Monday, October 28, 2013

Ms. Pretty

A funny thing happened one afternoon when I was riding a friend's bus learning her route. I sat next to a little girl who is a total chatterbox and insisted on telling me knock knock jokes the whole ride. I even got some of the other kids involved, they all wanted to talk to me at once. But what made me "awwwwww" the most was when this little girl and I had the following exchange:


Girl - Whats your name?

Me - Ms. Bus Driver

Girl - Oh, okay Ms. Bus Driver...... Can I call you Ms. Pretty instead?

Me - Sure :)


It was cute!


Prettily Yours,

Ms. Pretty (The Bus Driver)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Field Trip Fun!

It's OCTOBER! That means.... LOTS of FIELD TRIPS.


We had the Rodeo again this year and the pumpkin patch for the little ones. Then we have Disney On Ice coming up towards the end of the month. That being said, I've had lots of fun on field trips this month. I had the opportunity to transport several band students to competitions and then recently transported the drama club to a one-act play competition.

At the beginning of every field trip, we have to let the students know where the emergency exits are in the buses and how to use them. Since most of these students have heard the speech before, I typically try to make it a little fun by adding a bit of "airline humor" to it on each trip. The kids get a kick out of it and they even ASK me to do it. A typical "airline" version of the emergency exit speech might look something like this:

Me: Thank you for choosing bus number X today. We hope you have a pleasant ride, but before we go we must make sure you know where all the emergency exits are. (Insert required part of speech about emergency exits in airline style). The expected weather at our destination is X, and our expected travel time is X. Please keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times and have a pleasant flight (erm.. bus trip).

Sometimes I get a little silly with things such as last night coming back from a very long competition day and some of the kids I had transported prior on band:

Me: We thank you for re-boarding bus number 1 (bus 3 for my band students!) The current weather is..... Dark.... Our expected weather at our destination is ..... Dark...... (It was after sun down and they laughed!)

It's gotten so popular that the kids actually request that I perform my "airline pre-flight instructions".

Seat backs and tray tables to their full and upright position!

The Bus Driver.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Backing Up Protocol

An Anonymous response to my previous blog on backing up has prompted me to respond here.

And please don't honk your horn when backing. you already have a backup alarm for that. We have a shoolbus driver backing up and honking the horn at 6:15 Am right outside our door. How inconsiderate and unnecessary. - Anonymous

Sometimes we have to follow certain procedure in which we were trained. State laws vary in what is considered protocol as do public and private companies. Some companies request that the driver honk the horn as part of the backing up procedure. It could very well be that this particular bus driver's company requires the driver to honk the horn prior to performing a back-up maneuver. This is for safety in the front as well as in the back. We do understand that hearing the horn and the back-up beeper can be annoying, but the driver is simply doing his/her job.

Other procedures we have to follow include how to do a proper railroad stop and what speed we should be allowed to travel on our routes. There are also regulations in how far back do we trigger the student lights and how to have students get on and off the bus. Some states and private companies require the driver to secure the bus at every single stop, and actually help students cross the road with a hand-held stop sign that a crossing guard would use. We go through training that is designed to keep us safety conscious at all times.

A bus driver had to follow procedure that she had been recently trained on when dealing with a hijacking of her bus. The incredible story here!

You never know when you might actually need to use your training to avert a situation. These procedures might seem annoying and time consuming for you, the homeowner/motorist, but in the end, we are only looking out for the safety of all of our students that board and ride our buses every day.

Safety First!

The Bus Driver

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Advice on Backing Up

I received an email from a fellow bus driver who is relatively new at the field and he asked me for tips on how to effectively back a school bus. Proper backing is an easy task once you get the hang of it. A school bus is a daunting vehicle considering its size and cargo we carry. Often people do ask me, "How DO you turn around a vehicle that large?" That being said, I do have a few helpful tips when backing up a bus for both bus drivers and for parents (and other motorists) who encounter a bus that has to back up.


For Bus Drivers:

1. Get a trusted friend to stand at the front and back bumper - body up against the bumper of the bus while you are sitting in the drivers seat. (Do this when the bus is off and secured). Have the friend move to strategic points along the length of your bus as well as standing at all 4 corners. Viewing the bus from the drivers seat allows you to understand the dimensions of your bus from looking in the mirrors. You can get a feel for how large your bus is and where your turning radius is.

2. When backing, be aware of your tail swing as well as where your rear wheels are at all times. You can control the front of the bus and the rear of the bus by remembering where your wheels are at all times. When your rear wheels clear a corner you can cut the steering wheel hard to the direction you need, and maneuver the bus effectively. (Tail swing is what happens when the front wheels make a turn and the back part of a bus follows.)

