Part Chauffer, Part Care-Giver, School Bus Drivers are All Professional
Not just anybody can get behind the wheel of a school bus. It takes someone a little out of the ordinary to manage perhaps 60 high-spirited passengers at a time, while controlling a large commercial vehicle, monitoring changing traffic and road conditions and juggling multiple deadlines. Before a school bus can go into service on public roadways every day, it has to be inspected, and it is the bus driver who performs the inspection. This requires not only knowledge of the location and function of basic parts and equipment, but the ability to read and interpret instruments and gauges and perform routine tests.
In Place of a Parent
The safety of the young children in their care is paramount to school bus drivers. It has to be, and this necessitates formation of a rather special relationship between the driver and the passengers. This can be tricky when the driver may only see some children for a matter of minutes at a time, but it is key to success on the job. Many veteran drivers can greet their passengers on a first name basis from the first week of school.
Tact and diplomacy is necessary in the bus driver’s dealings with students, parents, and school administrators. Tempers fray easily when the tight time line so common to school bus schedules go awry. The bus driver must be able to put a nervous first-time rider at ease, distinguish when to say “yes” or “no” to a special request.
A cool head in a crisis
Thankfully, it isn’t often that a school bus driver has to deal with a full-blown crisis. However, preparation and drills for that possibility are critical. WOSBA school buses are equipped with two-way communication equipment, the drivers are completely conversant with its use. The proper usage of fire extinguishers and emergency evacuation procedures are trained annually. These emergency procedures are second nature to the driver.
Above and beyond the call of duty
When school bus drivers take field trips or charter trips, they draw on a whole new set of special skills. They are expected to be familiar with the group itinerary, location of rest stops and inspection stations. They must find designated contacts and safe parking facilities at the destination. The bus driver is responsible for the security of a parked vehicle, and may also be required to be available for contacts even during off-duty time.
Focused on special needs
Not every school bus driver interacts with special needs students, but for those who do, it often becomes a specialty. These drivers are highly sensitive to a passenger’s knowledge and abilities and are able to discuss and prioritize passenger needs within that context.
They may have specialized knowledge of mobility and securement devices, and the operation of ramps and lifts. They display flexibility in customizing a route for the least amount of stopping or jolting, and steer clear of potential hazards that abound in gravel driveways, steep grades, uneven pavement or crowds. Sometimes interacting with a caregiver or attendant is required. Likewise the ability to deal calmly and efficiently with unexpected situations or events, emergency medications, and even oxygen tanks may be part of the school bus driver’s responsibilities.
Loving the job
Ask almost any veteran school bus driver why they shoulder these responsibilities so cheerfully year after year and you’ll find a satisfying consistency in the replies. “I love the kids.” They have worked out special little reward programs, put holiday decorations on their buses, donned costumes, sung songs, baked cookies and fondly collected souvenirs bestowed by their student passengers.