I recently observed a charter bus driver talking on a cell phone while driving towards my district during my morning commute to work as a pupil transportation director. Since I work in a rural area, it seemed reasonable to think that the bus was heading to one of my schools for an end of the year trip.
I followed the driver, since he had already cut me off, to the school and asked him if he was aware of the Washington State law that prohibits the driving of vehicles while talking on a cell phone without a Bluetooth device. At first he denied having talked on the phone until I described the my personal vehicle and identified exactly where he had signaled and cut over into my lane (where a four lane road becomes a two lane road).
Afterwards, he argued with me that I was making a big deal out of nothing, to which I countered that his indifference to the laws of the state suggested that he was probably out of compliance in other areas, such as the DOT regs for keeping current his log and Vehicle Inspection Report. He refused to let me review his VIR or show me his log book, prompting me to contact the operations manager at his company and communicate that, after the charter was completed, I would be speaking with the teachers as to how the driver had performed during the trip. The feedback from those communications would impact if the company would remain our list of provider (I am also the risk manager for our small district).
This experience left me wondering if any school districts conduct compliance audits for their outside transportation providers. I happen to have a great deal of experience, having come from the Charter bus industry, and could easily conduct a compliance audit such as the military does or the annual Washington State Utilities Commission staff do in our state. ‘
Any thoughts from other pupil transportation folks out there? Since this is an isolated event, I do not want to overreact. But I am concerned about allowing students, staff and parent/chaperones ride buses where the vehicle and/or driver is not compliant with the applicable laws.
LaBoyne is the director of facilities/operations/transportation at White River School District in Buckley, Wash., and chair of the Executive Board at Puget Sound Workers Compensation Trust.