Last week, students all over the United States celebrated National School Bus Safety, taking a few moments to learn about the vital contribution "big yellow school buses" make to their education and safety. In America, a fleet of 480,000 yellow school buses provide safe and environmentally friendly travel to 26 million children every day. In areas like rural Carbon County, the buses' contribution is all the more impressive as students are bused from remote locations over a large area, servicing as many as nine separate schools.
To make this task easier, the district recently purchased a new computerized travel system referred to by those within the district as Fleet Finder. While the system came at a healthy price to the district, it is already paying dividends.
"We are always looking for ways to be more efficient and safe," said Carbon School District Transportation Supervisor Kerry Jensen, during a presentation to the local school board. "Fleet Finder began helping with this immediately. In fact, we have already been able to eliminate routes from daily travel."
While one route does not seem like much, it adds up to a significant savings in a very short period of time. One school bus on the road eliminates the need for 36 cars. According to Jensen's presentation to the board, school buses save money, lessen fuel consumption and eliminate pollution every time they hit the road.
The Fleet Finder program, which was installed this summer, does have an extensive learning curve, as school district employees can attest. However, the more they learn about the program, the more they seem to like it.
"We were provided with some very extensive training this summer," said the School District's Travis Rasmussen, who works at the transportation department. "A trainer came to us from their corporate headquarters, showed us the ropes and we have been learning every since."
According to Rasmussen, the computer guided system has been a blessing assisting the district with routing and planning, with changes in boundaries and student population . The software also has a field trip activity manager that will allow teachers to schedule bus trips for special events right from their computer. Additionally, a fleet management system for the district's 100-plus vehicles assists with maintenance, wear and vehicle value.
While value and efficiency are vital to the school bus program, District Supervisor Jensen stressed during his report to the school board that the bus system is also vital because it provides equal access to all children within the district. This access ensures that each and every student is given safe and reliable transportation to and from school everyday.
Lastly, Jensen addressed the unparalleled safety record of yellow school buses. The U.S. Department of Transportation has confirmed that school buses are indeed the safest form of school transportation, stating that the buses are 50 times safer than a standard passenger car.
According to the district's transportation supervisor, knowledge concerning the public school bus system is vital, as plans are continually brought forward in both the legislature and within districts to eliminate funding for the program.
Jensen reported that districts have recently cut funding for routes close to schools, eliminated field trips and after-school activities, began charging for public busing and moved students to public transit systems.
"It is vital that we recognize all the advantages public school busing provides to students across the socio-economic spectrum," he concluded. "And it is just as vital that we continue to search for ways to make the system more efficient and safe for our students."