RENO, Nev. — Despite COVID-19 continuing to plague in-person gatherings, technology providers were hard at work during the shutdown and showcased their recent innovations for the first time on a national scale at STN EXPO Reno.
In addition to a school bus stop arm that extends into the adjacent lane of traffic, a product that is now authorized for installation in 22 states and across Canada, seatbelt monitoring technology and school bus door dragging sensors took center stage among the non-school-bus exhibits.
The Extended Stop Arm by Bus Safety Solutions works in conjunction with the existing school bus stop arm. The company claims the 6-foot extended arm decreases stop-arm violations by 55 percent to 89 percent. The company said it has sold around 1,300 units at this writing.
“We are a small company with a new product,” said Scott Geyer, Bus Safety Solutions president, adding that he was able to demonstrate his product in Reno to five state directors of transportation. “The show was an ideal venue to get my product in front of the OEM bus companies for consideration.
“I feel confident that the return on my marketing dollars will be well worth it,” Geyer added.
Meanwhile, Freedman Seating Company displayed InterMotive’s SeatLink product on two motorcoach bus seats. While Freedman doesn’t make school bus benches at this time, the InterMotive technology could benefit districts taking children on activity or sporting events. As demonstrated to School Transportation News, sensors inside and around the seat inform the bus driver via a tablet which children are buckled and which are not.
It also indicates whether the seatbelt was buckled prior to the student sitting down. Because the driver has access to the information at their fingers, driver liability could be reduced because the vehicle could remain parked until all students are buckled. Listen to a conversation with Freedman Seating, below.
Another product by InterMotive was seen for the first time in Reno. Company President Gregory Schafer said a recent student dragging case shown on video caught his attention.
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Schafer explained that the Student Transportation Off-boarding Protection System (SafeSTOPS) essentially consists of a sensor bar underneath the bus where the front-loading doors are located. When the system senses an object present within the zone, for instance, a backpack, the driver receives an audible and visual warning as the doors start to close.
School districts also have the option to add on a function that would automatically park the bus, disable the shifter, or auto-reverse the doors.
“The sensor bar is very universal,” Schafer said. “In those environments and climates where school districts are dealing with ice and snow, there’s an optional heater. It heats the bar up just enough to keep the sensors clear. We chose to use ultrasonic sensors over other technologies because it’s very resistant to mud, rain, ice and snow being on it.”
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He added that the SafeSTOPS can be retrofitted to any bus. “This is the first time it’s being shown,” Schafer added. “The U.S. Patent application was just applied for, and we got approval that we could show it, so here we are. We think it’s important to get this in front of agencies.”
He added that according to the company’s research, five students a year get dragged in the school bus door. There are however no records for how many students are trapped and not dragged.
“It’s a problem that quite honestly is unacceptable,” Schafer added. “So, when we first saw the video that everyone is talking about, of that young lady getting caught and then [dragged], we made the determination pretty much right then and there. We can do something about it. We need to do something about it. So that’s what has led to this system.”
Additionally, Rosco Vision Systems demonstrated a concept digital camera monitoring system, or DCMS, that if approved would take the place of traditional side rearview mirrors. The company applied for an exemption with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to allow school bus contractors operating with U.S. Department of Transportation to test the system for a period of five years. FMCSA was expected to publish a notice in the Federal Register this week seeking comment.