Pacific Western Group of Companies Announces Executive Changes
Effective Feb. 1, 2017 Tom Jezersek became President and Chief Operating Officer of the Pacific Western Group of Companies. Tom has been with the company for 25 years and has assisted greatly in building the student transportation business line. Tom has also been a very effective and supportive member of the Ontario School Bus Association (OSBA) Board of Directors for the past 4 years. As well, Murray Glass has been promoted to Vice President of Student Transportation, Pacific Western Group of Companies. Murray has served as the Regional Director and General Manager of Southland since 2014 and has over 25 years’ experience in the transportation business. Best wishes to both!
|Louisiana Task Force Says No to Seat Belt Mandate
Article Source: School Transportation News (Louisiana)
Article Date: February 3, 2017
A Louisiana task force formed to review student transportation and passenger safety submitted its final report last month in response to legislative attempts to pass a new school bus seat belts law.
The Task Force on Student Transportation and School Bus Passenger Safety was called together by Louisiana officials in response to a bill introduced in 2016 that called for all new school buses to be equipped with "occupant restraints,” but offered no funding from the state.
SB 204 failed to pass committee, but it would have required safety restraints—though, not seat belts, specifically—on new school buses. It was authored by state Sen. Troy Carter from New Orleans. However, the state senate passed a resolution to establish the task force to study school bus seat belts and make a recommendation on the path forward.
The task force’s final report concluded among its recommendations that seat belts should not be mandated for school buses in Louisiana. The report also recommended that if the state Legislature does pass a law that requires occupant restraints, funding for installation and training needs to be appropriated.
Task force Chairman George Horne said he hopes this is just the beginning of a concerted effort to address all weak links in the chain of student safety and “to call upon agencies, organizations and individuals to unite in our efforts to protect our most precious cargo.”
Horne was asked to chair the task force after the position was left unfilled, saying that he got the “lucky bean.”
“I am a LA DOE-certified school bus driver instructor and a LA DOE-certified Master Instructor,” Horne said. “My experience as an educator spans more than 56 years, and my work in student transportation exceeds 40 years.”
Employed by the Jefferson Parish Public School System for 32 years in a range of positions from teacher to transportation director superintendent, he retired in 1992 to serve as a private consultant specializing in student transportation for Horne Enterprises.
“The Task Force determined that there seems to be a great need for educating parents, students, teachers, school bus drivers, motorists, law enforcement agencies, etc., on Louisiana statutes, school bus safety and related topics,” he said.
As for SB 204’s lack of necessary funding, according to Horne, Louisiana currently faces a more than $300-million deficit for the remainder of FY 2016-17.
He said that school districts statewide have already experienced budget cuts—there are possibly more on the horizon—and “any unfunded mandates place additional hardships of local school districts.”
“The task force agrees that, ideally, all measures that enhance student safety—whether applicable to passengers in school buses or other motor vehicles or to pedestrians who are traveling to or from school or school bus stops—should be pursued; however, fiscal restraints must be taken into consideration, as well,” Horne added.
The final report was not universally praised by the school bus industry. Charlie Vits, market development manager for IMMI's Line of SafeGuard school bus seat belts and seating, said the study “contradicts current national recognition for the value of lap shoulder belts on school buses.”
“Unfortunately, the makeup of this Louisiana study committee did not include those with any real-world working knowledge and experience specifically with lap-shoulder belts on school buses,” said Vits, who was recently appointed to three-year term as an at-large representative on the National Child Passenger Safety Board.
He added that there was no input from researchers at the NTSB, who found the need for enhanced occupant protection on school buses based on studies of crashes of buses with belts and without belts, or involvement from districts that have successfully implemented lap-shoulder belts.
“We can look to others such as North Carolina and their lap-shoulder belt implementation study for real information on this matter of lap-shoulder belts in school buses,” he said.
As for the recommendations from the Louisiana task force, Vits said, “Ultimately, it came down to how much money should be spent to provide this benefit to our traveling children.”
The findings received the support of the National School Transportation Association, releasing a statement that thanks other task force members and the State of Louisiana for its efforts.
NSTA Executive Director Ronna Weber, who was appointed to the task force, was “grateful to serve alongside those who also invested their time for the benefit of school transportation in Louisiana and nationwide.”
“We commend the task force for completing its task and know others will learn from these efforts," she added.
