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Challenges of COVID-19 on School Transportation Operations: What Are You Doing?

What are some school transportation challenges your operation is experiencing during extended school closures?

We are indeed in uncharted waters as we deal with COVID-19, not only from a safety and health perspective but also operationally. I’m sure every business has its own unique challenges.

I would like to ask my colleagues in the school transportation profession what are some challenges your own operation is facing and how are you mitigating the challenge?

For our operation here at Shenendehowa Central Schools, our focus is to maintain operations in our maintenance shop so that we don’t get behind on our preventive maintenance schedule. We are also continuing on with our New York Department of Transportation inspection program. Our DOT inspector is onsite twice per week to inspect six buses each visit. We need to maintain this inspection process otherwise DOT inspection stickers will start to expire because we are on a two-week window between inspection and expiration.

Another focus is on the training of new bus drivers. We opted to continue training (a handful of new applicants) our potential school bus drivers with the caveat of our trainers and trainees maintaining social distance to the greatest extent possible.

And, our current staff of drivers and bus attendant, although they are home since schools are closed, we are asking them to come into the office by appointment only if they have recertification that needs to be done, such as our biennial behind-the-wheel testing (BTW), physical performance test (PPT), written test and defensive review, to name a few.

And, historically, during the month of March, we conduct DMV abstract reviews as required by regulation once a year … again, these are done by appointment. We are spacing the employees’ times so that we adhere to the no more than 10 people in a space at once.

Another area of concern is parts availability for maintenance. Our vendors so far have not shut down and parts are still available, but this is one area that may offer us a challenge, yet.

And lastly, we learned yesterday that our DMV is only allowing people to come in by appointment. This is challenging. We had a newly minted trainee pass their DMV road test yesterday for CDL but can’t actually go and upgrade the class D license to CDL until the end of March to early April due to the appointment-only process.

Knowing that the DMV is only conducting business by appointment, raises another issue with our current drivers whose licensing is nearing expiration. Typically you could wait till the last week to go and have your license renewed, but now we have to communicate early and often with our staff to not wait until the last minute.

All our challenges can be handled and mitigated so long as we are not forced to shut down completely. Otherwise, all bets are off as to how we can operate once the shutdown is lifted and schools are open.

I would love to hear back from colleagues as to what operational issues you are effacing and how you are attacking them.

Alfred Karam

Alfred Karam is the director of transportation for Shenendehowa Central School District, located north of Albany, New York. He is scheduled to be one of the speakers at the STN EXPO Indianapolis in June. He may be contacted via email.  Editor’s note—The following blog is reprinted with the author’s permission from a Linkedin post.

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