Greg Beaverson knows just how difficult it can be to remember the myriad number of steps required by school bus drivers during the mandated pre- and post-trip inspection process.
He first started driving a school bus in 1996 and was immediately taken aback by the detail involved to prepare the vehicle for the road and to ensure all is as it should be prior to setting out on his morning route. A mechanic at his employer, Hamilton Schools Southeastern School District in Fishers, Ind., provided an abbreviated overview of the inspections. Beaverson decided to videotape it for posterity, and his memory.
Beaverson moved on a year later to follow other business interests, but as with most student transporters he returned to driving the bus last year for Hamilton Southeastern. He recalled his VHS tape but was surprised to learn no one to his knowledge had produced a more thorough video in the years since. The result, after many months, is a new training DVD titled "CDL Pre-Trip Inspection" that documents each detailed process.
The video is split into three main sections:"Pre-Trip Exterior," "Pre-Trip Interior" and "Summary." It was recently adopted by the Indiana Department of Education for use by school bus drivers. Sample sections can be viewed on YouTube and the complete video is available for $29.95 each at JCListudios.com. There are also specials available depending on the quantity ordered.
This fall, School Transportation News sat down with Beaverson so he could share his story.
STN: How come your training only covers the pre-trip inspection?
Greg Beaverson: Because I’m just a school bus driver, not a trainer, I didn’t feel it was crucial for me to reinvent the wheel in any other areas of my preparation to secure my CDL. However, if your emphasis is on the pre- versus post-trip work, my purposes were focused on the seemingly eternal list of items the test site would be requiring for the pre-trip, which seemed to be a major sticking point for many. Most test sites aren’t focused on the less formal, though no less important, Post-Trip Inspection we do to ensure students are all off the bus and the like. This DVD is focused on the academic memorization for the purposes of passing one's testing at the official test site.
To answer the question more broadly, coming into driving a school bus, I, like most, was hired by a school district. Fortunately, the district was blessed with great leadership in the area of transportation services. The director of transportation had assembled a solid, thorough training program for those of us who had never before been in the industry. His team of trainers and the design of the program were solid.
Unfortunately, when I came up against the binder, which contained the many page documents from which we were to memorize the Pre-Trip Inspection, I, like most of my counterparts, was blown away! My trainers told me I could begin working through the Pre-Trip Inspection booklet little by little, page by page and that in three to four weeks, I should have most of it down well enough to pass the inspection at the test site. This, they informed me, was normally the final sticking point that keeps drivers from a more rapid completion of their licenses.
Well like most of us, I’m sure, I was in a position where I was ready to get on the payroll, driving a school bus as soon as I possibly could. This just wouldn’t do! I have pretty high expectations of myself and this was going to be no different. My personal challenge was to get this Pre-Trip stuff down in record time! I wanted it down in a few days, not weeks. However, memorizing page after page of black type on paper wasn’t going to allow this to happen. I had to have a better plan of attack. This DVD was my plan of attack — and it worked like a charm!
Because of the quality of the training I was receiving, the memorization of the Pre-Trip for rapid and thorough recall was the only thing I felt just had to be improved upon. And, because my own personal version of this DVD worked so effectively for me, I figured this one tool needed to be in the hands of every school district and bus driver to-be who wanted to save time and money in this one crucial area.
STN: In your opinion, what can be the most challenging part of the pre-trip and post-trip inspections for school bus drivers to follow?
Beaverson: The first, and probably most commonly perceived challenge for many of us, is our lack of mechanical knowledge. One of the most daunting things for most of us is the sheer vocabulary of it all! In all honesty, coming into the profession, my knowledge of the mechanical aspects of a school bus were that it had wheels, tires (I could even tell you the difference between a tire and a wheel – pretty good, huh?) and a steering wheel. Now I could tell you it was yellow, had an engine and that it used oil, but seriously…steering wheel knuckles? I thought knuckles were what we have where our hands meet our fingers! Leaf springs, alternators and engine fluids are mechanic speak. For most of us, we just don’t have the vocabulary – let alone the ability to actually identify these and the dozens upon dozens of other things we will have to be confidently presenting to our test site inspectors! Memorizing so many of these new parts and terms is one of the biggest sticking points for everyone, from housewives to corporate guys like myself.