You can read the full report by clicking here.
|Reaching Maturity, Connected Technology Provides Promise of Efficient Mobility
Article Source: School Bus Fleet (North America)
Article Date: February 6, 2017
A decade after the iPhone’s introduction, society is more mobile than ever. Innovation has delivered internet communication through devices and applications that have become essential to people’s daily lives.
The school bus industry has developed its own niche of mobile technologies, ranging from onboard Wi-Fi to specialized devices and applications. Bus operators, school districts, manufacturers and technology providers are piecing together connected buses for better visibility and transparency on all aspects of transportation.
“Instant information is no longer a wishful thought; it’s an expectation,” said Ted Thien, vice president and general manager for Tyler Technologies’ transportation group. “The new norm is receiving text messages with bus ETAs, traffic delays, emergencies, snow day announcements, or even a notification that their child got on the wrong bus or got off at the wrong stop.”
Swift innovation, Slower Adaptation
Mobile applications have been widely adapted for real-time school bus monitoring, route efficiency, fleet efficiency, and driver-passenger safety. Connectivity allows real-time access to these applications, as well as video and vehicle data.
“Applications provide vital information for making better decisions, especially during emergencies. They are driving the need for higher bandwidth, lower cost Internet connectivity on the bus,” said Lori Jetha, marketing communications manager at Seon Design.
Onboard Wi-Fi is still getting off the ground. In a STN survey of more than 300 readers, only 7 percent indicated that they currently provide Wi-Fi access to students on the buses. About 18 percent of the participants said they were considering onboard Wi-Fi by the end of next year, and 19 percent said they were considering the technology two years or more down the road.
The respondents indicated that they believe onboard Wi-Fi, essentially a mobile classroom, would decrease bad behaviour, retain drivers and give students the opportunity to complete homework while riding the bus. A lesser number of respondents indicated that school buses could be parked to provide an Internet hotspots to less fortunate communities.
Skeptics indicated that the biggest challenges for onboard Wi-Fi are lack of budget (50 percent) and the assumption that it would be used for entertainment over educational value (20 percent).
That’s not the case for Fresno Unified Schools in California, which has installed Wi-Fi on all 99 of the district-owned buses. All web traffic is filtered to ensure students have an educational and safe online experience.
“Fresno Unified students ride our school buses more than 5 million times during the course of a school year, and we want to make sure they are able to study and stay on top of their school work and on track to graduate,” said Fresno Unified Schools Superintendent Michael Hanson. “The bus ride home will never be the same for our students. They can consider a Fresno Unified bus ride a mobile study hall.”
Tablets Take Front Seat
While some school buses still use two-way radios and cell phones to communicate their location and road conditions with dispatch, tablet-based solutions and Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) will move buses into more mature mobility this year.
“It’s one thing to receive a fault code or have other sensors or cameras on a bus, but it’s another to be able to act on the information through streamlined and accurate communication between drivers and dispatch. Tablets are a huge benefit to get real-time information you can use to make decisions,” said H. Kevin Mest, senior vice president of passenger service at Zonar Systems.
Technology providers have introduced tablets for better communication, as well as to focus an eye on driver and vehicle performance, fuel consumption and route efficiencies. At the NSTA Mid-Winter Meeting last month, Mest said Zonar’s second-generation Connect ELD-ready tablet will be available for school bus customers in the second quarter. Last summer, Tyler Technologies launched Tyler Drive, a semi-rugged tablet to mount on school bus consoles that provide cloud-based routing, instant updates, turn-by-turn directions, student identification, and driver timekeeping.
“Tablet hardware doesn’t need to change all the time, the way some cell phone companies expect you to buy a whole new piece of hardware every year. In our industry, it’s not the hardware, but the software, that will to continue to develop and improve, and those improvements can be pushed to the tablets through an over-the-air update,” Thien said.
Applications Grow in Numbers
Apps are available for smart devices through the iTunes app store and Google Play for Android. School bus manufacturers, such as IC, also recognize the need for their own marketplace where customers can find and download apps to fit their needs.
“Technology is great, but it can be overwhelming. Many apps are entrepreneurial. We want to help customers find economic solutions, right down to the smallest school bus customers who need a choice,” said Trish Reed, vice president and general manager of IC Bus.
The company demonstrated a tablet-based app at the NAPT Summit in November that would compete with Zonar and Tyler for the school bus inspection reporting market.
Student and school-bus tracking apps continue to receive attention from parents, who are sharing their experiences through social media and generating demand for technology providers.
