training is also being planned during the summer. The time and hard work is being spent recruiting good drivers, so you don’t want them hurt on or off the job.

On the bus, inspections are completed. Buses are thoroughly washed, painted and repaired. The old gum stuck to the bottom of the bus seats are scraped off and floors polished to a pristine shine. Seats that have fallen victim to graffiti, are scrubbed and repaired of any damages. Good maintenance is easier to accomplish when you are not under strict time restraints. Making sure the fleet will roll out on time the first day of school and endure another winter, is a primary goal.

When the school year is over and summer arrives, it is nice to think about taking it easy. However, in the bus company world, the wheels never stop turning. Several summer projects that can make your fleet, drivers and operations run smoother, can pay dividends come the next school year. Focusing on issues that will make the new school year easier is well worth your time during the summer.

Own It

When there is conflict, we strive to be the one in the right, not the one in the wrong. When problems occur over a misunderstanding or disagreement, do you own your part? Are we ego driven as human beings? This may say a lot about the state of our world today. The biggest, the brightest, the best, always comes out on top. To have the most and be the most correct, is hindering us from seeing and understanding those that have the least. I had a child the other day call the homeless man on the corner, “Stupid.” I asked the boy why did he think the man was stupid. The boy stated, “You have to be stupid not to have a place to live”.

Now mind you, the route I was doing is classified as a Homeless and Highly Mobil route. The children transported are coming from shelters and from displaced home situations. I probably should not have continued the conversation, but I was so curious as to how he came to this conclusion. So I asked the student again, why he’d consider the man stupid because he didn’t have a place to live. What if the man’s home burned down and he didn’t have money to replace it? What if the man lost his job and before he could get another, his landlord evicted him for not having money for the rent? The student then volunteered that he did not live with his mother because she was looking for a house for him and his siblings. They were put out of their house because his mother could not pay the rent. At the moment, he was living with his grandmother.  I pointed out that this may be the same issue the homeless man was going through. He just may not have anyone he could live with at the moment. The student however, put the blame on everyone but his mom and said because the person on the corner was a man, he should be able to do better. I suppose the pride a son has for their parent, makes the parent in the boy’s eyes, do no wrong. But the judgment this young man had for the homeless man surprised me. They both were in similar situations but the boy thought he had it much better because he wasn’t “as homeless” as the man and that the man had greater responsibility than his mother.

I encouraged the student that before he looked at another human being as being less than, imagine what his circumstances may be. Just like his family, the issues brought upon them may not have been under their control, but they happened. Thus putting them in a space of uncertainties and confusion. Even though his mother was doing the best that she could, there was something that has prevented them from being together under the same roof. I reminded the student that he should be grateful there was somewhere he could stay in the meantime, and that calling others stupid for their situation before knowing the whole story, may not be such a nice thing to do. People’s understanding of themselves as well as others can dramatically change this world. No one is different. We may have different skin colors, religious persuasions or material status’, but we all are the same. We want the same things out of life. To be happy, prosperous, protected and understood. Once we begin to feel our needs and wants hold more importance than the next, is where the problems begin. Our egos start to control us and put ourselves at a higher standard than the next person. We look down at their struggle and expect them to pull through like we may have. We forget what it felt like when we were in those same shoes. How hard it was to remain positive when things got real tough. We forget to encourage and leave the judgments aside. I constantly remind myself and my children how quickly things can go wrong. I try to stay diligent in keeping our lives afloat, but I always recall when things were much harder.

This students’ response to the homeless man and what he thought was his lack of readiness to correct his condition, troubled me. I understand some people choose to live a particular way that may be different then what we choose, but to assume that it is a choice and not a life altering event that happened to them, makes me wonder how many other people are judged in this way. Before we find fault in someone else’s actions or inactions, are we 100% infallible? Are we asking ourselves what are some things we can improve on and what is our contribution to the conflict? We have to own our part in this life we were given. We are not here to just build ourselves but one another as well. We have to choose to look beyond our own selfish needs and create an open mind that can embrace others and their needs and situations. Looking at others as we see ourselves may improve the way we treat one another. Doing for others as we would want done for us in our time of need, can keep us grounded in an understanding that we are all one and none of us are perfect.

