Transportation ensures safe ride with extensive training

Transportation ensures safe ride with extensive training

Safely transporting nearly 110,000 students to and from school each day is “no accident.” Extensive safety training is an important part of the “work culture” for the Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) Transportation Department staff… from the road crew of 1,300-plus bus managers and nearly 150 monitors to the behind-the-scenes staff of dispatchers, trainers, and mechanics.

For new drivers, the state Department of Education requires a total of 24 hours of training (12 classroom hours, six hours of road training without students, and six with students on board). However, in Gwinnett, the average new driver gets 120 hours of training: 60 classroom hours (with 18 additional hours for drivers of students with special needs), 20 hours mastering skills on a driving range, 20 on-road hours without students, and another 20 hours behind the wheel with students. New monitors complete a total of 43 hours of training (29 classroom hours, four equipment training hours, and 10 hours with students). All this before these highly trained drivers and monitors pick up their first load of children as GCPS-trained Transportation staff.

Training covers a host of topics… GCPS policies and procedures, defensive driving, student behavior management, emergency evacuation procedures, CPR/first aid, bus safety inspections, traffic laws, and more. New drivers for students with special needs also cover emergency medical codes, adaptive equipment, evacuation procedures, legal aspects, to name just a few areas. And veteran drivers get annual refreshers in many key areas.

Does all this safety focus make a difference? Absolutely! “Our students are safe on the road because we invest in our drivers and monitors, our most important resource, by training for safety,” says Transportation Director Grant Reppert.

Letters of thanks from parents are not uncommon, especially when a driver’s quick actions aid a child with special needs. After her daughter had a seizure on the bus, one parent wrote this: “Until this day, I did not fully understand the training that bus drivers must go through, with CPR training as well as emergency procedures… This unfortunate incident proves that your training pays off.” Of the driver, Susan Sisson, she wrote: “I call her a hero; she thinks she just did her job!” ]

In a letter to Mr. Reppert earlier in the year, driver John Talley echoed praise for the training program from the driver’s perspective. “I have been in transportation 35 years, but none of the programs that I have been associated with taught me as thoroughly how to be a safe and responsible driver as your Gwinnett County program.”