Robertson County Schools Reduces Preventable Accidents by 30%
Robertson County School District, located in Springfield, Tennessee, serves more than 11,000 pre-K through 12th grade students. A self-described “school bus nut,” Transportation Director Joshua Hinerman began his school bus career as a driver at age 21 and was appointed Director at the age of 28. His department transports nearly 7,000 student on 112 buses that travel nearly 6,300 miles each school day.
What problems, issues or needs led you to engage School Bus Safety Company (SBSC)?
We have some unique transportation challenges here in Robertson County. In an effort to advance educational opportunities for all students, Robertson County Public Schools buses hundreds of students from outside our district to magnet and neighborhood schools within the district. Our routes cover more than 500 square miles and a wide variety of road conditions, from curvy country roads to narrow city streets. We needed a safety training program that would prepare new drivers for these conditions and to refresh and reinforce best safety practices with existing drivers.
What made you choose SBSC? What made their services stand out from others?
School Bus Safety Company programs are used in several county school districts here in Tennessee, including Wilson County where I worked in 2010. We were experiencing a high number of preventable accidents and I was charged with fixing it. After researching several safety training programs, School Bus Safety Company emerged as the highest quality program. We implemented the program in Wilson County and by the end of our second year, we saw a 30 percent reduction in accidents. When I came to Robertson County in 2014, additional budget for the School Bus Safety Company program was one of the first things I asked for. They were using a basic CDL training course, which gets drivers ready but it’s not enough.
What has the implementation phase and ongoing relationship been like?
We began with the basic New Driver Training Course and have invested in additional programs each year since then. We will continue to grow our library of SBSC programs as we move forward. All of our new drivers go through the introductory program. We also focus on retraining our veteran drivers and, while they don’t always enjoy the extra classroom time, they all say they need to hear it. At this point we have run all 200+ employees through SBSC programs. We simply put the DVD’s in the player and follow the lesson plans, which are smooth and seamless.
and have invested in additional programs each year since then. We will continue to grow our library of SBSC programs as we move forward. All of our new drivers go through the introductory program. We also focus on retraining our veteran drivers and, while they don’t always enjoy the extra classroom time, they all say they need to hear it. At this point we have run all 200+ employees through SBSC programs. We simply put the DVD’s in the player and follow the lesson plans, which are smooth and seamless.
What have been the greatest benefits of working with SBSC?
The reduction in accidents that we have seen is clearly the greatest benefit of the SBSC program. We saw the impact the first year we began the training and have seen our year-over- year accident rate go down every year since. I am convinced that this accident reduction is directly related to high-quality professional development. It teaches drivers to do their jobs right, the first time, every time. The combination of our onboard observation program with SBSC’s defensive driving curriculum reduces risk and empowers our drivers to be successful. They participate in class, complete the questions at the end of each module, and let us know when they don’t understand something.
Can you share specifically how SBSC helped you reach your goals?
Our need for training was a call for all hands on deck; SBSC responded and is leading the charge to safety. We also strive to develop a family atmosphere in our transportation department. When we are respectful and positive with drivers, they are respectful and positive with passengers. Developing positive relationships with students and parents requires professionalism; SBSC programs give drivers the tools to succeed and provide good examples of professional behavior in all situations. We also spend a lot of time on the student management portion of the training, which is increasingly important these days. Every year I ask drivers to share their greatest frustration and the behavior of children is their biggest complaint. Children are different today and the days of ruling with an iron fist are over. The SBSC program shows drivers techniques for managing students effectively and professionally.
How has your experience been working with the SBSC team?
We have a wonderful relationship with the folks at School Bus Safety Company. They bend over backwards to get us what we need, when we need it. We want the greatest return on our training investment and SBSC makes sure we get it.
How is SBSC aligned with the values that drive your business?
Our transportation advisory group, comprised of drivers, attendants, parents, students and administrators, has identified three core values: Safety, Respect and Responsibility. These are the same values that are taught in the classroom and the values conveyed in SBSC programs. The bus is an extension of the classroom, so we’ve created incentives for good behavior that we call “bus bucks.” Good behavior on the bus earns even more points than that in the classroom because it is paramount that kids do what they’re asked of on a moving bus. SBSC programs provide tools that help drivers make wise decisions that do not compromise safety or their own professionalism.
How has working with SBSC made your job/work life easier?
The SBSC training and retraining materials create better and safer drivers and that surely makes my job easier. I wish that I was given this kind of training when I began driving a school bus at the age of 21. As I have gotten older, I have developed an even greater appreciation for professional development and training. Accidents cost money and we can change the risk trajectory if we invest in quality materials. I’ve been in this business for many years, but every time I participate in SBSC training I walk away with something I did not know or recognize.
What surprised you or pleased you the most about working with SBSC?
I was astonished at the quality of the SBSC materials. They were more modern and current than I could have ever imagined. It’s clear that the SBSC team is actively engaged in keeping materials up-to-date. We live in a much more complex society today and SBSC materials reflect that.
Would you recommend SBSC to others? What positive benefits would you emphasize?
I have and will continue to recommend SBSC. The User Guide is one of the biggest benefits; just about anyone can administer the program. It’s very easy to use and teaches drivers exactly what they need to know. SBSC’s New Driver Training Course puts everything a driver needs to know in one box. Start your training library with this one core program and you’ll have the foundation of all we do in school transportation. And, if an accident does occur, you can pull a module off the shelf a la carte and review the relevant material.