Fall is in full swing! While Minnesotans everywhere are reveling in the warm colors and perfect temperatures and savoring the last sunny days of the year, it’s hard for anyone to forget what comes next. Winter is the season of snowstorms, ice-laden roads, unlivable wind-chills, and questioning over and over why we shouldn’t just move to Florida and be done with it all.
It’s a challenging time for everyone, but school bus drivers often encounter stresses of the season that other people don’t. After all, they have a day-in-day-out, vocational obligation to transport children in a timely manner, no matter the weather or road conditions. On top of that, they must do so safely. What cargo is more precious than children?
It’s due to this obligation that all who work in school bus services—even all who hold class B CDLs—should both review safe driving practices and prepare their vehicles daily for the strains of winter weather. American Student Transportation, a Blaine provider of group transportation services, explains how to do both below.
Study Up: It Pays to Review Safety
No matter how thoroughly you studied when you learned how to become a bus driver, it always pays to sit down and review safe driving tactics. You’ll feel much more at ease on the job, even in the worst of snowy weather. If proper safety procedures are fresh in your mind, then you aren’t left wondering how to handle potentially dangerous conditions.
So, what is there to know about safe wintertime bus driving?
● Before accelerating or braking drastically, make sure to get the “feel” of the road. Minnesota’s weather is moody, and road conditions can do a complete 180 within hours. In the morning, a given road may be cleared, but by the afternoon, anything from rapid temperature shifts to the formation of glare ice could have occurred. As a bus driver, you should never assume the conditions of any road before “testing your wheels” on it. Go slow at first and feel the amount of traction you have underneath your tires. Never brake or accelerate before you’re sure it’s absolutely safe to do so.
● Don’t be afraid to slow down. Though getting children to and from school on time is important, their safety is always more important. In poor visibility, extremely cold conditions, or when roads are slushy or icy, don’t be afraid to drop behind the rest of traffic. Compacted snow requires you to cut your speed by a factor of a third; drive half the speed limit on icy roads. When in doubt, go slower than you think you’ll need to! This ensures that you can swerve and stop when you need to, as well as giving you better traction on the ice.
● Try not to brake quickly, and become familiar with your anti-lock brake system if applicable. Though you should be going slow enough to allow for significant braking in the first place, it’s still best to avoid it and minimize the risk if you can. Be aware of your surroundings and check all your mirrors before executing a turn. If you must brake quickly, know if your bus has antilock brakes or not, as this will affect how you stop. With antilock brakes, for example, pumping the brake is discouraged (as it deactivates said braking technology), while in a vehicle without anti-locks, pumping is the quickest way to come to a stop.
There are countless safety precautions bus drivers need to take to do their jobs safely in the wintertime; this list is by no means extensive. Don’t be afraid to ask coworkers for tips and tricks, and reviewing your training materials may also prove helpful.
Good Winter Habits: Taking Care of Your Vehicle
Driving is one thing, but your vehicle will also need a little help from you to keep performing its best throughout the winter. The group transportation company for whom you work should take care of any pre-winter repairs and any necessary replacements if they own the bus you’ll be driving. That being said, you also have a responsibility to take care of your bus, lest it strand you and your passengers in the middle of a storm!
Below are some helpful wintertime habits that help keep your vehicle operating at its best, come snow or ice:
● Get to work early | Yes, it can be a hassle; however, it lets you make sure all equipment is in working order before you leave. Nothing is more stressful or unsafe for the children in your care than realizing your vehicle needs repairs in the middle of your route.
● Let your bus warm up before you leave | This is especially useful if you work for a company that parks its busses in an unheated building! In short, letting your bus run for a bit before leaving reduces wear and tear on your engine. The longer answer has to do with thermal expansion. Metals, like those used in your bus’s engine, shrink in the cold and expand when heated. When you run a cold vehicle, you could be running parts that are a smidge smaller than the manufacturer intended, possibly resulting in increased friction inside the engine.
● Check your exhaust pipe before beginning your route. If your bus is parked outdoors overnight, snow or slush can easily clog your exhaust pipe, which can result in carbon monoxide seeping into the cabin. Always check it before you leave!
Looking for a Supportive School Bus Service? Contact American Student Today
If you’re seeking employment with a supportive, community-focused company, then join American Student Transportation Services today. We’ll help you, as a school bus driver, make the most of this wintertime driving season! Give us a call now at 651-621-8900.