But the second, and by far and away the most elusive and unidentified problem for many, is the lack of a disciplined, strategic mental plan of attack. This DVD, if used properly, solves this problem stone cold!
In observing many who are trying to get the inspection requirements down, I notice that most simply don’t have the mental discipline to keep from spraying out whatever happens to come to mind at any given second while in a general vicinity of the bus. This is a natural tendency since none of us wants to forget anything. Thus, when something comes to mind, we just lay it out there like we’re pulling the mental trigger on our machine gun of all the stuff we’ve memorized!
But serious danger lurks for those who do this! This attack mode only causes us to gloss over and forget important items. It is crucial to have a consistent, logical flow which naturally moves from one item to the next. The way we have laid out the DVD, we cover the list in a cohesive, easy to follow pathway so our minds can work off of triggers. This is key, and may be the most elusive part of a successful and confident Pre-Trip Inspection. Furthermore, we’ve simplified things by breaking the process down into many small chapters. The old adage, “How do you eat an elephant?”, has never been more appropriate than for this challenge. Answer: One bite at a time. These chapters are the bite-sized breakdowns that will make the task very doable!
STN: Do you have tips for school bus drivers to help them remember to check the bus at the conclusion of routes for sleeping kids?
Beaverson: We’ve all heard the horror stories of the sleeping child, or for that matter the mischievous child, who is left on a bus at the conclusion of a Route. Fortunately, our most recent bus models come equipped with a button of one type or another at the rear of the bus that alarms if we turn off the bus and attempt to open the door before we take the obligatory walk to the back of the bus to shut off the alarm (AKA checking for students).
Even still, as is the case with most things, creating good habits can save the day – with or without an alarm. For me, the relative importance of ensuring no child is left on the bus means I have gotten into the habit of setting my flashers after the final stop while I take a thoughtful stroll to the rear of the bus and back toward the front. However, because two minds are better than one, I usually develop a special relationship with the student who gets off the bus last by delegating him or her as my detective! He knows it’s his job to walk the bus completely, checking for any students or belongings that may have been left behind. Every Friday, his reward comes in the form of a free Chick-Fil-A sandwich coupon, a really cool pencil, or a favorite candy bar! Trust me, this student doesn’t forget this responsibility!
But the point is this; If we’re waiting until we return to the bus garage to check for sleeping or mischievous students on our bus, we aren’t taking our responsibility very seriously. I would encourage every driver to use this student helper method, which both develops a relationship with our students and provides us with a necessary check and balance.
STN: What was the process you undertook to get your DVD produced? Was filming down at Hamilton Southeastern Schools Corporation?
Beaverson: Had it been left to me alone, it may never have been produced. Because I’m rather low-tech, my sons were my life line to the production and completion of this project. In all truth, it was a group effort using my brother’s and my son’s Mac [computers], my two son’s patience and sheer perseverance to see it through.
I think it was finally on about the fourth take, over the course of two or more weeks, that finally saw us complete a pre-trip inspection that met our satisfaction. And little did we know at the time, it was just the beginning. It was one of those projects that kept growing in its scope. I so wanted this DVD to be a practical solution for would-be bus drivers everywhere when it came to the memorization of the CDL pre-trip mandates. Fortunately, the time invested at the Hamilton Southeastern bus lot, would eventually benefit those outside of our school district as well as those shortly to arrive for our own training. It even got to the point where I was advised to own every piece of the production—all the way down to the musical beds for the DVD menus. Thank goodness for [software] Garage Band and my family’s willingness to listen to dozens of audio creations!