USING A SIMULATOR TO TRAIN SCHOOL BUS DRIVERS

SYSTEMS ON BUSES

A simulator available at no cost to school districts located northeast of Houston, TX, is supplementing school bus safety training efforts.

Funded by a $100,000 annual grant from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the simulator replicates the driving component of a typical school bus. It includes front and side monitors that provide the driver with a view of traffic, similar to a video game.  The simulator is programmed with computer-generated imagery, or CGI, scenarios that prepare drivers for anything from a turtle crossing the road to extremely hazardous driving conditions.

“Without this training, there are some driving conditions that we can’t show a driver unless they’re actually happening,” said Josh Rice, director of transportation for Klein ISD.

Rice requested Education Services Center Region 6, which has operated the simulator for local school districts since 2010, to bring the simulator to the district for driver training.

“Of course, I was more than happy to agree,” recalled Larry Thornton, a safety training specialist with Region 6. “It’s a win-win for Klein ISD because the drivers are receiving safe, interactive training in a state-of-the-art unit for free—the state is picking up the bill.”

Region transported the simulator in a 38-foot trailer for the training, which was held the week of Feb. 10.

Without the TxDOT grant, the training would cost $1,800 a day to operate and cover related expenses, said Klein ISD in a statement. Rice said it would cost the district about $100,000 to purchase its own driver simulator, complete with computer, video screens and the driver compartment.

CONDITION OF SCHOOL BUSES IN SOUTH CAROLINA

On Tuesday of this week, WYFF News in Greenville, SC, broadcast a report on the age of the average school bus on the road in South Carolina. They reported that the state has buses that are as old as 30 years, and some have even been put out of service. But the bigger concern about these buses is the potential to catch on fire and has many of the SC Legislature asking for more money to replace these buses.

WYFF spoke with the SC Department of Education who told them that since 1995, 108 buses have caught fire or have overheated. At the last legislative session in June, Governor Henry McMaster vetoed roughly 17.5 million dollars in bus funds. Greenville county leaders say the primary problem they see with older buses is the rate at which they break down which causes kids to wait longer for buses and are late for school or activities. The call center spends a lot of time receiving calls and sending out a massive amount of phone calls to parents informing them of the buses late schedule.

Typically one million dollars buys around 12 buses. In addition to the SC Department of Education asking for an override to the veto, they are asking for $57 million of lottery funds to replace the remaining 1995 and 1996 transit buses. These are the buses that are commonly associated with the chance of fire and overheating.

UPDATE – The House voted Tuesday afternoon to override Gov. McMaster’s vetoes for school bus funding and send the education agency more than $20 million in state lottery money to replace hundreds of decades-old, fire-prone buses. The House votes sent the question to the Senate, which is expected to put this on their schedule. If the senate completes the overrides, the Department of Education will immediately order about 250 buses. They should arrive within six months, making them available for the next school year. We will keep you up to date.