“Parents are seeing our 'Here Comes the Bus' app, and they are asking districts for it. The app eliminates calls to the school, helps with communication, and keeps parents in the know that kids are okay,” said Thomas Polan, senior vice president of technology at Synovia Solutions.
Since its launch, 'Here Comes the Bus' has been adopted by over 125 school districts and is used by over 140,000 parents and students in the U.S. Through GPS, the app translates data through customizable maps that are compatible with tablets, smartphones and computers. Push notifications let parents and students know when the bus is close, so they can come to the curb at the right moment when the bus arrives.
Zonar said it will continue to expand its bus-tracking app, MyBusVue, through existing and additional routing partner integration. The company plans to launch additional driver time management and rider verification apps in the near future.
Future of Connected Bus
The day will soon come when school buses act more like an Internet of Things (IoT) device that automatically runs on a 24/7 cycle of connectivity. Navistar envisioned “a day in the life of a connected bus” and showcased it to attendees at the NAPT Annual Summit in Kansas City last November.
“Today, we’re in a state of preventative technologies. In the future, it will be more predictive,” Reed said.
In a portion of a day, for example, a connected school bus with predictive applications could start remotely at 10 p.m. and automatically send a system check to the maintenance manager, who could see that an issue needs to be addressed in the morning. Scheduling apps would automatically switch buses for the driver of that route and make the flawed bus available when a technician is available.
“As we move forward, data analytics will show us the effectiveness of the bus. We’ll know things right away. Technology can take headaches away and make it easier for all stakeholders,” Reed said.
|First Student Recognizes Dedicated Team of Drivers During Love the Bus Month
Article Source: School Transportartion News (Cincinnati, OH)
Article Date: February 1, 2017
School buses are the safest form of student transportation, and First Student is proud to join the American School Bus Council (ASBC) in recognizing school bus drivers for their commitment to safety during 'Love the Bus' month.
More than 26 million students start and finish their school days on the yellow school bus. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are approximately 70 times safer than passenger cars and 10 times safer than walking.
“School bus drivers play an essential role in the school day,” said First Student President Dennis R. Maple. “Love the Bus month provides a wonderful opportunity to thank our drivers for the care, focus and dedication they bring to their ever-important job. Our drivers’ commitment to the safety of students is one of the reasons so many parents and school districts place their trust in us.”
School bus drivers are the most highly-trained, tested and scrutinized drivers on the road. First Student drivers typically complete more than 50 hours of training before driving passengers, which is more than the Federal Aviation Administration requires of student pilots. The company’s hiring, training and ongoing development programs help deliver a ride that is twice as safe as the industry average.
Advances in technology and safety features have also made school buses safer than ever. First Student led the industry by installing GPS systems and crossing gates on all buses. The company is committed to providing the safest, most reliable and most technologically-advanced service in the school bus industry.
The ASBC created Love the Bus month in 2007 to provide recognition for school bus drivers as well as raise awareness and appreciation for the experience of riding the school bus.
|California Partners With Canada To Unveil Electric School Bus
Article Source: School Bus Fleet (Palo Alto, CA)
Article Date: January 31, 2017
Quebec-based Lion Bus plans to add a new electric bus manufacturing facility in California, with support from the state and the Canadian province.
Lion Bus President Marc Bedard and Tyson Eckerle, the deputy director for California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), made the announcement at a demonstration of the eLion electric bus held in Palo Alto. Two Sacramento area school districts will be the first in the state to add Lion's electric vehicles to their fleets, according to NBC Bay Area. Twin Rivers Unified School District and Elk Grove Unified School District will receive 29 buses by next month.
The state will help Lion find a location for the new facility as they ramp up production.
The eLion, a Type C electric school bus manufactured in Quebec, uses a technology developed and funded in part by proceeds from the Quebec cap-and-trade program, which is linked with California’s cap-and-trade program.
“Transportation electrification is among the promising solutions for fighting climate change and modernizing Quebec’s economy,” said David Heurtel, the Quebec minister of sustainable development, environment, and the fight against climate change. “This is why our government is proud to allocate income from the carbon market, through Quebec’s Green Fund, to support innovative companies like Lion Bus that allow us to take yet another step toward a modern, sustainable, and low-carbon economy for our own well-being and the well-being of our children.”
“GO-Biz is proud to partner with Lion Bus to help bring a new electric bus manufacturing facility to California and help meet Gov. Brown’s goal of putting 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025,” Eckerle said.
