In darkness and daylight, on dirt roads and multi-lane highways, from warm spring days to frigid winters, Minnesota school bus drivers safely transport more than 760,000 students to and from school each day.
To recognize this important profession, Wednesday, February 22, has been proclaimed by Governor Mark Dayton the first-ever statewide celebration of School Bus Driver Appreciation Day in Minnesota.
Bus routes change quite often. Stops are added and deleted on a regular basis. This frequency of address changing can impact any one particular route by 5-10 minutes. The other families on the route may or may not even know their stop time changed. This is true for both pick up and drop off bus times.
We first must understand what pick up time means. Pick up time is the designated time the bus will arrive at said location. This does not however mean the time the student(s) should walk out of their house to the bus stop. It is encouraged/mandatory for students to be at the bus stop 5 minutes PRIOR to the scheduled pick up time. Most bus routes are scheduled to wait 30 seconds to 1 minute before they must proceed to the next stop. Factor in road conditions, traffic, weather and construction, if students are not already waiting at the bus stop, routes could be delayed considerably. All it takes is one child not to be ready and for example, the driver waits 2-3 minutes for them. By the time the driver gets to the next stop, the route is 5 minutes late. Drivers should never skip stops in the morning, and are expected to be on time to the best of the driver’s ability.
The drop off times for school bus routes are a little more flexible than they are in the morning. Older students that know their way home or have keys, may be dropped off earlier then their scheduled drop off time. This happens when not all the students ride the bus home in the afternoon. Drivers will not go to stops that children are not on board for. If there are a lot of pre-k or kindergarten students on the route, drivers are encouraged to run the pm/ drop off routes as close to or on time according to the route copy schedule. Sometimes this is not possible without waiting on the side of the road with students on the bus. Therefore school bus companies ask parents that are expecting to pick up their child from the bus stop, be ready or prepared 10 minutes earlier than the scheduled drop off time.
It is a bus driver’s goal to be as consistent as possible so that parent and guardians can plan accordingly. Drivers are reminded to never drop off students if the timing or location may compromise the student’s safety. Small children that are usually met by an adult may be held on the bus if that parent is not there to meet the bus. This is always communicated with dispatch and district when this occurs so that parents can be called and informed where their child is. Parents are encouraged to be early to the bus stop and know that sometimes they need to be prepared to wait for their child’s bus to arrive. Working together with one another is key in providing timely reliable service.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of an irate customer conversation?
What did you do? How did it make your feel? Helpless?
At some point we have all been on the receiving end of poor customer service so we know how upsetting poor results can be. One thing I ask myself is what can I do right now to defuse this person’s anger, and what can I do to create some satisfactory results.
As commercial drivers we can always think about safety first. Are we being careful on and off the job? We are always the best person to do our own route, so consistency is one of the keys to good customer service. Drivers also must observe all traffic laws and regulations. The general public may not know all the ins and outs to driving a commercial vehicle, but they do know when unsafe maneuvers are being made on the road. Make sure that you are responsible and understanding of all state and local laws and regulations you must follow as a commercial driver.
Another way to provide good customer service is establishing a positive rapport with parents and saying everything with a smile. I have found it very difficult to sound snippy when I have a smile on my face! Always think before you react or speak. If the words sound sarcastic in your head, they more than likely will out loud. Remember, your customer is a human being too. They are someone’s mother, father, sister, brother and you would not want someone being rude or disrespectful to yours.
In closing, always demonstrate genuine care and concern for the customer. The children you transport are valuable not only to the company but to the community. You are a vital resource on how people can and should behave towards one another. Positivity is infectious. Your smile and calm positive state can change an angry customer around and set the tone for their children’s day.
Fact: School Bus Drivers Are Trained, Tested and Re-Tested.
School buses are one of the safest forms of transportation in the United States. Every year, approximately 450,000 public school buses transport 23.5 million children to and from school and school-related activities.
School bus drivers are trained to safely transport children to and from school. They are trained professionals with immense responsibility. Our communities have trusted drivers for generations, and with that trust, school bus drivers have made taking the school bus the safest way to get to and from school.
School bus driver’s, and the industry in general, are regulated by a multitude of government agencies. Every school bus in Minnesota is required by statute to be inspected annually by the Minnesota State Patrol. These mandated inspections are carried out by seven inspection teams who are deployed regionally.
Additionally, state troopers are assigned to enforce traffic regulations for school bus drivers and other motorists operating in proximity to school buses. Troopers conduct random school bus driver qualification checks, post-crash inspection and follow up reviews, and school bus-related public outreach programs.
Before transporting students, all school bus drivers should complete a pre-service training and testing program that includes classroom and on-the-road training, and successfully pass both written and driving performance tests that demonstrate adequate knowledge of policies and traffic laws as well as driving skills.
MSB 2016-17 Kick-off Meeting
Driver instruction and procedures should include:
- Rules and policies for conducting safe and efficient student transportation.
- Instruction in operating school bus equipment.
- Proper adjustment and use of the school bus mirror system.
- Daily pre-trip and post-trip vehicle safety inspections.
- Safe driving techniques, including defensive driving skills.
- Procedures for loading and unloading passengers.
- Procedures for entering and exiting school zones.
- Student management.
- Accident and emergency procedures, including evacuation and use of emergency equipment.
- Basic first-aid procedures.
- Safety procedures for railroad crossings.
- Guidance in following route instructions and map diagrams.
- Appropriate use of electronic communications, if available. These may include wireless communication and GPS.
- Proper refueling procedures.
- Laws and rules associated with school activity trips.
- Reduced engine idling policies.
- Effective communications with staff, students and parents.
- Cultural diversity, including effective communication techniques when language barriers exist.
- Proper professional attitude and behavior.
- Customer service skills.
- Post-trip inspections of the school bus interior to verify that all children have left the bus.
- Training on use and securement of passenger safety devices, including safety seats and other equipment.