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INDUSTRY CONNECTIONS: SPECIAL REPORT


TO MANDATE OR NOT?


CROSSING CONTROL ARMS ARE IN WIDE USE IN MANY DISTRICTS AND REQUIRED BY SOME STATES, BUT QUESTIONS REMAIN IF FEDERAL


OFFICIALS WILL INCLUDE THEM IN VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS


WRITTEN BY ERIC WOOLSON


M


innesota’s decision to become the latest state to require crossing control gates on its district and contractor school buses may help build momentum for the safety devices that keep


children from the paths of buses and in sight of the drivers. But a cross-section of school transportation experts believe the development is unlikely to lead to a federal mandate, at least in the near future. All Minnesota school buses built after Jan. 1, 2013, are


required to have crossing control arms under legislation passed in response to the March 2010 death of a 6-year-old boy in Pine River, Minn., who was run over. While more than a dozen states mandate their use, and


many districts across the country include crossing control arms as standard equipment when purchasing buses, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) remain silent on the issue. “We lose about 12 students outside the school bus each


year, and about half that inside the school bus. While we have done a good job of designing the inside of the school bus for safety, I believe our next area to improve the safety equipment is on the outside,” said Denny Coughlin, president of the School Bus Training Co., in Rosemount, Minn. “Of course, driver and student training will always be an ongoing challenge.”


38 School Transportation News May 2014


Coughlin favored the 2012 Minnesota mandate, just as


he favored the use of crossing control arms during his 25 years as fleet supervisor for Minneapolis Public Schools. “We were some of the first to use them in Minnesota.


Early on, we had a lot of problems with snow and ice building up. We went through a lot of growing pains, but I always felt it was money well spent. Tey’ve come a long way since then.” Coughlin foresees the possibility of an eventual FMVSS


because of the increased usage across the country. He noted that some states mandated the crossing arms more than 20 years ago while others still haven’t. Meanwhile, more and more districts and contractors are taking it upon themselves to install the devices. “We don’t have to convert the whole country; many buses in the country are already equipped,” Coughlin said. Max Christensen, president of the National Association


of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services and state director of pupil transportation with the Iowa Department of Education, suggested that the lack of grassroots pressure for a national mandate might stem from the variety of safety measures already in play. “For example, in California, school bus drivers are actu-


ally required to get out of the bus and escort students across the road any time a student has to cross in front of the bus.


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