3. When backing, it is always better to back into a dead end or side street. NEVER back into a heavy congested area or on a highway if you can help it.

4. Practice, practice, practice!!! I cannot emphasize this enough. Different buses have different turning radius'. Some buses, you will have to swing wide to get the proper angle to back. Others, its as simple as pulling in and backing out a car. Play around with your bus and if you are not sure you have the right angle, you can always back out the way you went in and try again. Once you feel comfortable with your vehicle, it is good to see if you can try backing maneuvers on spare buses should your bus ever be decommissioned due to a problem.


For Parents (and other motorists):

1. When following a bus, leave enough space behind the bus so that if the bus has to stop quickly and perform a maneuver, the bus driver is not locked by your vehicle behind it.

2. If a bus pulls into a parking lot, make sure you hang back and watch where that bus is going before you blindly follow behind. The bus driver may be executing a back up procedure and needs the space to turn around and maneuver.

3. If travelling alongside a bus, be aware of the bus drivers actions. Many of us will signal when we are about to make a turn. If we are turning, make sure your vehicle is not in the way of our tail when we do swing. Sometimes we have to make slightly wider turns due to the size of our vehicle and if you are travelling in our blind spots, WE CANNOT SEE YOU! Additionally, PLEASE be considerate and don't drive in our blind spots.

4. If you DO see a bus backing up towards your vehicle, do NOT honk the horn to try to get the bus driver's attention. We are often dealing with 50 some odd children on a bus at any given time. Instead, MOVE YOUR VEHICLE out of our way. We cannot hear you honking and remaining in place will get you squished.


Hope these tips help!

The Bus Driver

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Really Can't Make This Stuff Up!

I have not posted in a while due to other priorities, but today really was blog-worthy.

This morning, I drove a bus that is notorious for having children be at the stops late. The regular driver instructed me to leave the kids should they not be out on time as they have been told repeatedly to be out on time. I had left several stops, obviously after stopping appropriately, waiting a certain amount of time (long enough that had they been standing out, they would have boarded the bus and found a seat), and then proceeding on route. I called in each time I left children over the radio so that my actions were covered. I was even running approximately 2 minutes late due to some children RACING out of their homes to catch the bus. Overall, 80-85 percent of children were at their stops ON time.

The rule is, be at the stop 5 minutes prior to the bus arriving. Personally, I'd like to instruct all children to be at the stop and prepared at least 10 minutes prior to the bus arriving. That way they will never miss the bus if it comes early for some reason unknown. More often than not, the buses tend to run a little bit late when there is a substitute on them.

Yet repeatedly this morning, I had several children who were running from their homes. As a result, I left several of them for not being out on time. I pulled up to one stop and the two kids at that stop were out on time and waiting, then I pull to the house LITERALLY next door, and NONE of those kids are out. They had plenty of time to see me on the road, stopping at the house right next door before pulling to their stop. So, I left them. I pull up to my last stop on this route and the mom from the stop I left flags me down. I pull up and she tells me, "I'm putting my kids on this bus because well NO child LEFT BEHIND!" I told her they need to be out 5 minutes ahead of time, that's the rule. And she gets snippy with me. Fantastic.

This afternoon was equally as crazy. I had 2 elementary girls get into a fight on the bus. Turns out they are sisters. When I got to their stop, I told their guardian about the fight. She assured me it would be taken care of. When I returned to the area for my second run, I went by the house and noticed the guardian had the girls face to face linked with a belt around the waist, hugging each other. I gave the guardian a thumbs up and grinned. I think those girls will not be fighting on the bus again.

Round and Round!

The Bus Driver

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Advice for new drivers

I answer questions in email and on the web, and this particular question got me thinking. I was asked what advice could I offer new drivers (and seasoned drivers alike) in order to make the school year start out properly. So without further adieu, I give my suggestions for what bus drivers should have on hand at all times.


Kleenex - You can never have too many Kleenex. Kids are always asking for a tissue.

Paper towels - Not to be confused with Kleenex, paper towels are always handy for cleaning up spills and other larger messes such as when rain comes in the leaky roof of a bus.

Hand sanitizer - more for yourself than the kids, but some drivers keep it handy for the kids as well.

Baby wipes - If you prefer baby wipes to hand sanitizer, these can serve double duty as cleansing items for the seats and surrounding areas.

