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School Note: Student success begins and ends each day with our buses!

Ever wonder what is takes to move 6,000+ students safely, twice a day, every day?  Answer: The yellow school bus fleet, and very special people.  It takes dedicated employees who love children; keeping regimented schedules; working split-shift days, in well maintained, reliable, commercial vehicles weighing several tons.

It’s just before 5:00am; dark, foggy, wet, cold, mostly humid;  employees are busy inspecting their buses for tire inflation, sagging suspension, oil leaks, air pressure, fuel levels, seat belts, air conditioning, and ensuring all safety lighting works.  After their pre-trip inspection; proceed out into the county towards their first destinations, picking up the most precious cargo in the world - students.

The fleet consists of 125 buses.  Buses are unique “rolling classrooms”, with large class loads.  A typical classroom is about 1,000 square feet; a teacher standing in front facing students in a non-moving, brick and mortar climate controlled environment.  The “rolling classroom” is approximately 300 square feet; moving in traffic on the roadways; backs turned to a gaggle of students, while safely navigating roads to and from schools.

There are approximately 1,508 bus stops in Charlotte County.  Stops vary year-to-year based upon student demographics, and other safety factors.  Annually, buses travel 1,823,085 miles, 9,365 miles daily, and 62,522 miles for field/activity trips.  There are typically 88-89 buses on the roads twice daily.  All accomplished with a dedicated cadre of mechanics, mechanics helpers, bus operators, bus attendants, and professional office staff.

Florida School Bus Operators complete a 40-hour basics course; many hours of behind-the-wheel skills, and road testing.  They maintain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), with Passenger and School Bus endorsements; subject to state rules, regulations, and standards of the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration.  The district offers CDL training to all qualified candidates.

School buses are very sophisticated commercial vehicles with six computer systems onboard.  Sitting in the cockpit is very intimidating with myriads of controls.  Buses contain Geo-Positioning Satellite (GPS), Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) devices, video surveillance cameras, seat belts, and air conditioning.  Bus routes are efficiently designed; getting students to school on time within 20-30 minutes before their educational day starts, allowing them to get breakfast.

Required by Florida safety inspection criteria, buses are inspected every month.  Mechanics become School Bus Safety Inspectors after two years of hands-on experience as school bus diesel mechanics.  Mechanics attend state mandated trainings on bus manufacturer’s specific equipment technologies; being able to troubleshoot, repair and maintain them for maximum reliability.  The days of the “shade tree” mechanics are long gone.  Today’s bus mechanics possess strong computer skills, have knowledge using specialized hand tools, Air Conditioning, metal working in body and fender repairs, painting, welding, and carpentry skills. They work outside in the humid heat environment of a services garage containing numerous large vehicle bays and vehicle lifts to accomplish these herculean tasks.  

Transportation employees are sometimes the first adults’ students see in the morning; sometimes the last adults seen at the end of their educational day.  Transportation and Fleet Services like to think students succeed every day due to their supporting role within the district.  If your students see their bus operators or attendants out in public, please offer them a great big thank you for the job they do every day - keeping students safe on the roadways of Charlotte County.

Tony Conte - Transportation Operations Director