prospective drivers train at home at their own conve- nience has been a game changer for our organization.” Wardle also pointed out that accessing video from

almost anywhere at any time alleviates the headache of scheduling training only when enough prospective driv- ers are available. And those drivers may proceed at their own individual pace and not that of a group. “In the past, when we had a recruit or group of per-

spective new drivers, we would wait until there were enough people in the class to justify the instructor’s time and schedule a class to start almost every month,” he added. “If a student signed up for the class after a new class had already started, they then had to wait until the next class started to join in. We would often lose people’s interest and they would go elsewhere.” But now, with the new online and video training, he said his trainers can start several candidates all at their own pace, any day of the week. “Everyone is now in a class by themselves,” Wardle

relayed. “We have been able to shift our organization’s training from a classroom emphasis to focusing more of our resources and driver trainer’s time to training behind the wheel, an area that was once lacking.”

Video to Help Fleets Manage the Pandemic Transportation teams are also creating videos to ad-

dress specific safety concerns. Such is the case at Austin ISD. “For example, considering COVID-19, we created our own training video on conducting temperature screen- ings at bus stops,” said Hafezizadeh. “This video has been placed in our district’s Human Capital Platform as an online training resource for our drivers and monitors” Dobson of Canada’s Peel Region added that her organi-

zation has been working closely with its operators during the pandemic to ensure driver training continues. “The pandemic has pushed the entire school bus

industry to review past practices,” she explained. “Virtual training and advanced technology on the school bus is more important now than ever. The school bus [appear- ance] has remained the same for over 30 years or more. Having more advanced technology on our buses such as internal cameras, stop-arm cameras, GPS, tablets for driver directions, substitution, ridership counts, and RFID is long overdue.” Meanwhile, Cindy Northern, the transportation

coordinator for Maplewood Richmond Heights School District near St. Louis, shared her district also made it a priority for drivers to stay trained amid COVID-19 school closures. “Our district is using online training courses from the School Bus Safety Company through Vec- tor Solutions,” she said. “We have utilized these online courses during COVID-19 to keep our drivers up to speed on the best practices in school bus safety.” Video technology has also become especially useful at the school district because of its flexibility of topics and

26 School Transportation News • JANUARY 2021

when it can be viewed. Drivers can watch videos when they have time to do so. “Technology has been a key element of our training

during these times when we can’t all be in the same room,” added Northern. “Many drivers’ duties have been expanded to include disinfection, and reconfiguration of learning and office spaces. With courses available on-demand, drivers can view the sessions at moments which fit into their work schedules.” Vendors, including video camera software company REI,

are also rising to meet the needs of school transportation driver training with specific technology to assist the effort. “In the midst of COVID-19, REI is working with custom-

ers to ensure system updates and vehicle performance are ready for the return to normal, full-scale transportation. Our sales force is also going through additional training to help customers maintain familiarity with existing and future products and solutions,” said Drew Batten, sales director for REI. “REI is engaging in webinars with current and potential customers to meet COVID-19 guidelines discouraging face-to-face meetings.” Batten shared that contact tracing via video sur-

veillance continues to be a great resource for districts when a positive COVID-19 case is confirmed. “With our ARMOR Software Suite, you have the ability to trace a child’s whereabouts a few days before testing positive,” he added. “Users may also view individuals in proximity to the student to determine who should receive expo- sure notifications.”

Safety and Efficiency Video technology has been and will continue to be an asset to school transportation directors. Its flexibility and versatility allow it to be used in multiple ways, for many different purposes. It has especially been a boon to fleet managers during the pandemic. Looking ahead, the advantage of video technology will continue to be a primary means of training drivers, and more. “Training has gone virtual,” Batten observed. “Many

platforms have emerged making it easier than ever. REI, for instance, can train several staff members via their personal computers. Participants share and interact with each other’s screens much like they would during an in-person presentation. Video conferencing also makes it possible to enter a bus virtually to walk a mechanic through the installation process.” Budzinski of Wisconsin’s Stevens Point Area Schools

concluded that as advances in technology continue, improvements will be made in the industry’s ability to safely transport students. “From advancements in rout- ing and planning software, video and motion sensors that allow the buses to sense students in unsafe areas, to potentially autonomous buses to solve the bus driver shortage, technology will be used to make transportation safer and more efficient,” he said. ●

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