Cleaning supplies - most bus barns will provide cleaning supplies for a driver to maintain general cleanliness of their bus. This includes windex, lysol, and other antibacterial agents for cleaning the bus.

Puke powder - yes the name sounds awful but it is essential for that child that you will eventually have that vomits everywhere.

Trashcans and trash bags - again self explanatory, but if you promote a clean bus, most of the trash the children will make will find its way into the can.

Broom - A strong and sturdy broom to reach those hard to get areas, brooms also aid in killing random bugs and other pests that find their way into your bus.

Log book/folder - Your bus barn is going to ask you to handle paperwork, it is handy to have a folder to use to keep all paperwork in. It also helps to keep a current copy of your CPR certification on hand.

Bus roster - This is majorly important if you are in an accident or if a child needs to contact their parents for whatever reason. You need to know who is on your bus at any given time. This goes for bus passes too - I usually keep those for about 2 weeks, then toss them. Things in a bus roster should include the following: Name of the student, Grade/School, Address, Emergency and Parent numbers, and any allergies or special conditions one should be aware about. Your bus barn should provide a form for children and parents to fill out and return to you.

Route description - make sure a route description is handy on your bus for those inevitable days that you are going to be sick. A route description is a lifesaver for sub drivers who do not know your kids. Also, make sure a roster is attached to each route description so that the sub driver can have it available immediately in the case of an emergency.

Bus seating chart - It may be a good idea for you to assign your passengers seats. The seat assignments are also helpful for identifying problem passengers.

Clearly posted rules - these can help students realize what rules they are supposed to follow on the bus. I recommend going over the rules with each group of kids that enter your bus.

Citation/write-up folder - make sure you have a folder full of blank citation/write-up sheets. Explain to students that if they do not follow the rules they are going to get a verbal warning from you, you will talk to their parents, and then if they persist, you will write them up and turn them into the school. Explain that there are consequences for receiving a write-up such as a change in assigned seat to one of the front seats (or a least desirable location). I know of one bus driver that had all of her children sitting up front and left the back of the bus as no-mans-land. There were at least 6 seats between the last group of students and the very back of the bus. A misbehaving child was sent to sit in the last seat by himself, which wasn't viewed as a reward as there was no one around him to help him disobey.

Offer little treats and incentives - Maybe you could develop a positive behavior system on your bus. Some bus drivers use gum as an incentive, or lollypops. If the children behave (for the most part) all week, they get a treat on Fridays. You may want to have them work towards a pizza party or an ice-cream treat. When I drove for an after school program, I brought things like cupcakes, and on the last day of after school, I brought ice pops since it was so hot out. The kids will appreciate these little treats.

I hope these tips help new drivers and seasoned drivers alike as we roll into the upcoming school year in August (or September) depending on your location!

Offering Advice,

The Bus Driver





























Monday, May 27, 2013

No Food (or drinks) on the Bus!

I subscribe to Google news using keywords such as "school" and "school bus". These keywords are used to pull relevant articles and then Google sends them to me via e-mail every day. The other day, there was an article that detailed a bus driver's heroic actions to save a child from choking on a piece of hard candy. The child is in 4th grade and is 10 years old, clearly old enough by some standards to handle sucking on a piece of hard candy responsibly.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/05/23/new_orangevillearea_school_bus_driver_credits_safety_training_for_helping_her_save_student_from_choking.html

Every year we go through safety training for this very reason. We learn CPR, the Heimlich Maneuver, and other ways of managing potential emergencies that arise on the school bus. None of us expect to use any of our training, but when faced with a child choking, or one having an allergic reaction or other type of emergency, we jump into action.

Parents wonder why we do not allow our students to consume food items on the buses. For one thing, it makes a mess, but the primary reason is displayed in the article above, the REAL possibility that a child could CHOKE. Parents can deny this all they want and tell us that it won't happen to their child. Thing is, this child in the article above, was a very responsible child who just happened to choke on a piece of candy which stopped her from breathing. It can happen to the most responsible of children. Choking isn't limited to candy either. Buses travel over varied terrain from dirt to paved roads, uphill and downhill, all it takes is a serious bump from the bus turning, or running over an unforeseen pothole to cause a child to inhale sharply while eating on the bus. In my district, there was a child who choked from sucking on hard candy on the bus when she was 14, so choking is a very real hazard.

Parents - the next time you ask us to make a concession for your child to eat on the bus and you get told "no" consider that we are simply looking out for your child's safety and do not want to have to perform CPR/Heimlich Maneuver to save your child because they choked on food you allowed them to bring from home and consume on the bus.

Safety Conscious!

The Bus Driver