School Bus Tornado Safety

April 20th, 2017 is Minnesota Statewide Tornado Drill Day. The chances of a bus driver encountering a tornado while on their route is slim, however, drivers should know what to do and what to be aware of. Minnesota’s Severe Storms Awareness Week, will be a good time to review tornado safety plans with school bus drivers and students that ride the bus.

Tornadoes develop in areas where a severe thunderstorm watch or warning is in effect. A Tornado Watch is when the weather conditions in the atmosphere can result in the possibility of developing a tornado. A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been sighted or has been indicated by weather radar. Warnings are issued for counties or communities that are in the path of the tornado’s location, direction and speed.

If a tornado warning is issued in the area, drivers should be aware of the signs of an approaching tornado or storm. Dark, often grey/green skies, wall cloud, large hail and or a loud roar some often relate it to the sound of a freight train. If any of these conditions exist while driving, drivers should take immediate action and seek shelter or stop and pull over.

In the event a tornado is moving toward the area the bus is driving, do not continue in that direction. Instead, the driver should either stop if the storm is close, or retreat at a right angle away from the storms path. NEVER attempt to outrun a tornado that is bearing down on the vehicle. If there is a likelihood the tornado will hit the vehicle, and there is not escape route available, the driver should:

  1. Alert dispatch if time permits, that they will be Evacuating the bus.
  2. Take the students to the nearest ditch. Get as far away from the bus as possible. Take cover on the storm side of the bus, so that the bus will not roll onto the children. Avoid areas with trees.
  3. Instruct the students to lie flat on their stomachs and cover their heads with their hands.

As with all bus evacuations, do not allow students to take their personal belongings with them other than their coats and jackets. These items can be used to cover their heads and bodies from flying debris. If the driver is going to take anything, take the first aid kit. Do not take the children to an underpass. It is not known how much shelter an underpass can provide from flying debris in a violent tornado. Most deaths and injuries in a tornado are caused by flying debris.

If the bus driver spots a funnel and there is no time to evacuate the bus, have the students remain in their seats and lie down below the window covering their heads with their hands. They should shut the bus off and get down away from the door. At anytime there is a house or building nearby that offers shelter and time permits to reach it, use it. Move to the lowest level of the structure away from windows and doors. If there is no basement, use a closet, bathroom or center hallway on the lowest level. Use cushions, blankets, or mattresses to cover the students with. These items will help protect everyone from flying debris.

Once the bus driver thinks the tornado has passed, they should look and listen for further funnel clouds before removing anyone from shelter. Sometimes there can be multiple tornados in one storm. It is absolutely imperative the driver stays calm and keeps the children calm. If the group had to take cover outside in a ditch, return the students to the bus for shelter against hail and rain that can come after a tornado. Attend to any injuries and notify dispatch as soon as possible of their location, any need for paramedics, and what the overall status is after any bus evacuation.

Having and reviewing a School Bus Tornado Safety Plan will prepare bus drivers in the steps necessary to keep the passengers and themselves safe during a tornado emergency. During the week of April 17th – 21st, 2017, the Department of Public Safety and the National Weather Service will be promoting severe weather safety and emergency preparedness information.  This is the perfect time for families, communities, schools, and school bus companies, to review and talk about their emergency plans and how they can prepare for the upcoming severe weather season.

 

What makes the roads dangerous?

What makes the roads dangerous? Is it the road its self or is it the people driving on the roads? Some would say it could be a combination of the two. I suppose a stretch of highway could seem dangerous if it were a dark, windy road that collects ice when it rains or snows. However, knowing all those things, wouldn’t it fall on the driver to be extra careful and cautious when they are traveling this said highway? Being that a road is a stationary object, never moving unless there were a natural disaster such as an earthquake, wouldn’t it beg to reason the moving object would pose the most danger? So then you have to ask, is the vehicle dangerous, or the operator?