Since the launch of their cap-and-trade programs in 2013, Quebec and California have provided more than $5.5 billion for initiatives and technologies financed through Quebec’s Green Fund and California’s Greenhouse Gas Fund. Many of the investments target innovations in transportation, since this sector is the largest single contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in both California and Quebec, according to GO-Biz and the Quebec Green Fund.
Zero-emission buses also benefit from incentive purchase funding from Quebec's and California’s cap-and-trade programs, which aim to help bring technologies like the eLion to communities most in need of pollution relief. The state and province have linked their respective cap-and-trade programs to create a carbon market that is designed, developed, and operated by sub-national governments from different countries. With the province of Ontario expected to join in 2018, the market will soon represent a population of 62 million and a gross domestic product of more than $3.7 trillion.
|15 States With Pending Legislation For Seat Belts, School Transportation and School Bus Funding
Article Source: School Transportation News (US)
Article Date: February 3, 2017
The following are the latest bills that were introduced in January 2017. According to LegiScan and state government websites, 15 states have pending legislative to approve seat belts, school transportation and school bus funding.
Arkansas - Bill 5325
|School Bus App SafeStop Releases Money-Saving Metrics
Article Source: School Transportation News (North America)
Article Date: February 1, 2017
SafeStop, one of several apps that tracks and reports the real-time location and arrival of school buses, points to data collected from customers across North America that school districts can save about $20,000 a year in fuel costs from excessive idling.
The data is one of four key findings released recently from the app’s analytics platform. SafeStop found that the average school bus idles for almost two hours per week, or nearly 21 minutes per day. Multiply this by the average number of school buses in a fleet—usually around 100—and $2.60 per gallon for diesel fuel, and this is how SafeStop arrived at the annual $20,000 in savings.
SafeStop said its analytics also identified an average of 6 to 8 percent of school bus stops being consistently unused, which can affect the load balancing and ridership stats that student transporters use to create routes each year. The company added that this data could be used to consolidate bus routes more evenly to save money “exponentially.”
A survey of customers also indicated that use of the school bus app has resulted in an 80- to 90-percent reduction in the number of phone calls to the district transportation office seeking information on the location of their children’s buses.
SafeStop also found that most parents register for the app within the first two weeks of the service launching at a school district, and usage increases when the transportation system undergoes significant changes or during inclement weather. For instance, SafeStop said over 1,000 new users downloaded the app last month as cold winter weather affected their local areas.
“By taking action with any one of these, significant money can be saved and operational efficiencies can be improved,” said Patrick Gallagher, SafeStop’s director of sales.
“We are not only excited that parents are flocking to the service when it’s available in their school or district,” Gallagher added. “But when district staff or transportation service providers can tell us that they’re using our data to become more efficient and smarter about their operations, that’s the true testament to our success. The modern-day transportation manager is responsible for an unbelievable amount of tasks, the most important of which is getting children safely to school. Our job is to help them in any way we can.”
|The Best in the Industry: NSTA Hosts Annual School Bus Driver International Safety Competition
Article Source: School Bus Fleet (North America)
Article Date: February 2, 2017
Each year, the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) hosts the School Bus Driver International Safety Competition.
This is one of the most important events in the industry, with the best school bus drivers from the U.S. and Canada competing for top honours and recognition. The event begins with a written test and then contestants get behind the wheel of a bus to put their driving skills to the test. Competing in one of three categories (conventional, transit, or small bus), drivers have the opportunity to demonstrate their professionalism, skill, and dedication to pupil transportation. The event culminates with an Awards Banquet, where the winners of the competition are announced.
In order to be eligible to compete, a driver must have competed in their state or province competition in the school bus class that they are entering in the International Competition within one (1) year prior to the International School Bus Driver Safety Competition. In addition, each state or province is allowed a maximum of two contestants (in each school bus class) not to exceed a total of six (6) contestants per state.
To be eligible to compete, NSTA must receive information detailing the date and location of the state competition event as well as the public sector winner's highest score in each school bus class and the top private sector winner's highest score in each school bus class from that state competition event. Drivers cannot be approved for the School Bus Driver International Safety Competition on July 15 and 16, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana until this documentation is submitted.
Check for all of the details and the 2017 Competition Handbook at: http://www.yellowbuses.org/safety-competition/. Then, plan your state or provincial competition and send your best drivers to the International Competition July 15-16, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana.