School Bus Driver Professionalism
Not just anybody can get behind the wheel of a school bus. School bus drivers are compassionate, good-hearted individuals, gifted with a keen sense of awareness. They are responsible for the safety of every passenger riding the bus and that of other road users. They manage up to 72 passengers while operating a large commercial vehicle and monitoring traffic and road conditions every school day. The exceptional skills of school bus drivers are the key element in Ontario's safe student transportation system.
These extraordinary individuals are prepared for the extensive responsibilities they undertake through a combination of classroom and on-road training. Each driver must demonstrate adequate knowledge of policies, vehicle equipment and traffic laws in addition to demonstrating impeccable driving skills before they are put on the road. The identification of service issues is instrumental when preforming daily pre-trip and post-trip vehicle safety inspections. Safe driving techniques, defensive driving skills and student management are all part of school bus driver training.
Accident and emergency response including evacuation, First Aid/CPR and use of the fire extinguisher must be instinctive for drivers. Ensuring the steps and aisles are clear, luggage is properly stowed and children remain properly seated are just some ways a school bus driver minimizes the risk of injury.
The most critical functions school bus drivers perform numerous times a day is the loading and unloading of passengers. The driver must focus on every step of the process, every single time. Statiscally speaking, children are most vulnerable to serious injury in a school bus-related accident before boarding or after leaving the bus, rather than actually riding the bus. The following safety tips are observed by drivers to help prevent incidents: enforcement of safe crossing procedures, accounting for all students before moving the bus, checking outside the bus, utilizing a bus attendant, watching the actions of motorists closely, staying alert for special dangers (e.g. driveways), dealing with behaviour issues before the stop, awareness of stragglers or students with special needs, responding to weather-related conditions, educating students about the school bus safety rules, and to ALWAYS expect the unexpected.
It goes without saying, the responsibilities of school bus drivers are endless. But there can never be enough knowledge and experience when child safety is involved. For this reason drivers must complete MTO's driver improvement course and are subject to periodic re-examinations. Driving record and criminal background checks including regular medical exams are also required.
MTO requirements to be considered as a school bus driver applicant:
- be at least 21 years of age
- meet stringent medical and vision standards
- not be classed as a probationary or novice driver
- have successfully completed a driver improvement course approved by the Minister of Transportation
- have knowledge of bus equipment maintenance, passenger control and safety
- pass a Ministry of Transportation road test, vision screening, and knowledge test
- not have accumulated more than six demerit points on his/her driving record
- not have had a driver's license under suspension at any time within the preceding 12 months as a result of having been convicted or found guilty of:
- driving under suspension;
- speeding over 50 km above the limit;
- careless driving;
- racing on a highway;
- leaving the scene of a collision;
- an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada committed by means of a motor vehicle;
- flight from police;
Applicants must not have:
been convicted or found guilty within the preceding five years of two or more offences under the Criminal Code of Canada, committed on different dates by means of a motor vehicle, or while driving or having care and control of a motor vehicle;
been convicted or found guilty within the preceding five years under section 4 or 5 of The Narcotic Control Act of Canada;
been convicted or found guilty within the preceding five years of certain sexual or morals offences under the Criminal Code of Canada;
been convicted or found guilty of any offence for conduct that affords reasonable grounds for believing that he/she will not properly perform his/her duties, or is not a proper person to have custody of children;
accumulated more than 8 demerit points while holding a class "B" or "E" driver's license.
More than a Driver
Parents and guardians should be able to trust the school bus driver that takes their child(ren) to school and home. Therefore, it is very important to develop a relationship with your driver. When a driver knows the child and the parent or guardian, it is easier for the driver to recognize the stop location of each student.
Drivers also monitor the behaviour of students and maintain a calm atmosphere on the bus. Those who transport special needs students must have specialized training of mobility and securement devices and the operation of ramps and lifts.