When we take on the task of travel, we have to ask ourselves, “Are we doing this to the best of our ability?” Allowing yourself to become distracted, impatient, and complacent, does not a good safe driver make. You are making the choice to put other people in a dangerous situation. You are choosing to put others lives at risk. If you are one that takes the quality of life for granted, I hope you never have to endure the price, pain and agony felt, when involved in a crash. No matter the injury there is always a price to pay. Not always is there the monetary aspect, but emotional, physical, and mental price. I have been involved in a crash where the other party chose to venture out on the road and drive under the influence of alcohol. That choice he made that night, changed my life forever. I do not know what his life was like before the crash, or what it is like now. What I do know is my life and the life of my loved ones with me that night, has altered our being as a whole.

I am not sure if extra driver training, defensive driving courses or laws banning cell phone use alone would change the way people use the roads. I think people need to change their moral compass. People need to start thinking, caring and making conscience efforts to Do better. We need to begin to use our common sense. Everyone has a lot going on in their lives, but when getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, nothing and no one should take your mind away from just simply paying attention.

Creating safer roads starts with all of us. If everyone practiced what it takes to be a safe driver, everyone on the road would be safe. It sounds simple, almost too good to be true. That’s because it is. Or it could be. Refraining from aggressive driving and using defensive driving could be a start. Knowing the skills and tips to being a safe driver and not using them, defeats the purpose of having them.  Even if you were a perfect, another drivers’ inattention can put everyone at risk.We complicate things when we put the worries of life before the value of life.

Spring Ahead into Construction Season

With warmer weather approaching, construction season will soon be underway.

The MN Department of Transportation will roll out the I-94 Project beginning March 2017. The project is scheduled to last until late July 2018.

Project goals are to resurface the freeway between Nicollet Ave in Minneapolis to Shingle Creek Parkway in Brooklyn Center. There will be repairs made to 50 bridges and most on and off ramps. Lighting, guardrails, drainage system and the tile in the Lowry Tunnel are just some of the upgrades that made the list.

Traffic will be reduced to two lanes in both directions from May to August 2017 to allow for under bridge repairs.  Large trucks weighing 9,000 pounds are going to be prohibited from the Lowry Tunnel at this time. This will cause some alterations to the last few weeks of 2016-2017 school routes and summer school bus routes.

Southbound Hwy 252 to eastbound I-94 and westbound I-694 to eastbound I-94 will be detoured to Hwy 100 for two months. Northbound I-35W ramp getting onto I-94 westbound will be closed and traffic detoured to Hwy 62 and northbound Hwy 100 from May through August 2017.

Wow! This summer is going to be one major traffic headache. Get your back road driving skills together. Learn some short cuts and utilize the side streets. I’m glad they are doing this during the spring/summer months and not the snowy, colder conditions.

I’m excited to see some improvements made to this stretch of I-94 even though I probably won’t be expressing it when I’m stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. It’s been a long time coming. Being in the transportation business, you tend to see a difference in the care of the roads in the metro and it’s surrounding areas. I’m not sure why this end of I-94 has been neglected for so long, but I am looking forward to the smooth highway and no potholes!

