Student transporters were urged by the Illinois Department of Transportation (DOT) earlier this month to take note of five new or existing provisions affecting school bus operations that are in effect for the new 2012-2013 school year, plus another related to teen driver education.
On Sept. 12, the department's Division of Traffic Safety issued an update on issues that affect schools, five of which are specific to school buses or student transportation. Illinois DOT reminds that the school bus driver's field of view must remain unobstructed, meaning the dash area below the windshield should be free of obstructions caused by such items job-related equipment as two-way radios and GPS as well as other items like pencil holders or bus decorations.
"Due to the potential height difference for all drivers, it is difficult to determine what may obstruct one driver's view over another," the memo stated.
Illinois DOT also said official state testing stations will reject without exception any school buses equipped with anti-lock braking systems if the warning light is illuminated or rendered inoperable. Regarding pre-trip inspections, requirements were recently amended to allow drivers to inspect equipment under then hood of a school bus such as fluids, belts and wiring once every 24 hours when the bus is being used to transport students. Illinois DOT also clarified that exempt time, when the bus is not being used for student transportation during weekends, holidays or when school is not in session, is excluded from this 24-hour period.
Two provisions also affect multifunction school activity buses, or MFSABs. Since July 2010, these vehicles have been subject to specific lettering and decal requirements that dispay the MFSAB weight and maximum passenger capacity to the left of the service door in letters at least 2 inches high. The name of the school district or bus company that owns the MFSAB must also be painted in contrasting colors of the exterior paint (yellow is not allowable for MFSABs in Illinois) on both sides of the bus, "centered as high as practicable (sic) below the window line, in letters at least 4 inches high. Additionally, an identification number must be painted on both the front and rear of the vehicle in letters at least 4 inches high.
Additionally, MFSABs must have a decal that alerts other motorists of a number to call to report erratic driving.
Effective this past July, MFSABs must also be equipped with: a child reminder system for drivers; two-way radio or authorized cell phone for communication purposes; a crossing control arm; first aid kit; limited radio speaker location; noise suppression switch; rub rails; strobe lamp; and interior letting that displays the vehicle length.
Illinois MFSABs are prohibited from being equipped with stop arms or eight-lamp flashing signal systems but are required to have a 10 BC fire extinguisher and emergency warning devices.
Additionally, Illinois DOT reminded school districts that vehicles used for driver education classes that have odometer readings of more than 75,000 miles will need to be inspected at least once every 12 months at an official state testing station when a new regulation goes into effect in January. Public Act 97-1025 specifies that these vehicles must be equipped with dual-control brakes, a mirror on each side of the vehicle to allow a driver view at a distance of 200 feet and a sign.