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managers is knowing exactly what meets the letter of the law because specifications were still in the works 15 months after the law’s passage. “A couple companies came forward and said, ‘We have the technology to do this,’ but the New Jersey Department of Education hasn’t certified what is required yet,” Raphael said. “Tere are some good guesses about what is acceptable, but people are buying buses and hoping when the spec does come out that they’ve spent the money on whatever the solution is that meets the code at this time. Tat seems to be the frustrating part right now.” Raphael, who was unfamiliar with the technology before the law’s passage, noted that his company has been testing two detection systems—a sensor system and a camera system—on its buses this past year. Both have “worked flawlessly,” but Raphael indicated questions remain. “A concern for me in the future would be false positives of something in the danger zone and how the driver should proceed. I don’t know how we’re going to set up a procedure for what to do if you have a bus full of kids and the sensor goes off,” Raphael explained. “Te driver can’t leave the bus with children aboard. How do you clear it before you pull away?” Absent current inspection regulations, maintenance is another concern. “How are we going to inspect the sensor system? Are we going to walk around the bus? Put up cones? How do they check calibration?” he added. “Tere are a lot of unknowns. It’s all about getting the execu- tion correct.” Diegnan first introduced his legislation in 2004, but an insurmountable hurdle blocked earlier measures: Technology just wasn’t far enough along to meet legislative intent. Te School Bus Manufacturers Technical Council within the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), has been advising New Jersey officials during the process, said NASDPTS Executive Director Charlie Hood, who said he favors “less design-specific and more-perfor- mance-specific” laws. “Te thing I’m encouraged about the


New Jersey experience is they’ve been listening to technical experts and manufac-


turers,” he added. While different manufacturers tout


different solutions, they all agree today’s driving environment differs from even the recent past as other motorists and pedes- trians are distracted by the likes of texting, talking on cell phones and listening to music with ear buds. “What are light vehicle manufacturers doing? Tey’re making it easier for your car to be a 4G hub. Now, you’re not just texting, you’re getting a presentation done on your way to a meeting,” said Fred An- dersky, director of customer solutions and marketing controls at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems. “Bus drivers need to be even more aware of pedestrians and other drivers today.” Peter Plate, director of sales and


marketing at Rosco Vision Systems, said the development of school bus detection systems has been a steady march since his company’s formation 110 years ago. Te Jamaica, N.Y.-based firm started on a path that led to it becoming the largest supplier of mirror and digital vision systems in the North American school bus market. “Everything has been in the spirit of help-


ing drivers be more effective by giving them better tools to do their very important job,” Plate said. “It’s been a huge evolution.” Rear-view camera systems have been part of that evolution over the past 20 years. NHTSA published a final rule several years ago requiring the technology on commercial vehicles. Compliance must reach 40 percent of the vehicles on the road, with 100-per- cent compliance due a year from now. An early challenge, Plate said, was finding the right spot to place the camera monitor. Rosco developed technology to locate a monitor behind the driver’s rear- view mirror with ultra-bright lighting that activated only when the bus was in reverse. “Some believe sensor and audible tech- nology is the approach to take. We have approached this challenge differently and be- lieve Abigail’s Law is better met through more visual than audible approaches. Our products meet the law’s intent and are very effective.” Plate said he believes adoption of rear-


view systems is going very fast, boosted by the technology’s increasing popularity in light vehicles. “We’re seeing and hearing more about vision safety than gas mileage,


Backing Evolution


As manufacturers have worked to comply with the federal mandate that 40 percent of new school buses are equipped with rear cameras by this month, familiarity with the technology on passenger vehicles has been a big help in the process. “We always try to be at the forefront of innovation and we’ve been working with dealers and customers even before the (FMVSS 111) mandate,” said Matt Scheuler, vice president of Collins Bus for parent company REV Group, which offers rear camera systems as an option. “We have some customers who are very forward thinking and really enjoy new technology. On the flip side, we always try to educate dealers and customers about what we’re seeing with new tech- nology to fit their needs.” While new automotive technology has long tended to evolve from passen- ger cars to commercial vehicles and then school buses, Scheuler said that doesn’t mean fleet managers and school bus drivers are in the dark. “A lot of people have experience with rear-view cameras in their own cars. They share stories about seeing kids when they’re backing up in the driveway and stopping because of the cameras,” Scheuler said. “They get it. And, they understand with buses it makes even more sense to have that technology.” With more attention being directed to rear-view systems, the message for fleet managers and drivers is a simple one: You can’t be too safe. For drivers, rear-view systems offer more confidence and a greater sense of security that bus operations will be even safer, Scheuler said. “The sky is the limit with this technolo- gy, but we know that it starts with baby steps,” he added. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility that anything you can get on a passenger car you can get on a school bus. It’s a matter of keeping the costs of the system in check with what the indus- try will allow and making sure we offer what customers are looking for.”


—E.W.


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