December 9, 2018

More School Bus Thoughts

I've been driving a school bus for more than two months and it's time to share a little more wisdom with the Interwebs.

First, there is much more to school busing than most people suspect. I'm learning things as fast as I can, but it's a big topic. Secondly, it's much more fun than I expected. Our crew of drivers are very diverse and lots of fun to work with. Sometimes we get a little goofy on the radios when we think the boss and the schools aren't listening.

I still have a regular morning route (Blue) and have been filling in for other drivers in the afternoons. I've learned about half a dozen afternoon routes (Blue, Black, Red, Green, Pink, Gold and Purple) so that I can fill in for others when they're either taking time off or driving trips.

When filling in for other drivers, the most important thing to remember is that your students will know the route better than you do. When I'm learning a route, I get a printed route sheet with all of the directions and addresses on it and I sit down with Google Maps and map out the route onto a sheet of paper. Even after all this work, the students will always know the route better than you. I have high school students on my bus that have been riding the same route since they were in Kindergarten, so it's not too surprising that they have the whole thing memorized. The first thing I do when I drive a route as a substitute driver is to ask the students who wants to be my helper. I always get several volunteers and they're always very accurate.

Our buses are Propane powered and that gives them an interesting dual personality speed-wise. Around town they're quite speedy and it's easy to find yourself on the wrong side on the in-town speed limits. Yet, out on the highways, they can need coaxing to maintain highway speeds, especially going up hills.

With the cold weather here in Wisconsin at this time of year warming up the bus becomes important. We generally start them immediately before we perform our pre-trip inspections, but those only take a few minutes. In the cold, the buses take longer than that to warm up, so we sometimes start them as soon as we arrive at the depot. In the case of extreme cold, bad frost or snow, our mechanic gets there early and starts all of the buses to give them extra defrost time.

I am appalled at the size of the backpacks that Elementary School children are required to carry. Those things get heavy, are unwieldy in the bus aisle and have to be giving the students bad posture from an early age. I'm about ready to suspect that it's all a conspiracy by Big Chiropractic to ensure more future customers.

Lastly, it seems that many drivers need to go back through Driver's Education to help them understand that they need to pay school buses more attention, give them lots of room and that when we flash those student lights that we are not kidding. When we flash the amber students lights, it means that we are about to stop and when you see the flashing red student lights you are legally required to stop and wait until they stop flashing. If it takes the students a little while to get on or off the bus, then just keep waiting. We try to encourage them to be as fast as possible, but younger children move at their own speed regardless of how much encouraging you supply. If you drive past us when the student reds are flashing we will take your license plate number and report you to the police. We take the safety of our students very seriously.

Tags: Personal Big Yellow School Bus