To check out more information about closures and dates, go to Project Website mndot.gov/metro/projects/i94brooklyncntr

7 Qualities of Confidence

  1. Admitting your flaws.  No one is perfect. As much as this is said, no one truly takes this to heart. Confident people not only admit their imperfections, they applaud them. They know where their strengths lie, where they can improve and when to fall back and let others take the lead. Trying to be perfect at everything, is inefficient. Confident people love themselves for who they are – and for who they’re not.
  2. Saying No.  Many people think saying no is rude and off-putting but in reality it is very respectful. Confident people do not over commit themselves or make false promises. They know they don’t have time for everything and would rather tell the truth than not follow through on their word. Also, burnout is not on the agenda. Making time for things you enjoy doing rather than for the sake of others, shows confidence in your ability to care for yourself first.
  3. Listening.  While confident people usually trust their own judgment, they are not above the consideration of other people’s opinions. They won’t always like what they hear all the time, but they won’t throw a tantrum if their opinion is not agreed with. Confident people know how to take constructive criticisms and effectively make adjustments and move forward.
  4. Being open to new friends and experiences.  No matter the past, confident people do not let failed relationships or experiences hold them back. They use those experiences as lessons on how to improve and be a better friend and person in general.
  5. Do not conform.  Confident people are okay with being “different.” They don’t do anything they do not wholeheartedly agree with. They don’t feel pressure by the desire to fit in. Confident people do not mirror others to find their happiness – they look within.
  6. Asking for help.  This is major! Confident people have no issues with ego. They know they cannot accomplish everything alone. They do not feel threatened or belittled by seeking help from coaches, friends, family, etc.
  7. Owning your feelings.  No matter what the circumstances are, confident people strive to understand their emotions and own up to them. Self assured people can express themselves without blaming others and confirm their confidence by hearing and listening to the side of others.

Using these tools in our everyday lives can create balance and harmony in everything we do. You can begin to feel confident in your work place, with your family and with your friends. One of our daily goals should be focused on being better than we were the day before. Remember, you are the company you keep. Surrounding  yourself with confident people you can achieve your fullest potential.

School Bus Railroad Safety

There are a lot of things in life we dismiss however, railroad safety should never be one of them. One program to help bring awareness to railroad safety is Operation LifeSaver.

Operation LifeSaver is a national, nonprofit rail safety education group. They are announcing September 24-30, 2017 as Rail Safety Week. Their goal is to make everyone aware of the need to be educated and keep themselves safe at all railroad crossings.

The reason to commemorate a day for safety is their studies show about every 3 hours someone in the U.S., either a person or a vehicle is hit by a train. Hundreds of Americans each year are killed by train related incidents.

Whenever you are approaching a track, the first thing you should think is that there IS a train. So prepare to slow down. Start checking the traffic around you. If you are driving a school bus, your next obligation would be to prepare to stop, look and listen. I believe all traffic should stop at railroad crossings, but if you are driving a school bus you have no choice, it’s the Law.

It can take up to a mile to stop a train. Make sure you have complete clearance on the other side of the track plus 15 feet extra. Only cross the tracks when you can do it unobstructed by traffic or pedestrians. Trains hang over the tracks 3 feet on both sides. Remember the 15/50 rule. Stop no closer than 15 feet from the tracks and no farther than 50 feet away from the tracks. This will insure the bus is not too close and will get hit with the overhang of the train, and close enough that you can look and listen in both directions for an approaching train.

If you see or hear a train coming, never think you can beat the train. Trains travel at high rates of speed but because they are so large, they appear to be going slowly. Rule of thumb, if you can see a train, wait. Also be aware there may be multiple tracks. Some trains run side by side. Just because you think you can beat the train you can see, you may miss the one you can’t see. So waiting until all tracks are clear is always the safest time to cross the tracks.

When you have determined it is safe to cross the tracks, cross quickly without stopping. Never stop your vehicle or change gears while crossing the tracks. Never drive around lowered or lowering gates. If your vehicle was to get stuck on the track, get out immediately. Run in the opposite direction the train is traveling and run going away from the track. Do not try to recover your vehicle until emergency help has instructed you to. All railroad crossings have an emergency notification sign to report any issue dealing with the signal or stalled vehicle at a crossing.

When you stop, look, and listen, you are increasing the odds you will clear the track safely and live to see another day. Don’t be complacent when it comes to railway safety. Your ability to observe the laws, tracks, traffic, signals and stop signs could make the difference in saving your life and the lives of others.