recently sat down with my three-year-old daughter to watch “Te Magic School Bus Rides Again.” Tis was my first trip, however, as (believe it or not) I never watched the original series. I couldn’t help but draw

correlations between the fictional yet technologically remarkable yellow bus and what our school bus drivers actually contend with each day. In the episode “Te Land Before Tim,” Ms. Fiona

Frizzle uses the Magic School Bus to prepare student Tim and the rest of the class for an appearance on a television game show. Te subject of the day was how fossils were formed. My daughter loves dinosaurs as well as school buses, so she sat in astonishment as the yellow vehicle morphed into a rocket ship and later a submarine that transported the students through pre-historic times. In reality, the school bus looks to the general public as if it hasn’t changed at all in the past 50 years. But inside, technology routes the bus, tracks students, captures vid- eo, remotely diagnoses mechanical issues, monitors the presence of other motorists (pedestrians, even), commu- nicates with drivers, and provides internet for students to do their homework. School districts are swimming in the tremendous amount of data flowing back and forth between the bus and the main office as they endeavor to reduce costs through efficiency without sacrificing safety while also being budget conscious. Caught in the middle are about a half-million school bus drivers, many of whom never would have imagined half of today’s technology when they first got behind the wheel.

Te industry finds itself at a crossroads. It must embrace the fact that just about anything is possible to track or transmit to and from the school bus, with the realization that they cannot fall victim to an over-in- dulgence or false sense of security. Te more technology we add to the school bus, the more drivers, especially, need advanced training in how to interact with it, not to mention the staff necessary to cull and analyze the data as well as to maintain the equipment. Meanwhile, we find ourselves in the midst of an especially troubling driver as well as mechanic shortage. Experts have told me for the past 15 years that historical low pay contributes to a lack of qualified and able em-

12 School Transportation News • MAY 2018

ployees. Wages continue to be an issue. But more so, the job of driving the school bus is not what it used to be. People can more easily accept $15 or $16 an hour if the pay is commensurate with their true job description. I found a couple of job postings online recently and they accurately mention that candidates will need to drive safely, perform pre- and post-trip inspections and assist students during loading and unloading at bus stops. Tey should have good communication skills and be able to pass a background check, physical examina- tion, and alcohol and drug tests. But nowhere is mention made of training to respond to active shooter situations or of the Transportation Security Administration’s First Observer program to look for suspicious activity around school buses, transportation yards or in communities. Te job postings didn’t mention a need to be comput-

er savvy, such as with tablets that are increasingly being used on or around school buses to transmit routing information, student attendance and pre- and post-trip verifications. Tere was no mention of advanced student behavior management skills that are vital (turn to page 18 to read an especially important article on this topic). A new program, we learned, even solicits school bus driver assistance in identifying potential instances of human trafficking. Te list goes on and on. My point is that driving, while a still a vital role

played by school bus drivers, is but one in a growing number of responsibilities. And with more and more au- tomated technology coming to the school bus that aims to mitigate crashes or avoid them altogether, school bus drivers are increasingly becoming school transportation safety operators, or specialists. Simply evolving the title of “school bus driver” will

not solve all our challenges, but it would be a step in the direction toward more adequately and accurately reflect- ing what they really do and the challenges they face each and every school day. 

Ryan Gray, Editor-in-Chief

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